Unleashing potential when it matters most

By Prime Focus
November 2013
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Rosalia Martin-Hausiku is a game changer of note. If anything, she plays by her own set of rules, which enable her to strike with precision.

 

Within a space of only nine years, Martins-Hausiku has risen from her entry job, as a Corporate Relations Officer, to the top job as Chief Executive Officer of the Motor Vehicle Accident (MVA) Fund.

 

Although CEO posts are slowly becoming a preserve of chartered accountants (CAs), Martins-Hausiku has broken that mould with a communications background, all the while buttressed in the business and corporate world.

 

The holder of a Master’s degree in Business Leadership from the University of South Africa’s School of Business, she also has a Master’s of Arts degree in culture, communication and media studies from the University of KwaZulu Natal in Durban, South Africa.

 

With a Certificate in Finance and Accounting from the Wits Business School, South Africa, Martins-Hausiku has also interestingly drank from the University of Namibia (Unam) where she graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree in Media Studies.

 

A fine combination of social sciences and business studies crafted hers into a well-rounded personality that can pull both strings for the greater good of business.

 

 

The MVA Fund has been an award winner of the “Best Company to Work For”, year in, year out. It goes without saying Martins-Hausiku’s rise has been a manifestation of “growing your timber”, in a way you can bend it as you please. And here she is.

 

However, her phenomenal rise is proof of sheer mettle - she could take on whatever she was assigned to. In her career path, she has been thrown in the deep in two very senior positions; as Chief Corporate Affairs (CCA) and as Chief Operations Officer (COO) until her recent promotion.

 

As an insider, she has intimate knowledge of the MVA Fund business and must have learnt how to run it from the trail-blazing leader, Jerry Muadinohamba. She now joins the rank and file of Namibia’s youngest CEOs; a new breed of leaders who will drive this country towards Vision 2030.

 

We caught up soon after she landed at the top, to hear about her unfolding journey at the Fund, an institution which plays a fundamental role the lives of many Namibians, particularly those affected by road crashes.

 

PF: Congratulations on your appointment as the MVA Fund CEO. How do you feel now that the buck stops with you?

 

RMH:Thank you, I feel deeply humbled and honored. It is a huge responsibility. I feel overwhelmed, yet privileged by the opportunity to make a meaningful difference in Namibia.

 

PF: What did it take for you to land this position? Did you see it coming?

 

RMH:It took a job advertisement, an application from me and a presentation to the selection panel, followed by an interview. Soon after that, I was notified I had succeeded. I have, however, developed myself academically and professionally over the years for career growth, as well as for a sense of fulfillment and achievement.

 

Honestly, I did not see it coming. I took a lot of time to reflect whether or not I wanted to take on the challenge and whether or not to apply. But once I made a decision, I acted.

 

PF: What does your appointment mean to you as an individual, to the women in Namibia and the world?

 

RMH:It means recognition; it means a sense of trust by the Board and our Government. It means I have the ability to make a meaningful contribution to the lives of Namibians who are affected by road crashes. It also means I have been given an opportunity to write a chapter in the life story of the incredible MVA Fund.

 

Personally, it means an opportunity to learn, grow and provide leadership to our passionate employees.

 

For the women of this country, it mostly means the soil is fertile enough for them to start contributing to the development of this country. It also means our Government recognises women as equal partners in development and growth and it believes and trusts in their ability to rise to the challenge.

 

PF: What are your immediate steps in your new role?

 

RFM:Our five-year strategy requires supportive financial, as well as human resources. I have been working on the strategy, which requires various stakeholder consultations before it is approved by the Board and Line Minister. These projects have kept me quite busy over the past couple of months.

 

PF: How will you do things differently from your predecessor?

 

RMH:Individually, we are different. Our leadership styles are also different. But I would say I was mentored by my predecessor over the years – so there will be commonality in certain areas.

 

My predecessor leaves a legacy in terms of building leadership capacity at all levels and a talent pool to ensure succession for most critical positions in the institution. He has also laid the business foundation.

 

Whilst my primary concern is ensuring financial sustainability, to deliver on the customer promise, I acknowledge I need a capable team with the requisite passion and skills - as you would understand we are our clients’ first and only choice. Therefore we have the power to make or break their aftermath experience. As such, our internal motto is “service above self”. Therefore, a lot of what goes into our next five years will be client-focused and tailor-made service provision for them, as they transition from being road users to injured persons.

 

PF: MVA Fund financials have been under scrutiny; what is the state of affairs in that regard, as we speak?

 

RMH:The Fund’s finances have shown great improvement since 2008. At the introduction of the MVA Fund Act No. 10 of 2007, we essentially opened up the system for an additional 40% of claims that would have otherwise been repudiated under the 2001 Act.

 

As of the end of September 2013, our funding level had hit 45%, compared to the 3.4% in 2010. Cash and investments are at an all-time health of N$256m whilst assets stand at N$394m, compared to N$137m in 2010. We are, however, not at ease due to the rate of road crashes and the extent of eventual injuries, which require an increased outflow of medical payments.

 

PF: Has the funding formula changed?

