Three Air Namibia board members resigned with immediate effect between Monday and yesterday.
This comes after the board accused the government of interference in running the airline, making it difficult for it to execute its mandate.
Minister of public enterprises Leon Jooste confirmed the resignations yesterday. He said board chairperson Escher Luanda and Heritha Muyoba resigned yesterday and Willy Mertens quit on Monday.
The fate of the fourth board member Alois Nyandoro could not be established. The board has been at the helm of the airline for the past two years.
The resignations come after the board averted the airline’s closure last week, after an international company called Challenge Air took it to court over debt.
The government refused to provide Air Namibia with N$95 million to pay Challenge Air, and the board struck an agreement to settle without the government’s involvement.
Despite the agreement, the board maintained that the door to file for liquidation remains open.
The national airline said if it were to be liquidated, the impact would be devastating as 636 employees would lose their jobs. The board said the best option would be for a re-start plan, to preserve at least 50% jobs, while enabling the airline to add value to the domestic economy.
GOVERNANCE TRANSGRESSION CLAIMS
Before resigning the board members claimed the Ministry of Public Enterprises made major decisions for Air Namibia without their involvement.
They also said during their tenure, they endured the usurping of functions by the state as shareholder. This, according to them, is not consistent with sound state-owned enterprise (SOE) governance.
“It is a fundamental principle that the role of the state, as shareholder, is to provide policy directions, while the board leads and directs the SOE in achieving its goals and objectives,” they added.
The board also accused the public enterprises ministry of directly engaging employees and trade unions.
In addition, the government allegedly negotiated contracts for the company without the board’s involvement and also managed the airline’s allocated budget without board involvement.
“The airline had received N$948 million in the 2020/2021 fiscal year from the Ministry of Finance and approved by parliament, but the board has to date not been briefed how these funds were disbursed to the airline if at all, other than a monthly allocation for employee salaries,” they added.
According to the board members, the government also initiated a restructuring exercise, without their knowledge.
“These are unfortunate instances that fly in the face of good corporate governance and have made it extremely difficult for the board to execute its fiduciary role.”
Despite the finance minister stating on Friday that implementing the new Air Namibia business plan would cost more than N$7 billion, the airline maintains that the information is not factual and is based on a wrong premise.
“In fact, the N$7 billion brings forward future debts to as far as 2025 and creates the impression that these debts are due and payable. This figure has also been further clarified with the shareholder at no fewer than three forums,” the board noted.
Meanwhile, Jooste told The Namibian yesterday that Air Namibia has been on the agenda of the Cabinet and the Cabinet committee on treasury since 2015.
He added that all the associated activities were discussed and then either instructed or endorsed by the Cabinet and/or the Cabinet committee on treasury. The minister further said after those instructions or endorsements, the ministry was instructed to implement the various actions and to report back to the Cabinet committee on treasury and/or Cabinet.
“All of the mentioned actions were in line with these instructions after due consideration of the applicable facts and merits. The government will soon be in a position to provide detailed information and I will be happy to clarify any misunderstandings or misconceptions then,” Jooste said.