Jooste shocked by Telecom CEO suspension

25 Nov 2018 15:50pm
WINDHOEK, 25 NOV (NAMPA) – Public Enterprises Minister, Leon Jooste was shocked to have learned about the suspension of Telecom Namibia Chief Executive Officer Theo Klein, as he was bypassed in the decision, contrary to a Cabinet directive.
The directive states that all boards of state-owned enterprises (SOEs) must seek permission of the line minister and the Ministry of Public Enterprises before any CEO or senior management member may be suspended.
On Friday, Namibia Post and Telecom Holdings Limited (NPTH) board - the parent company of Telecom Namibia, MTC and NamPost - following internal investigations it started on 15 October 2018, resolved to suspend Klein.
Jooste learned of this decision only through social media.
“I’m shocked that I had to learn of this through social media sources on Friday. We issued a very clear directive that all SOE boards have to seek permission from the line minister and ministry before suspending any senior member,” Jooste told Nampa on Sunday.
He continued: “I find it ludicrous that a board chooses to deliberately ignore such a directive. We will clearly have to enhance our approach regarding our efforts to limit the damage caused by these suspensions.”
In the meantime, he said they would not hesitate to make use of current legal provisions at their disposal to hold boards accountable for undue financial consequences that may result from such suspensions.
It goes without saying that his ministry will support and encourage boards to investigate senior employees and then to take appropriate disciplinary measures as required in line with the provisions of the Labour Act.
Alternatively, the minister said boards may also report any form of suspected fraud or corruption to the Anti-Corruption Commission or the Namibian Police Force.
“But it is very seldom necessary or beneficial to suspend the person or persons,” the minister lamented.
At the heart of Klein’s suspension is an alleged fake N.dollars 12 million tender of which the parastatal paid part the bogus contract.
Three senior executives, Robert Offner (chief financial officer), Ben van der Merwe (internal auditor) and Jinah Buys (head of legal services), were suspended to allow for investigations into the matter.
Klein was appointed as Telecom’s CEO in 2014.
The suspensions come a few weeks after the introduction of the Public Enterprises Governance Bill, which seeks to give the portfolio minister powers to remove SOE board of directors who fail in their fiduciary duties.
If enacted, the Bill will also limit the number of appointments on boards of parastatals and board members will have to sign individual performance agreements.