 

RMH:The funding formula remains the same. It is still reliant on fuel levy income, although we have increased our property portfolio, which currently brings in minimal rental income. We have proposed, in the legislative amendments, additional revenue streams in the form of the MVA Fund levy on local and foreign vehicle registrations. These are still to be tabled in Parliament.

 

PF: Compensation of crash victims and survivors has been a major drain on the MVA Fund coffers, given the high crash rate. What is being done to mitigate the impact on your balance sheet?

 

RMH:We contribute to injury prevention by way of limited public education, because the National Road Safety Council has taken the lead role in that area. We have, however, slightly weighted our focus more on post-crash interventions. This comes with an availability of skills, facilities and transport, to enable emergency response to take place in the shortest possible time, hence our partnership with the Ministry of Health and Social Services (MoHSS).

 

We train paramedics in Basic, Intermediate and Advanced Life Support courses and then place them strategically at different emergency bases and hospitals, to competently respond to crashes. We have also invested in upgrading public health facilities to bring them on par with private hospitals. In October this year, we launched the Spinal Cord Injury Management Unit at  the Windhoek Central Hospital which will enable the Ministry of Health to provide effective rehabilitation services at affordable rates.

 

PF: Could you refresh our memories on who gets the compensation from the Fund?

 

RMH:Within the confines of the MVA Fund Act 10 of 2007, Limitations and Exclusions:

•Families of a deceased can claim for a funeral grant of N$7 000 whether a visitor or a Namibian resident.

•Dependents of a deceased person qualify for loss of support limited at N$100 000 per annum.

•Injured persons qualify for an injury grant of up to N$100 000.

•Injured persons who were precluded from work qualify for loss of income limited to N$100 000 per annum; and

•All injured persons qualify for emergency evacuation, medical treatment, rehabilitation and life enhancement of up to

N$1 500 000.

 

PF: Would you say you are winning the battle of the road carnage? What is the key driver of the road crashes, given our small population?

 

RMH:The battle is a long one. We can draft the most attractive strategies, garner support from Namibian corporates and other role players but as we win, we also record losses on one end, because road users are not co-operative.

 

There is a serious problem of speed beyond regulated limits; drivers embarking on journeys whilst intoxicated or overtaking where and when they are not supposed to, etc. What exacerbates the problem is, passengers oftentimes do not stand up for themselves while in the hands of a reckless driver.

 

We also have a problem of pedestrians not following road rules. To have a feel of the extent of the pedestrian problem, visit the Western bypass at Monte Cristo in Windhoek, or take the Trans-Caprivi highway, especially areas surrounding Mururani.

 

Two years ago, we would lose 35 persons per month to fatal road accidents. Today, we lose around 50 lives per month. In August this year, alone, we lost 67 lives as a result of motor vehicle crashes. This has become the new pandemic and the battle cannot be won single-handedly, we require the main actors – the road users - to bring their part.

 

PF: MVA Fund recently embarked on a social media campaign, to keep the nation abreast of its developments. Are you gaining any mileage from this initiative?

 

RMH:The advantage of social media is its instance. It reaches young people who are the majority of our target group (21 – 35-year-olds who are mostly involved in car crashes). It creates a platform for conversations, feedback and debates and we believe we are getting the nation to talk about pertinent issues related to road safety and the Fund.

 

On an annual basis, the Fund spends a lot of resources on radio and open broadcasts across the country, to create awareness about the existence of the Fund, available benefits as well as road safety education. However, these costs can be reduced extensively through the use of social media.

 

PF: Could you shed some light on the “Return to Work” initiative and what’s in it for Namibia?

 

RMH:The Return to Work initiative is simply a well-thought out, holistic, end-to-end, customer-focused rehabilitation strategy that focuses on rehabilitating injured persons so they can return to work soon enough - either to their pre-crash jobs or to new ones, considering their level of injury and their new functional capacity.

 

It is a holistic approach, because it involves the Fund, therapists, doctors and victims’ family members under whom the injured person will be re-integrated. The current practice is basically focused on paying service providers including caretakers and rehabilitators for the services rendered to the client. It is more input and process-focused, rather than outcome-based.

 

The benefits include people getting a sense of worth and responsibility in the recovery process. Human dignity is restored and they become productive citizens with very limited dependency on others.  In the long run, the Fund would also be able to see a reduction in long-term medical costs.

 

PF: What are the long-term goals meant to ensure the Fund lives up to its mandate?

 

RMH:The Fund has just finalised the next five-year strategy (2014–2019) and is currently conducting  consultations with various stakeholders before final approval. This strategy is premised on the following long-term goals: to ensure financial sustainability and independence; attain rehabilitation goals and return injured people to work, school and independence; ensure operational excellence and attain customer satisfaction; and lastly, create positive employee engagement and enrollment.

 

PF: Is the collaboration with other key players paying off?

 

RMH:Definitely. From the onset, we realised that for the Fund to achieve the required results, today and beyond,  we would need key partners in other playing fields who share our vision and have at least half the passion and drive we have. And this has been our winning combination.

