NUST head honcho off the hook

By Confidente Reporter

THE Namibia University of Science and Technology (NUST) council has resolved to dismiss what it termed various unfounded allegations levelled against former acting vice chancellor Morne du Toit and the executive committee (EXCO).

The allegations made by anonymous administrative staff ranged from victimisation and isolation of certain staff members, racism, inaction on allegations of misappropriation of funds, bypassing established procedures in hiring certain staff members as well as lack of respect for the executive director and directors in the Ministry of Higher Education amongst others.

Confidente has learnt that the university’s human resource department could not fully investigate the allegations as staff members preferred to remain anonymous and failed to provide evidence.

According to a council submission dated June 8 prepared by HR director Riette Duvenhage, the council approved RemCo’s recommendation made on June 5 to dismiss all allegations.

The allegations date back to November 26 2019 when former staff representative to council, Shiwana Ndeunyema made a submission regarding staff concerns relating to EXCO.  It was then decided that the allegations be investigated by the HR department.

“The HR department had several meetings with Mr Ndeunyema after the RemCo meeting regarding the alleged staff concerns.  Mr Ndeunyema was not willing to provide any further information after he first obtained permission from the complainants to reveal their names to provide any further information.  Unfortunately the complainants preferred to stay anonymous.

“The HR department met with the NUST NAPWU shop steward, Franco Bradlow, who was also included in some of the meetings with the complainants.  He indicated that all complaints were lodged by administrative staff.  He encouraged the complainants to come forward and put their concerns in writing but with no success due to fear of victimisation.

“The HR department is unable to conduct investigations into these allegations if staff members refuse to cooperate by coming forward and providing evidence.  Further note that NUST has a grievance policy in place which allows staff members to lodge their grievances.  No staff member lodged a grievance based on these allegations but prefer to make anonymous allegations, a practice that creates a dysfunctional working environment.”

Upon review of the allegations, NUST HR noted that there was no evidence provided to probe claims of victimisation and isolation of certain staff members, particularly those at senior management level.  Likewise, no evidence was provided on the allegations of racism and a preference to work with staff members belonging to a specific race.

Allegations of collusion or inability and unwillingness to take action on allegations of misappropriation of funds was also not backed up with concrete evidence, stated the report.  This stems from a golf-day fundraiser held last year, where N$846 000 000 was collected to pay tuition fees for about 40 needy students.  Staff flagged a lack of sound financial accountability and requested the council to commission forensic investigations and full financial audit into the golf day.

“The bursar confirmed that no irregularities could be found to support this allegation.  I was informed that a forensic audit is underway to pursue the case further,” the report notes in part.

Another allegation was the use of the university’s resources to accommodate registrar Maurice Garde at the school hotel for personal reasons last year.

“Mr Maurice Garde, Registrar, underwent spinal surgery and was requested to be on campus whilst on sick leave due to a shortage of staff which were in Germany at the time.  The acting vice chancellor at the time, Mr Morne du Toit gave permission to Mr Garde to stay at the NUST Hotel School in an attempt to accommodate him since he was not able to drive from Omeya to Windhoek and back.  Mr Garde paid for his accommodation after some of the staff members complained,” reads the report.

There were also allegations of misrepresentations of facts in the 2018 annual report, attempts to restructure the functions of various departments without proper consultations, closure of critical units to innovation such as the Fablab and Innovation Design lab.

“…No evidence could be provided for further investigation.  It is to be noted that the concept and framework regarding the restructuring of Fablab, IDL and NBII model as NUST Innovation Institute was accepted by EXCO and a submission to council for consideration is underway.  These institutes/units can only be closed with the approval of council,” the report notes.

Other allegations include bypassing established procedures in hiring certain staff members and deceitful declaration of interest as well as the exercise of powers leading to constrained academic freedom and stalled strategic planning.

Efforts to get comment from NUST’s spokesperson Jordania Andima proved futile while Du Toit’s mobile phone was off at time of going to print.