Roads contractor suspends manager
THE head of internal audit and risk management at the Roads Contractor Company was suspended last week Tuesday after she allegedly told the board chairperson about a case of suspected conflict of interest involving the acting chief executive officer.
The board chairperson, Almarine Bergh, on Wednesday confirmed Leilanie Hochobeb's suspension, but said the suspension was done “pending investigation”.
Hochobeb refused to comment, referring questions to her lawyer, Frans Kwala. Sources, however, said Hochobeb was suspended after she allegedly notified the chairperson that her office had received allegations of a potential conflict of interest involving Bergh and the acting CEO, Pieter Oosthuizen.
In addition, the sources said that Hochobeb acted out of courtesy when she informed the board on Tuesday about conflict of interest allegations, before she decided whether to investigate the allegations or not.
The Namibian has learned that Bergh suspended Hochobeb, who also sits on the board of Namibia Post and Telecom Holdings (NPTH), after exchanging emails. Bergh allegedly later seized Hochobeb's laptop in order to find out who had tipped her off in connection with the conflict of interest case.
Although Bergh said she did not have information regarding the allegations, she told The Namibian that a forensic auditor was appointed to investigate the matter.
The sources further said that the RCC board appears to be fighting hard to sniff out whistle-blowers at the parastatal suspected of leaking information about Bergh and Oosthuizen.
The Namibian has also been informed that the tense relationship between Bergh and Hochobeb is not only limited to RCC but extends to NamPost where Bergh is the head of the human resources department.
The clash at the RCC, according to sources, might have been caused by the roads contractor's failure to pay Postfin - a NamPost subsidiary - a debt that runs into millions.
Postfin, like its insolvent subsidiary Brick and Concrete Industries (BCI), is allegedly on the verge of bankruptcy because of the debt.
As a member of the NPTH board audit committee, Hochobeb allegedly took an uncompromising stance on NamPost to recover the money owed by RCC.
Sources alleged that she was especially resolute in regard to the fact that NamPost was suffering as a result of RCC, while one of the senior managers at the company, Bergh, is the board chairperson of the RCC.
Hochobeb is the second casualty at the parastatal after its chief executive officer, Engelhard Haihambo, was informed that he was not going to be suspended or dismissed but that his contract would not be renewed in February next year.
Although the board allegedly allowed Haihambo to sit out his term, they stripped him of some of his powers and responsibilities after appointing Oosthuizen, the general manager for revenue generation projects, to act.
Haihambo earlier denied to The Namibian that he was being pushed out, saying he had instead notified the board that he had no intention of standing for reappointment.
The board's decision was informed by a forensic audit report which, sources said, painted an alarming picture of how the company was run.
RCC was not paying value added tax and pay-as-you-earn, despite deducting such taxes from the workers' salaries. The company also allegedly had no internal controls to curb looting. Oosthuizen had not been available for comment at the time of going to press as he was caught up in a meeting all afternoon.
Tileni Mongudhi: The Namibian