Social Security and dismissed directors
In keeping with the tripartite approach to labour relations in Namibia, the Namibia Employers Federation (NEF) was approached in 2011 to nominate three persons to the Board of the Social Security Commission. The Board of the NEF put their collective knowledge together and searched for suitable candidates with expertise that would be of benefit to the efficient running of the commission.
The candidates that were eventually nominated and appointed had, the NEF felt, the correct balance of experience in pensions administration, human resource management and financial expertise and included an aspect of gender balance. One of the nominees had served on the Commission for the previous two terms.
While any Board must act collectively, we believe that the three NEF representatives acted in good faith at all times in the interests of effective and efficient operation of the Commission and caring for the public funds under the administration of the Commission. In fact the NEF representatives were at the forefront of improving the investment regime and control, after the Avid debacle, which led the return on investments to radically exceed the market average.
It is an integral part of corporate governance that a Board sets and directs policy which is then put into daily practice by the Executive. It is paramount that the Executive follows the principles laid down by the Board. Failure to do so is potential for corporate mayhem. Should the Executive not agree with the decisions of the Board, these should be addressed to the Board which is the supreme body in any organisation. Failure of the Executive to comply with Board rulings should lead to disciplinary action against them.
It is the belief of the NEF that the Board of the Commission followed the correct procedure in taking such disciplinary steps against the Executive Officer of the Commission. The charges are fact, and the procedure was correct. When the chairman of the hearing ruled against the Board, the Board including the three NEF representatives agreed to follow the chairman’s advice and to hold conciliatory meetings with the EO and to chart a conciliatory way forward.
It is important to record that the various issues that have received prominence in the media were shown out of corporate governance context, and that the sitting fees reported are all in accordance with the SOEs Governance Act and had been approved by the previous Minister.
The NEF Board unequivocally supports the actions of the NEF representatives on the Commission, who at no time acted recklessly, nor with any ulterior motives and not as part of a personal vendetta against anyone, least of all the EO.
We do not believe that the Minister was justified in calling for the resignation of the Directors and subsequently dismissing them on the mere grounds that the EO was not found guilty of the misconduct against him, and as a result:
a) This was a waste of the Commissions’ resources;
b) It will make it difficult for the Board and the EO to work together in the future; and
c) It has led to the Minister to lose confidence in the Board.
With due respect to the Minister, the above mentioned reasons are nothing but a poorly disguised smokescreen for the REAL reason which will become apparent very soon for all Namibians to see.
The question must surely be asked: during the past 23 years of independence, how many civil servants have been suspended and charged with misconduct and subsequently found not guilty? How many hundreds of millions of Namibia Dollars were spent on these exercises by the various government ministries/offices/agencies? How many Ministers, Permanent Secretaries were asked to resign or, indeed, offered to resign themselves on the grounds that they have wasted taxpayers’ resources? If not, why the selective morality all of a sudden from the very Ministry that is supposed to be the custodian of workers’ rights – which includes the rights of Directors?
Clearly, the Minister has ulterior motives in this matter and she has acted ultra-virus her authority and in bad faith. We also happen to know the true reason for her action and that is why we shall not waste our time and resources challenging her unlawful action in court, at this time.
Instead the NEF will nominate persons with the correct expertise and knowledge to the new Board of the Commission and will encourage those appointed to diligently follow their fiduciary responsibilities to the Nation and to stand up and speak out in defense of these responsibilities without fear of retribution whenever the need might arise in the future. We have every reason to believe that our worker colleagues will equally nominate men and women of character who will ensure that the majority on the new Board will not be a puppet to the Minister.
Advocate Vekuii Rukoro
President Namibian Employers Federation
14 November 2013