ACC probes corruption allegations against NUST boss

Kaipaherue Kandjii

The country’s anti-graft watchdog is probing a raft of corruption, nepotism and abuse of power allegations against Namibia University of Science and Technology’s (NUST) vice-chancellor Erold Naomab.

Naomab faces a myriad of alleged crimes during his stint which amongst others include, nepotism, corruption and abuse of credit cards entrusted to him by his employer, NUST.

The Chief Public Relations Officer of the Anti-Corruption Commission, Josephina Nghituwamata, confirmed that an investigation into Naomab’s conduct is underway, but refused to shed light on its status.

“The ACC is investigating Erold Naomab, vice chancellor of the Namibia University of Science and Technology, for any irregularities. Please take note that the Commission received a complaint last year alleging maladministration and mismanagement against the Vice Chancellor,” Nghituwamata said during a recent interview with this publication.

In June last year, ACC instructed the NUST council’s hierarchy to institute an independent investigation against Naomab and to subsequently provide its findings to the investigators at the anti-graft agency.

ACC boss Paulus Noa, at the time, characterised the allegations against Naomab as “very serious” saying they involved abuse of funds, amongst others, at an entity he ought to protect.

“The allegations focus on misuse of public funds, nepotism or tribalism, and abuse of power. These are serious allegations of administrative corruption against the management of the public institution of the academy which should not be taken lightly,” Noa said in a letter to the NUST’s governing arm.

The academic is accused of flouting and abusing the provisions of the Labour Act, NUST human resource code, and principles of good governance for his motives.

There are concerns about the misuse of the fixed-term contract system, resulting in administrative staff being exploited with short contracts that are often renewed without any prospects of gainful employment in sight.

The ACC also refused to indicate if indeed Naomab has been summoned to provide his side of the story citing that the infant stages of its probe.

Naomab is also confronted with allegations including interfering with the institution’s recruitment process and using his position to unfairly promote and recruit his allies based on tribal allegiances.

“As per the normal procedure, reports or complaints submitted to the ACC are subjected to a preliminary investigation before a full investigation is conducted. As a result, the preliminary investigation into this matter is still ongoing,” the anti-graft watchdog emphasised.

In addition, Naomab is accused of misusing credit cards and travel allowances, and also failing to provide receipts for the expenses.

Last year, a unionist Petrus Nevonga, also penned a letter to former NUST council boss, Florette Nakusera about the alleged dysfunctional state of the institution’s human resources system, particularly its restructuring plans.

The president of the Namibia Workers Union issued a letter of grievance saying NUST’s restructuring process was “secretive” raising concern of a probability of abuse.

“This process was conducted in secrecy without any stakeholder engagement to date. The HR department has failed to respond to staff enquiries regarding the changes. Disturbingly, some of the proposed role changes have already been implemented. These changes in employment conditions have caused significant discomfort and unhappiness among the staff.” said Nevonga.

Naomab served as the assistant pro-vice-chancellor at the University of Namibia (UNAM) before he assumed a new role at NUST.

He took over from long-serving former vice-chancellor Tjama Tjivikua, who had stepped down after 23 years of service to NUST.

In November 2020 shortly after his appointment, Naomab pledged to serve with integrity saying NUST is a “brand” that warrants protection.

“We are aware of growing public discontent about below par academic excellence, innate staff members who appear frustrated and demoralised, slow pace of transformation, students demanding better returns and higher value for their investment, students expect that we honestly, objectively and with integrity give them what we promise in our prospectuses and curricula,” Noamab stressed.

Naomab secured the job despite coming second to UNAM’s pro-vice chancellor for academic affairs Professor Frednard Gideon, who was recommended by the committee that oversaw the interview process.

Gideon lodged a legal challenge against the appointment through an urgent court application, but the High Court ruled in favour of the council.

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