Kaumbi drags NHE to court over CEO post

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Windhoek

The National Housing Enterprise (NHE) board’s decision to prevent internal candidates from applying for the CEO position – on presumption that government has lost faith and trust in the current management – could come back to haunt it after a senior manager filed an urgent lawsuit challenging that stance.

Uazuva Kaumbi, senior manager for technical services and property management, filed an urgent application on Friday asking the Labour Court to order the NHE to place on ice the appointment of Gisbertus Mukulu as CEO of the company, pending the ruling of the Labour Commissioner on whether the board could legally prevent qualified internal candidates from applying for the job.

NHE has already gone ahead to announce, more than a week ago, that Mukulu – the current CEO of Okahao Town Council – has been appointed as CEO of the national housing company with effect from July 1.

Kaumbi’s urgent application could complicate matters for both the board and Mukulu – who is believed to have already tendered his resignation at Okahao.

Kaumbi’s qualifications include a Bachelor of Science Degree in Civil Engineering from Wits University, Bachelor of Commerce in Finance and Operations Management from UNISA, and Master of Science in Water Resources Engineering and Management from Zimbabwe.

Mukulu holds a Master’s Degree in Public Administration from the University of Botswana, a Bachelor of Administration and a postgraduate Higher Education Diploma – both from the University of Namibia.

The NHE CEO’s job, as advertised, required a person with a master’s degree, plus seven years experience at executive level, in addition to general leadership qualities.

Kaumbi – who has served as a senior manager at NHE for nine years – believes he met the minimum requirements for the CEO’s position and cannot be prevented from applying because of assumptions of how government, as a sole shareholder of the company, may perceive the current NHE management.

In his submissions, Kaumbi attached several correspondences of how he tried  – internally – to have the board change its stance on internal candidates, especially those who met minimum requirements for the job.

In his response to Kaumbi’s question on why internal candidates were not allowed to enter the race, NHE board chairperson Sam Shivute said the board “perceives the shareholder to have lost faith and trust in the management of NHE”, citing as an example the revocation of the mass housing mandate from NHE as an example.

Shivute also cited as an example remarks allegedly made by NHE’s line minister – Sophia Shaningwa of the urban and rural development ministry – that the housing entity was in a ‘state of sickness’.

He further explained to Kaumbi that the fact that government did not release NHE’s recapitalisation money of N$220 million was a sign that government has lost faith in the institution.

Stating that the board has a responsibility to build trust in NHE and improve relations with the line minister, Shivute told Kaumbi: “It is not advisable to consider someone from within the organisation where all these challenges are experienced.”

Kaumbi disagreed with Shivute’s reasoning, saying there’s no documentary evidence that government has lost faith in NHE, and there is no justification for such a stance, anyway.

On the revocation of the mass housing mandate, Kaumbi hit back by saying this was done on the basis of allegations of irregularities and inflation of prices but government-appointed quantity surveyors concluded that the cited prices were market related.

The quantity surveyors did not find any irregularities, Kaumbi told his board chairperson. He referred him to a statement to the media by Shaningwa, on September 10, 2015, that the mass housing mandate would be returned to NHE once the ultra-poor segment of the housing market is incorporated to benefit from the programme.

Government was not holding back the N$220 million recapitalisation money because of lack of trust in NHE but because of its (government’s) adverse financial cash-flow position, argued Kaumbi.

He had urged the board to put the recruitment process on hold while internal options were being exhausted to ensure fairness towards internal candidates.

The board ignored Kaumbi’s request and went ahead with the recruitment process. It was against that background that Kaumbi approached the Labour Commissioner to rule on the matter, which he considers not fair and unprocedural.

Kaumbi wants to be allowed to apply for the job, saying whether he eventually gets the job or not did not bother him much, as long as procedures were duly followed.

The Labour Court, which is now a division of the High Court, will hear Kaumbi’s urgent application this Thursday and rule on it. If the court orders NHE to put Mukulu’s appointment on hold until the Labour Court concludes the initial application before it, Mukulu’s arrival at 7 Murtala Muhammed Avenue could be placed on ice too.

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