• May 29th, 2020

Absolute power over strategic SOEs very dangerous

Absolute power corrupts absolutely, especially if sought and granted without any broad, inclusive and a transparent due diligence process. 

Public Enterprises Minister Leon Jooste is trying his level best to convince his weary colleagues to urgently grant him absolute power through the Public Enterprises Governance Bill that is currently before parliament.

This bill is to enable him to do as he pleases over 18 strategic state-owned companies which in my honest opinion needs serious reconsiderations. 

For what it’s worth, he would like to have significant oversight power over the following state-owned enterprises, namely Nampower, Namport, Transnamib, Air Namibia, Namcor, Namibia Airports Company, Namibia Post and Telecommunication Holdings (Nampost, Telecom and MTC), Namibia Wildlife Resorts, National Fishing Corporation, Meat Corporation of Namibia, Roads Authority, Roads Contractor Company, to mention just a few. 

And should he be blindly granted his wish, he would  singlehandedly have the power to, among others, create and dissolve state-owned businesses, appoint their respective boards of directors, monitor and evaluate their performance and institute among others any kind of investigation on them.  

Such an aggressive posture and self-driven desire from and by him stinks of an ulterior motive and needs to be treated with absolute cautiousness and patience as any short-sightedness could result in the granting of the whole commercial soul of the state into the hands of a single individual, creating in the process a capitalist demi-god at the expense and deterioration of the unexpected state and masses. 

Whether he has the academic knowledge, capability and experience or not to have the absolute power on all these strategic state-owned commercial entities is certainly an area that needs careful scrutiny and needs to be discussed openly. 

For instance, why would one person be granted all these powers over all these government commercial entities?

The grave danger in not starting right with such an undertaking is that the Minister of Public Enterprises will, going forward and at a high cost to the Namibian government, be appointing various types of consultants left, right and center to assist him or her to make decisions. 

It is an historic fact that at the establishment of the Ministry of Public Enterprises that a consultant was appointed at a cost of N$24 million that was spent within a year to assist it put its house in order. Such an unprepared background and undertaking is a clear indication that the Ministry of Public Enterprises does not have the necessary personnel and capabilities to sincerely take on this humongous task and will going forward be appointing more consultants at high unjustified and avoidable costs to the public to assist it to evaluate and monitor the performance of all these complex SOEs. 

Yes, Namibian state-owned companies have performed variedly over the years but putting them in one basket for the sake of control and monitoring will not necessarily be the solution. Each respective SOE has its unique background and purpose and should in my honest opinion remain within their appointing authority areas of jurisdiction. For instance, Nampower and Namcor falls under the Ministry of Mines and Energy, a specialized state institution which has the necessary responsibility, capacity and resources to oversee all energy related matters in the country. Transnamib, Air Namibia, Namport, Roads Authority, Namibia Airports Company, Roads Contractor Company fall under the Ministry of Works and Transport which has the technical capacity to oversee theses entities. Namibia Posts and Telecommunication falls under the Ministry of Information, Technology and Communication which in my view has the capacity to oversee and regulate these entities. 

Blindly transferring the entire commercial oversight responsibilities of all these government ministries to a generic entity such as the Ministry of Public Enterprises will eventually render all the above-mentioned ministries to become deadwood government institutions, taking away their relevance, responsibilities and implementation capabilities.   

In retrospect, the establishment of the Ministry of Public Enterprises in all honesty was not sincerely well-thought through and as a result has encroached on the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Industrialisation, Trade and SME Development which could have been expanded to division or directorate that monitors and evaluate the performance of some state-owned enterprises without the need to directly interfere in their day-to-day operations.  A further careful scrutiny of this situation now reveals that this ministry is now encroaching on the mandates of other strategic ministries which is a very dangerous development and if not stopped will eventually take over their respective functions.

Going deeper, this initiative of attempting to grant the Minister of Public Enterprises with absolute oversight power over SOEs is actually revealing a deeper crisis within the nation of not having competent ministers, board members and managers across the board, hence the need to fool the nation that all responsibilities of strategic SOEs should be bestowed under the control of a single person.

In conclusion, the Ministry of Public Enterprises should in fact take baby steps and perfect its monitoring and evaluation responsibilities and to allow the status quo of ministerial mandates over SOEs to prevail. What is however required going forward is that the main shareholder appoints Ministers, Deputy Ministers, Permanent Secretaries and board members based on their academic qualifications (preferably that all should have as a minimum a master’s degree from a reputable academic institution), the necessary industry experience and to set clear goals that are in line with the nation’s Vision 2030, failure of which they will be personally held responsible. 

Anything else to the contrary will be total a waste of time and taxpayer’s money for the continued advantage of the minorities.       

• Pendapala Hangala is a Namibian Socio-Economist who strongly believes in the nation’s Vision 2030 development agenda.

New Era Reporter
2018-10-19 11:18:10 | 1 years ago

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