NCAA psychometric, HR dilemma

By Maria Kandjungu and Hilary Mare

SENIOR managers at the Namibia Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) have expressed “deep concerns” over a psychometric recruitment mechanism which they say is being used to influence and hand-pick specific candidates while discrediting the qualifications and skill of seniors in leadership at the parastatal.

Last year NCAA awarded a tender to a South African firm ATNS SOC to provide psychometric and training services of close to N$1 million through restrictive bidding.

An internal source told Confidente that it was strange that Peter Maraise, former head of Air Navigation Services (ANS) who was a former employee of ATNS SOC was the same person who handed the contract to the company.

Confidente understands that the psychometric testing was specifically for air traffic control bursary students who had been recruited under the air navigation department; however, NCAA management has extended it to senior managers who subsequently fail the test when they are vying for better positions.

Further, Confidente has been informed that this same psychometric evaluation that is designed for the air navigation department is also being subjected to other departments such as the security department.

With several qualified and experienced local managers having failed the psychometric test, senior flight operations inspector, Vicky Mombola wrote to the Minister of Works and Transport, John Mutorwa raising key concerns.

In the communiqué to the minister seen by Confidente, Mombola notes that while psychometric tests are designed to measure candidate’s suitability for a role based on required personality characteristics and attitude and are used to shortlist possible candidates for interviews, NCAA top managers are using the process to recruit their own preferred candidates and at times sideline qualified local persons.

She said the NCAA tests make up 50 percent of the final score sheet.

According to her, certain candidates who apply for positions are told verbally without proof that they have failed the test even when they have all the required experience and skills only for the position to be filled by someone without the required qualifications, skills and with lesser experience.

She pointed out in her complaint that, more than five senior managers including the senior manager for compliance and regulatory risk, flight operations, airworthiness and aviation security were all appointed despite not meeting some of the minimum requirements in terms of experience required to fill those jobs as they were appointed for merely passing the ‘biased’ psychometric test.

Although the NCAA HR policy mentions assessment, it does not stipulate how the assessment should be done when selecting suitable candidates and this, Mombola notes, has left room for manipulation, lack of transparency and credibility in the process.

In her complaint, Mombola also raised issues of wide salary gaps between employees in the same level as well as foreigners being offered jobs even when there are local people qualifying for the same positions.

“The current NCAA top management is mostly occupied by non-indigenous managers of which four are foreigners,” she said.

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In response to the matter, Mutorwa appointed deputy Executive Director in the Department of Transport, Jonas Sheelongo to “comprehensively and objectively, fairly and professionally” investigate all the numerous complaints and grievances at the NCAA, and to thereafter, submit a report with clear advice and recommendations to him.

“All those who have factual information relevant to the issue at hand are encouraged to submit such in writing and directly to the Deputy Director timeously. Furthermore, I hereby implore all to render honest maximum cooperation to the appointed investigators,” Mutorwa highlighted in his response.

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Confidente has been informed that the investigations are not yet complete.

In another piece of communication seen by Confidente, senior legal officer Christofer Seimelo has also questioned the assessment process using psychometric evaluations from the South African firm. This was after he failed the test for the chief legal counsel position and was rather offered the lower position of senior legal officer.

In his query to management, Seimelo asked whether the interview panel agreed upfront (before the interview) on a specific score for a candidate to be suitable for the position of chief legal counsel and senior legal counsel.

“Given the duties/functions of the chief legal counsel, was the result of the psychometric test used to get a holistic view of my person (character and attributes) and therefore a holistic assessment or was the outcome of the psychometric test the sole basis of me failing to get the position of chief legal counsel?” he asked.

Confidente understands some of the employees who were subjected to the tests were not given their results but were just informed by word of mouth that they had failed the test.

At a media engagement attended by Confidente last week, NCAA interim executive director, Reinhardt Gartner noted that aviation is a highly specialised field and sometimes it can be difficult for the NCAA to fulfil its mandate as it needs suitably qualified persons.

He added that NCAA is meant to have a staff complement of 223 but presently, only 148 staff members have been approved as the authority is currently still building on its human capital.

“It is difficult to obtain suitably qualified persons, especially in areas of oversight in aviation, due to the fact that candidates are required to have eight to 15 years’ experience and need to be licensed pilots. We just lost a specialised widebody inspector (a person who inspects aircraft) yesterday. The people we train keep getting soaked up by international airlines,” Gartner said.

He further stated that the labour market gap is made worse by the fact that there is no aircraft maintenance engineering Vocational Training Centre in the country, leading to a shortage of skills in the local market. 

Gartner said that for the financial year 2020/21, NCAA has invested a total N$3.9 million towards training.