Uncertainty surrounds former NEPC CEO’s ownership of company vehicle

02 Sep 2019 17:21pm
By Edward Mumbuu Jnr
WINDHOEK, 01 SEP (NAMPA) – Former New Era Publication Corporation (NEPC) chief executive officer (CEO), Audrin Mathe allegedly refused to hand over the company vehicle bought for his office when his employment contract ended in January 2019.
Investigations by Nampa have unearthed that between 2015 and 2016, the NEPC board, then led by former Namibia Chamber of Commerce and Industry (NCCI) CEO, Tarah Shaanika, bought a luxury vehicle - a grey Range Rover Sport - for around N.dollars 1.1 million to be used by the incumbent CEO.
The conditions attached to this benefit were that if Mathe’s employment contract came to an end, he would be given preference to buy the vehicle from NEPC at its commercial value, which stands at around N.dollars 600 000, or leave it for future CEOs.
NEPC paid a monthly instalment of N.dollars 51 263.97 per month for the car, according to its audit report for the 2016/17 financial year.
Moreover, when Mathe left in January, NEPC continued to pay for the vehicle’s instalment for about four months, the independent investigation shows.
Nampa further understands that NEPC continues to pay for the car’s monthly insurance.
People familiar with the matter said that in April 2018, when Mathe’s initial five-year contract ended, NEPC’s current board of directors, which is headed by Finance Minister Calle Sclettwein’s personal assistant, Esau Mbako, was engaged in a tussle with Mathe over whether the former executive should leave with the vehicle or not.
Mathe and his legal representatives’ position was that the vehicle de facto became his at the time his contract lapsed, it is said.
The NEPC board, on the other hand, was of the view that the vehicle is a property of NEPC, sources informed Nampa.
To date, the vehicle was never disposed of as required by Treasury rules. Seven months after his departure from the cash-strapped parastatal, Mathe has allegedly clung onto the vehicle, saying it is part of his employment package, a claim which was refuted by Shaanika when contacted for comment.
“The understanding was that he could buy the car from New Era when he leaves through a disposal. Mathe would receive preference to buy the car but if he declined, the company could sell it to any other person. If he has the car now [and the above process did not happen], maybe the company donated it to him,” Shaanika said before directing further questions to NEPC’s current board.
Details further show that the vehicle was indeed transferred to Mathe’s name on 04 April 2019, three months after he left NEPC.
Contacted for NEPC’s position on the matter, Mbako was conservative with information, citing confidentiality.
“How would you feel if your employment contract was being discussed in the public domain?” he asked before saying the matter was not in the public’s interest.
He added even if he divulged information he is privy to, NEPC might be sued for contract breach.
“This is a personnel matter involving two parties guided by confidentiality. I am thus incapacitated to comment. In any case, if there was anything newsworthy, I would have published it with our newspaper, New Era,” he said.
On his part, Mathe threw the ball back into NEPC’s court.
“I don’t work for the NEPC. Direct all your queries to NEPC,” he said.
Minister of Information and Communication Technology, Stanley Simataa, under whose ministry NEPC falls, redirected all questions to the parastatal’s board.
“That does not fall under the category of issues that the minister deals with. I am far detached to deal with issues of that nature. My advice is to engage the board [as] they are better placed. The contract is not signed between the CEO and the minister but between the board and the CEO,” he told Nampa on Sunday.
Last week, the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Accounts also sought answers from the NEPC management.
“Please inform the board that they must submit a report explaining why NEPC bought a car for the CEO. We will wait for that report before we submit our full report to the National Assembly,” Rally for Democracy and Progress’ Mike Kavekotora, who is the committee’s chairperson, said during the public hearing.
The purchasing of luxurious cars for NEPC executives is nothing new.
Mathe’s predecessors, the current transport deputy minister, James Sankwasa, and Protasius Ndauendapo, were also entitled to a company vehicle during their tenures, information at hand shows.
When Sankwasa left NEPC to join politics, he left the Mercedes Benz E23 for his successor Ndauedapo’s use as per the norm at the time.
“I left it there and it was driven by my successor,” Sankwasa confirmed, before adding that he left the technically insolvent State-owned company in “a very healthy financial state”.
The revelations come at a time when the near-bankrupt entity failed to account for N.dollars 33.5 million.
NEPC currently has a tax balance liability of N.dollars 74 million, and an accumulated unaudited loss of N.dollars 66 million.