NTA Board Refutes ‘Offer’ Claims

THE Namibia Training Authority board of directors denied media reports that it offered to settle with suspended chief executive officer Maria Nangolo-Rukoro.

“No offer to pay out the CEO’s remuneration for the reminder of her contract term or any other monetary offer was ever discussed or made,” NTA board chairperson Otto Shikongo said yesterday.

Shikongo further said it is also not true that the Ernst and Young audit report was declared invalid or that key evidence was thrown out. He said the report was also not downgraded.

He was responding to an article published by The Namibian, two weeks ago. The article stated that the board resorted to settling with Nangolo-Rukoro after key evidence in her disciplinary hearing was thrown out. This included the downgrading of the forensic audit report, which was allegedly later declared invalid and thrown out as evidence. It was also reported that Shikongo was reluctant to testify.

He, however, confirmed that the two parties came together in an attempt to resolve the dispute. He said this happened on 5 August, explaing that part of it was to avoid a long drawn-out hearing, which could take another ten months and the costs which come with it. He said nothing came of the talks.

At the media briefing, Shikongo said that he was not reluctant to testify but that he was called to testify since the witness, who was supposed to testify, was unable to appear. He said it was then thought that the chairman should testify but he too was not available.

He also added that the fact that the current NTA board term ends this month will not affect the disciplinary hearing and that all board members will testify when required to do so.

He explained that after Nangolo-Rukoro’s suspension in February last year, the disciplinary hearing was supposed to start in April but both parties agreed that it be moved to 6 August 2014.

Shikongo also said that the NTA board is considering its options regarding taking legal action against The Namibian and the reporter who published the article, which the NTA board deems “damaging, inaccurate and baseless information.”

Shikongo refused to shed light on the reasons why Nangolo-Rukoro was suspended, saying such information was only internally discussed and thus confidential.

Initial media reports stated that the said forensic audit uncovered alleged irregularities in some of the institution’s tendering processes, administration of subsistence and travel allowances, credit cards, petty cash, as well as salary adjustments, between 2011and 2012. This resulted in Nangolo-Rukoro’s suspension in February last year.

The Namibian learnt that the hearing was put on hold on two weeks ago when the NTA’s legal team attempted to offer Nangolo-Rukoro a settlement, allegedly on Shikongo’s instructions.

Talks apparently broke down when Nangolo-Rukoro allegedly refused to take the NTA’s offer to pay her out for the remainder of her term, which ends middle next year. This is allegedly the second time Nangolo-Rukoro was offered a settlement agreement by the NTA board, which she refused. The board, however, refuted all such claims.

Media reports at the time of the suspension stated that there was speculation within the NTA in 2012 of bad blood between Shikongo and Nangolo-Rukoro, which stemmed from the cancellation of a tender by Nangolo-Rukoro in which one of Shikongo’s companies had an interest.

The said tender was worth more than N$50 million and it was for the expansion and renovations to the Valombola Vocational Training Centre in Ongwediva. Nangolo-Rukoro’s decision to put on hold the awarding of said tender at the time was allegedly influenced by a declaration Shikongo made at a board meeting in August 2012 that he held interests in one of the companies that had tendered and was awarded the tender.

There is a rule within the organisation, which states that where there is a perceived conflict of interest, management must be informed of the situation promptly, which was apparently not what happened in Shikongo’s case.

Source : The Namibian