Windhoek school board wants principal fired

Martin Endjala

Board members of Hermann Gmeiner Primary School in Windhoek are accusing Principal Maureen Gottlieb of running the school down the drain by using school funds without their consent and are demanding her dismissal.

A detailed statement issued by the School Board Chairperson, Hilya Kambonde, said that around September 2021, she questioned the principal on the School Board WhatsApp group whether the school was building new classes without the knowledge of the board.

A question to which former Board Chairperson Ivan Tshabalala responded that he was reliably informed.

She said Gottlieb and Tshabalala chose to contract a construction company, Permastruct Construction & Civil CC, owned by among others, a nephew of the principal.

“The construction of the six classes, a storeroom and toilets would cost the school more than N$1.1 million. I strongly took a stance against the decision by Mrs Gottlieb and Mr Tshabalala because of the following reasons: This was not a board decision, and the selection process contravened and ignored provisions of the Public Procurement Act of Namibia.

Kambonde explained that Tshabalala indicated to her via a telephone conversation in September 2021 that the quotation of Permastruct Construction & Civil CC was presented to him by the principal, which she was advised by the Circuit Inspector Milton yaOtto to use.

“An Ad hoc meeting was called towards the end of September 2021 in which the principal indicated to the board that she got the quotation from the circuit inspector Mr Ya Otto, recommending Permastruct because they built classes at Martti Ahtisaari Primary School and another school I can’t remember. This prompted me to do my own investigations and to report my suspicions to the Anti-Corruption Commission of Namibia (ACC-HQO-22-003339),” she said.

According to Kambonde, the company received more than the quoted amount as it was also paid for the fitment of whiteboards, blackboards and notice boards in the constructed classes to a total amount of N$ 9 000 and further payments were also done amounting to N$ 6 115.

She highlighted that during a school board meeting held on 5 March 2022, the principal failed to disclose her relationship with the contractor, and explained to the Board that she did not know that her nephew was involved and only found out when work was already in process.

Kambonde has also highlighted various offences the principal has allegedly committed, ranging from giving N$ 20 000 personal loan to one of the staff members without board approval, missing deadlines to deposit school funds into the school bank account, and disregarding the school financial guidelines.

Kambonde is also alleging that between April 2021 and September 2022, a car registered in the principal’s name has been fueled at least three times at the expense of the school from the Bach Service Station in Windhoek West, which the principal admitted, and an invoice dated between 19 and 21 September 2022 was presented to her for authorisation in March 2023 but refused because it did not benefit the school.

“This invoice has the registration number of the principal’s car, the requisition is signed by both the principal and Mr. Nyeliso. I presented my findings to the current board. Both agreed that they signed the document, citing “an honest mistake” on the part of the registration number. It is my submission that if you study the fuel books, you will find the evidence to this effect,” stressed Kambonde.

She said the matter has been reported to Khomas Education Director Paulus Nghikembua, but he is allegedly trying to keep the case under the carpet.

Up on enquiry yesterday, Nghikembua told Windhoek Observer that the case is personnel and an internal matter and the leadership is seized with it.

“Good afternoon. This is a personal and internal matter, we are seized with it,” he said. When approached for comment, Gottlieb said she can’t comment on the case which is ongoing and referred this reporter to Nghikembua.

“Unfortunately, I can’t respond to any questions. Please do contact Mr Nghikemba,” she said.

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