 

PF: Why has the Fund been investing heavily in the MoHSS?

 

RMH:Whilst the Fund needs both private and public hospitals, the long-term costs of private hospitals is unsustainable to the Fund and accessibility is limited to certain parts of the country. We therefore have first-hand experience of these costs and at the rate that crashes and injuries are increasing, the Fund needs to work with the State facilities more.

 

Given the above reality, the Fund has decided to assist the MoHSS to improve skills, facilities and equipment, to ensure the hospitals are able to respond to the needs of Namibians in times of critical need of health services, which includes treatment for injuries sustained in motor vehicle crashes.

 

PF: Could you share with us how your bursary scheme, against the backdrop of skills gap, assists Namibia to develop the requisite skills and competencies?

 

RMH:Namibia is faced with a shortage of skills in various fields and what is at the core of the MVA Fund’s business is the availability of qualified paramedics to attend to any emergency, especially of motor vehicle crashes.

 

About four years ago, there was no single paramedic in State facilities. Whenever a crash would occur, an ambulance driver would attend to the scene with a nurse.

 

Through the partnership with the Polytechnic of Namibia (PoN), a Department of Emergency Medical Care was established and the programme has produced over 25 emergency care technicians (ECTs). The Fund has also sponsored over ten paramedics to become Advanced Life Support (ALS) paramedics. So far, we have produced five graduates, with more expected this year. In addition, over 32 State ambulance drivers have been trained by the Fund on Basic Life Support (BLS).

 

Our successes stem from a partnership with the MoHSS with whom we have setup emergency response bases in Omuthiya, Usakos and placed paramedics at various hospitals including Rehoboth, Mariental, Otjiwarongo and Rundu. We have also placed paramedics at Sesriem, in partnership with a Spanish organisation called the Mayte Foundation. 

 

As we moved into the rehabilitation arena, we realised a significant shortage of occupational therapists and physiotherapists. Hence this year, we have expanded our bursary scheme to include these two categories, to ensure various regions are resourced so the Fund can roll out community-based rehabilitation.

 

Given the challenges faced with specialists, the Fund has also sponsored doctors to specialise in Orthopedics and Neurosurgery.

 

Our decisions are always informed by the real life challenges we face when we try to deliver to our mandate. But we believe if we play our part, instead of blaming the “lack of” certain skills or infrastructure, by making a difference today, in two to three years, we would have created one, relevant critical skill or facility that will give us different results and outcomes for our clients.

 

PF: What excites you about the role the Fund plays in Namibia?

 

RMH:The fact that we are delicately created by Government and entrusted to assist persons who have encountered tragic experiences as a result of motor vehicle crashes is excitement enough, if not very rewarding.

 

PF: What are some the best practices the MVA Fund has learnt and applied in Namibia and which countries have learnt from Namibia?

 

RHM:The Fund works in close collaboration with its sister Funds, such as MVA Fund Botswana, Sincepethelo MVA Fund Swaziland and Road Accident Fund in South Africa. Other international companies are the Accident Compensation Commission (ACC) of New Zealand, the Transport Accident Commission (TAC) in Australia and the Motor Accident Insurance Board (MAIB) in Tasmania.

 

Commendably, Botswana has the best performing Fund and MVA Fund Namibia has learnt a lot in terms of the legislative reforms Botswana has undergone to ensure it runs a financially sound scheme today. We also learn a lot in terms of its medical cost and claims management in general.

 

The ACC model has a lot of influence in our business processes, including the way we ‘triage’ injured persons right through the way we ‘triage’ our claimants. 

 

The “return to work” programme is yet another best practice we have learnt from our international partners including the ACC, MAIB, TAC and Botswana.

 

As one hand washes another, every lesson we take from our partners is used to improve on our endeavorbut we also ensure they learn from us. MVA Fund Namibia has the best claims turnaround times. Our in-house emergency call centre and co-ordination of crashes is yet to be emulated by our sister Funds. We have also successfully eradicated a backlog and we deal with a current case load, averaged at a 30-days lifespan.

 

PF: Will you maintain the “Best Company to Work For” badge?

 

RMH:The BCTWF survey is a very important management tool for us, because it allows our employees to give us feedback on an annual basis on matters that are core to the hearts of our people. It also gives us an opportunity, as the leadership of the MVA Fund, to introspect on our processes, practices, organisational culture, corporate values and how they are experienced or perceived by our team.

 

The accolades that come with the survey results are definitely exciting and encouraging and they challenge the Fund to perform better every time. Will we keep the badge? Definitely. That is our aim – to improve on the results we attained this year, because that means we are getting feedback and striving to improve areas of weakness.

 

PF: What kind of an MVA Fund should we expect to see sooner or later?

 

RMH:Our biggest challenge yet, has always been financial sustainability and very soon, we should be able to cross over and eradicate our inherited deficit. Our finances are at an all-time healthy state since 2009 and we intend to keep improving them so that by 2017/18, we can expect to record a surplus.

 

PF: Where to from here?

 

RHM:Shoo! A bit too early, isn’t it? Let me see what the next five years turn out to be. PF