• July 12th, 2020

BIPA admits flaws, commits to reform

Chief executive officer of the Business and Intellectual Property Authority (BIPA), Vivienne Katjiongua, conceded that the authority’s online system is not as efficient as it was hoped to be.
She was briefing the media in Windhoek on Friday.

She however, said they are working on improving and securing the system to streamline online applications. Katjiongua’s concession came after recurring grievances from clients culminated in a public demonstration at the BIPA offices in Windhoek last week. Clients were particularly concerned about slow processes, delays in responses, an inefficient online system and unanswered phone calls.

Acknowledging the seriousness of clients’ frustrations, Katjiongua said: “As the CEO, I want to concede that we have been experiencing severe challenges with our system, and limited human and financial resources. Our new online system is in a development phase, but we rolled it out to the public when lockdown struck to avoid the risks that come with the spread of Covid-19 through human contact. The official launch of the system was only due in September this year.” She refrained from making any excuses and candidly admitted that the authority is earnestly reforming processes to serve clients better and at the same time announced recently implemented arrangements to address specific concerns. 
“Firstly, the authority, as from 1 June 2020 extended the office hours for its client services office with an additional 90 minutes. The new client service hours are from 08h30 to 12h30 and from 14h00 to 16h30. This new arrangement is in response to appeals from our stakeholders for the authority to play its part to contribute to the ease of doing business in Namibia,” said Katjiongua. 

She added that to address issues of backlogs and delays, BIPA staff have been working overtime on weekends and have also implemented a process whereby clients are called to inform them about the status of their applications. 
“We have already started calling clients, and those who have not received a call, should receive one soon,” Katjiongua stated.   “Lockdown also presented BIPA with a number of challenges, but we have turned those into opportunities by waiving the penalties for failures to submit or for the late submission of annual returns, which were due end of March and end of April. Also, all approved name reservations, which expired during the lockdown period, were still considered valid, provided the clients resubmitted before end of May. We also waived the payment of fees for any service below N$10, to avoid clients having to go to the bank to make deposits,” said Katjiongua. 

BIPA also launched a new fraud hotline for internal and external stakeholders in March 2020. The fraud hotline serves as a tool for early detection and deterrent measures against corruption and any unethical behaviour within the institution. The hotline enables the public to report misconduct and suspected activities anonymously. 

“Fraud and corruption are grave national concerns; which, if left unresolved, have a devastating long-term effect on the country’s economy and investment capacity. While we are committed to conduct business ethically and accountably, the authority to a large extent relies on stakeholders and the public to report fraudulent activities. We purposely choose to make use of a third-party institution to manage these complaints, to ensure an unbiased investigation. The fraud hotline is managed independently by the Deloitte auditing firm,” Katjiongua explained. 
The BIPA CEO notes that at first glance, the latest reforms might seem minor within the greater context of clients’ frustrations, but provided her personal guarantee to continue efforts to address concerns.  – ebrandt@nepc.com.na

Edgar Brandt
2020-06-15 09:35:08 | 27 days ago

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