NYC “shady” board fees queried

By Confidente Reporter

NATIONAL Youth Council (NYC) board members who are employed by the government have received over N$415,536 in board fees, despite the NYC Act stating that no remuneration is payable to any member of a board who is in the full-time employ of the State.

The four board members are Alfeus Kapolo, a youth officer in the Ministry of Sport, Youth and National Service; Lot Ndamanomhata who worked for the Ministry of Poverty Eradication; Beatrice Kotungondo, a teacher  under the Ministry of Education, and Ndahafa Hapulile under the Ministry of Urban and Rural Development.

According to financial statements of the cash-strapped NYC, between 2017 and 2019 the four board members received retainer fees, board sitting fees, committee fees and other allowances amounting to N$415,536. The amount exclude travel and accommodation expenses, as well as board training and development fees.

The financial reports show that in 2017 Kotungondo was paid N$68,159; Hapulile N$44,763; Ndamanomhata N$58,145 and Kapolo N$56,575. In 2018, Kotungondo also got N$68,159, Hapulile N$47,771, Ndamanomhata N$58,145 and Kapolo N$56,575.  In 2019, Kotungondo was paid N$96,628, Hapulile N$103,174; Ndamanomhata N$106,985, and Kapolo N$108,749.

Confidente understands that the monies were paid to the four board members despite the NYC Act of 2009 clearly outlining that, “board members and members of committees who are not in the fulltime employment of the State must be paid from the Fund such allowances, including travel and subsistence allowances as the Representative Council, in agreement with the Minister and the Minister responsible for finance may determine.”

The State-Owned Enterprises Governance Act of 2006 also stipulates that, “No remuneration is payable to a member of a board who is in the full-time service of the State.”

It is further understood that none of the board members implicated got an exemption from the Public Enterprises Ministry to allow them to get the hefty fees.

One board member, who preferred not to be named, told Confidente that while the board has been covering up the matter, it continues to be hotly debated in the corridors, with those speaking against the fees often being victimised.

“Yes, the four board members are remunerated but once that topic is brought up people are victimsed. It is nothing personal because it affects the country. The council has no money to support youth projects but huge amounts are paid to board members unprocedurally.

“There has been no proof of exemptions submitted, so they must pay back that money. As board members they ought to have studied the organisation’s Act. They were getting money and as such should pay it back. It is a form of corruption,” the insider said.

Acting NYC director Sircca Nghitila said some of the four board members were civil servants and other not. She however did not indicate who was and who was not in the employ of government.

“After perusing the supporting documents attached to the payments made, I can confidently confirm that all such payments were made with the approval of the director of council, Mrs Calista Schwartz-Gowases, who according to the National Youth Council Act… is the head of administration, and accounting officer of the Council.”

Schwartz-Gowases when contacted for comment said that she was aware of the payments, but noted that she complied with instructions of the board to pay the remuneration fees in question.  She further stated that if she brought up any wrongdoing of the board, she was accused of disrespecting board members and equally victimsed.  On the matter at hand, she once included it on the agenda of the finance and audit board committee, but the matter was scrapped by Ndamanomhata, one of the implicated board members who is the chairperson of the finance and audit board committee.

“Any staff member who brought up this matter was victimsed.  For instance, an acting human capital officer brought up the matter and the board cancelled her acting position. This just shows how difficult it was for anyone to talk about this matter,” Schwartz-Gowases explained.

Efforts to get comment from Kapolo were unsuccessful, as he did not respond to questions sent to him via email as he requested. Ndamanomhata referred questions to former board chairperson Mandela Kapere, while Kotungondo, who claimed to be in class asked to be called back, but switched off her mobile phone.  “I am in class, call me back.”

Hapulile initially said that although the topic was not discussed at board level, she did her part to ensure she received her remuneration procedurally.  “I did my part but I don’t know about other board members.”  She further responded, saying: “I started working after being appointed as a personal assistant to the minister of Urban and Rural [Development] at the behest of the principal last year (2018) on a contract that will end in March next year. In addition, I also put in leave each time I attend my NYC meeting, a practice I started at my previous job and I continue here at the ministry.

“Further, kindly take note that I have also consulted the Public Service Commission in this regard. Having taken all the above factors in account, including my conditions of employment, I was informed that this provision is not applicable to me. Since I have never been informed by the management of the National Youth Council that I owe money or that I should pay back money, I am also of the opinion that this was communicated to the National Youth Council, as at no point have I ever been informed that I owe the council in any way. It is unfortunate that I cannot transmit to you internal communication in this regards. I am not authorised to share official correspondence without permission.”