NIP fires three top managers

… As battle between executives heats up

By Eliaser Ndeyanale

THE Namibia Institute of Pathology (NIP) has fired three of its five top-level managers who were found guilty last month of gross negligence. The managers were sacked following a lengthy disciplinary process that started late in 2018 and dragged on until September, a company spokesperson said.

The dismissal of the three executives at the start of October follows the sacking of former NIP chief executive officer Augustinus Katiti in September 2018, and was confirmed over the weekend by NIP board spokesperson Frans Kwala.

Kwala said NIP’s chief strategy and business development officer, Jennifer Kauapirura, was the first of the three to be shown the door around May this year, while chief operations officer Harold Kaura and chief financial officer Cleophas Mbahitjona, who were suspended last year got the boot in September.

Confidente is reliably informed that Kaura and Mbahitjona have since appealed against their dismissal. It is understood that after her firing, Kauapirura also appealed to have the decision overturned but to no avail. The former CEO of the Association for Local Authorities in Namibia has now turned to the Labour Court for a remedy. She was not immediately available for comment when contacted this week.

Tenders and cash transfers

NIP suspended Kaura, Mbahitjova and Kauapirura last year for among other things an alleged illegal transfer of N$1.8 million as start-up capital for ST Freight Services. Katiti was subsequently sacked from his post as CEO. He has also turned to the Labour Court for clemency.

Katiti, Kaura, Mbahijova and Kauapirura faced charges of failing to protect the interests of NIP, and of bringing the name of their employer into disrepute. The disciplinary charge sheets also alleged that the four had breached trust and truth.

Katiti was accused of approving an exemption from tender procedures for the procurement of IT infrastructure and the transport of specimens from health facilities in the Zambezi, Kavango East and West, Omusati, as well as Ohangwena regions.

He was also accused of a breach of tender policy by approving the granting of an exemption involving more than N$1 million, despite the requirements of the company’s procurement policies and procedures. The contract awarded to ST Freight – according to the charge sheet – caused NIP to lose more than N$3 million.

On the second count of breach of trust, the NIP board accused Katiti and his subordinates of ignoring the company’s procurement policies when they contracted Roma Kitchens to provide furniture valued at more than N$7 million in 2016.

Cost of litigation

Kwala does not agree with those who claim the money used by NIP to pay the lawyers presiding over the disciplinary hearing of Katiti and other five senior managers was excessive or wasteful. It was alleged that NIP had spent N$2.3 million on five law firms and two auditing firms over a period of four months from June to September 2018 to make its case against the six executives on suspension.

“What people don’t understand is [that] fighting corruption is costly, and it must be fought. I think the corrupt employees … are leaking information, saying the board is spending money to prosecute innocent people,” Kwala said, adding that NIP had been run down to a point where the medical service provider had a wage bill of N$21 million per year, which he said came about “as a result of corruption”.

Board under Kapere ‘very useless’

Kwala also complained about the ballooning wage bill. “Most of the positions were filled without board approval,” he said. “The board under [Mandela] Kapere was very useless. Kapere feared Katiti. I was the last to join and came to find it like that.

“We put a stop to any recruitment. NIP is full of incompetent useless people. When we fight [corruption] they run to the media. Namibia is in its current state because of corruption … fighting corruption is costly,” he reiterated.

Asked to confirm his dismissal, Kaura said: “Something like that, yes … and it’s not fair, but we’ll take them to the Labour Court. We gonna take them all the way,” he vowed, further confirming to Confidente that they were indeed sacked about two weeks ago.

The decision to suspend chief human capital officer Monika Pendukeni and chief technology officer Valerie Garises in July last year followed the June 2018 suspension of Katiti and the three other executives. Asked how far her disciplinary hearing was, Pendukeni declined to comment, saying: “I really don’t discuss those things. Ask the company itself.”

It is understood that Garises and Pendukeni’s disciplinary hearings have not been finalised, but the process is nearing completion. Contacted this week, Garises also referred all questions to NIP management, as she was not authorised to talk to the media.