NCAA board defies Mutorwa over interim boss

By Hilary Mare

THE Namibia Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) board of directors has defied Works and Transport Minister John Mutorwa by extending the contract of interim Executive Director, Reinhard Gärtner by six months without Mutorwa’s concurrence, Confidente can reveal.
The board led by chairperson Kosmas Egumbo and whose term expires on October 31 further did not adhere to Mutorwa’s directive to have appointed a substantive Executive Director for the troubled parastatal by end of July.
Gärtner is an ex-NCAA deputy board chair and former Aircraft Operators and Pilots Association (AOPA) president.
In a leaked letter seen by Confidente in which a clearly unamused Mutorwa wrote to Egumbo and the entire board, the minister strongly disapproves the extension of the contract.
Mutorwa tells the board that it was ‘abundantly very clear’ from discussions in a meeting that was held on June 1 that the alleged extension of Gärtner’s contract was not done within the letter and spirit of section 34(1) 2(b)(ii) of the Civil Aviation Act of 2016.
He argues that he was not consulted contrary to the provisions of the same Act.
“The alleged extension of Interim Executive Director, Mr Reinhard Gärtner is thus neither endorsed nor approved. Thus the Minister of Works and Transport cannot and may not give his concurrence at all to the alleged extension of the IED: NCAA’s employment contract,” lashed Mutorwa in a letter dated June 4 and copied to the Prime Minister, ministers of Home Affairs, and Immigration, Safety and Security, Deputy Minister of Works and Transport and other officials.
Mutorwa went on to say that the NCAA board was strongly advised to urgently finalise the process of appointment of a substantive Executive Director as advertised in December 2019.
“As it has taken almost six months now, I strongly advise that, the NCAA must now finalise the appointment of a substantive Executive Director by not later than end of July 2020, whereafter the Board’s submission will be transmitted to Cabinet for its possible endorsement and support,” further emphasised Mutorwa.
Despite the board having had a meeting later in June and resolved to uphold its decision to extend Gärtner’s contract, Mutorwa in another letter dated June 24 rebuffed this, highlighting that he had not seen any board resolutions and appointment letter to that effect, maintaining his stance against the extension of the contract.
Confidente understands that until now, Gärtner is reporting to work serving a six months extension without the approval of the minister.
In an inquiry this week, Mutorwa asked the board to answer why they had not sought his concurrence and failed to appoint a substantive Executive Director.
“I was not consulted and I did not agree. I did not concur at all!” Mutorwa told Confidente.
ICAO concerns
In assessing the aviation safety of Namibia and in line with its audits, the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) assessed Namibia’s civil aviation space through a consultancy that was conducted under the direction of the Regional Director, ICAO Eastern and Southern Africa Regional Office (ICAO/ESAF), Nairobi.
The consultancy done at the end of 2019 and was aimed at assisting, supporting and guiding Namibia to establish a robust and ICAO compliant safety oversight system noticed that the NCAA executive committee (Exco) consisted mainly of contracted, interim or acting members with only two permanent staff members.
In its recommendation, the international body highlighted that the board must as a matter of urgency recruit the following permanent positions: Executive Director, general managers and senior management staff.
Further, it highlighted that the board and NCAA management must develop a corporate manual which must include the approved structure and its description.
“The manual should include policies and procedures such as: A policy and procedures to avoid perceived and possible as conflict of interest, recruitment policy and procedures, training policy and procedures which must include training programmes/training plans, a policy on facilities to staff (sic),” the report of the consultancy expressed.
Responding on behalf of NCAA, Gärtner reaffirmed that his contract was extended resultant to a board resolution and a contract extension document signed by both parties.
“The Acting or Interim ED is appointed by the Board because the Act provides for the Board to make appointments and acting appointments in the event of a vacancy,” he said further referring to excerpts from the NCAA Act 6 of 2016: Section 34.1 & 34.3.
Notably section 34 (1) of the Act reads: “The Board, with the concurrence of the Minister, must, in accordance with the eligibility requirements of section 14 and subject to section 21 of the Public Enterprises Governance Act, appoint a suitable person who has qualifications, knowledge and expertise directly relevant to the administration and functions of the Authority; and to be the Executive Director of Civil Aviation who is the chief executive officer of the Authority.”
Board chairperson, Egumbo had not responded to questions sent to him by Confidente at the time of going to print.