Works ministry turns on ex-Air Namibia board

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Windhoek

The Ministry of Works and Transport turned on the previous board of Air Namibia yesterday, coming short of accusing it of outright insubordination and failing to carry out its fiduciary duties.

The ministry says the board ignored its advice and disregarded the labour law in the manner it suspended and reached a settlement agreement with former managing director, Theo Namases. The ministry distanced itself from the decision of Air Namibia‘s board to suspend and subsequently reach a settlement agreement with Namases. “The factual truth is that the Air Namibia board was advised and requested to revert to the minister with a final board decision as to the disciplinary procedures followed to suspend the MD, the reasons surrounding the decision to continue with suspension, and the financial implication of the settlement,” said the ministry’s new permanent secretary Willem Goeieman.

“Not only was the advice possibly ignored, but it is expected from Air Namibia board to prove whether the [ministry’s] concern was ever tabled in a board meeting or whether it was a decision of some individual board members.”

According to Goeieman, the golden handshake strategy, “being the only escape route from a case, which was [long] overdue as it has been pending for over a year, should have been considered by the Air Namibia board as a delicate national issue, which required not only consultation, but a clear endorsement of the way forward from the line ministry.”

The ministry also took exception to the views expressed by former board member, Tim Ekandjo in an interview with New Era last week, saying the article was aimed at involving the Minister of Works and Transport, Alpheus !Naruseb, “in what appears to be Air Namibia’s problem” in its handling of a potentially flawed disciplinary hearing for Namases. This resulted in an attempt to justify the “golden handshake” through the press.”

Goeieman says the article portrayed the ministry as having instructed the board to reinstate Namases without having gone through the hearing. Ekandjo, who was out of the country yesterday, refused to comment further on the subject.

On the contrary, Goeieman explained that at one of the previous meetings with the board, the Deputy Minister of Works and Transport, Sankwasa James Sankwasa, had asked to be provided with proof of the disciplinary processes followed, the investigation report which was used as a basis to charge Namases, and the reasons as to why “the suspension has drifted from a precautionary non-compliance issue, as indicated in the suspension letter, to punitive”.

The ministry said, following that meeting the board “failed to provide an answer” and Sankwasa made it clear that the board could be involved in an unfair labour practice in terms of the Labour Act.

Goeieman further said Sankwasa had made it clear to the board that he did not support a settlement and advocated for a fair hearing without pre-empting it with a suspension.

“Once again, had the board obliged by providing the required documents as requested, the outcome would have been different,” Goeieman said in the statement.

“[Even] worse, the Anti Corruption Commission was waiting and willing to receive the case, but nothing happened. The N$1 million legal costs avoidance action should therefore be considered as a confession of side-effects, emanating from a delayed disciplinary hearing.”

“We will never condone irregularities, but at the same time, people who are charged with misconduct should be brought to book as soon as possible and within a reasonable period of time to preclude unnecessary impediments,” Goeieman concluded.

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