Cabinet Grills Nghimtina

PRESIDENT Hifikepunye Pohamba and his Cabinet do not have kind words for the Minister of Works and Transport Erkki Nghimtina over the chaotic state of affairs at the Hosea Kutako International Airport.

Nghimtina as well as the Directorate of Civil Aviation (DCA), Air Namibia and the Namibia Airports Company (NAC), have made media headlines in the past two months after the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) downgraded the Hosea Kutako International Airport to category five from eight because of poor fire fighting and emergency rescue services.

The downgrade has seen the banning of the Airbus A330s, the aircraft used for servicing Air Namibia’s long-haul routes, from taking off or landing at the airport.

Sources told The Namibian that Nghimtina had submitted a report to Cabinet on Tuesday detailing, among other things, the current situation with the ICAO audit and the need for permission to speed up a civil aviation legislation that would turn the DCA into a parastatal.

Nghimtina reportedly also asked for permission to renew the contracts of nine ICAO consultants, who were appointed three years ago to assist the DCA in coming up with regulations that meet ICAO standards, until 2016.

The Namibian understands that despite being on the government payroll, the consultants in different aspects of aviation, only produced a task and resource analysis regulation on the emergency rescue and fire fighting services a few days after the ICAO audit, resulting in the downgrading of the airport.

According to sources, Pohamba fumed that as President of the country, he was not informed about Air Namibia flights being rerouted to Botswana, while members of the Cabinet questioned what the so-called experts have been doing for the last three years.

It is understood that Cabinet later instructed Prime Minister Hage Geingob to summon Nghimtina, his deputy Kilus Nguvauva and permanent secretary Peter Mwatile to explain the report. They questioned whether Nghimtina and Mwatile had compiled the report because of its unacceptably poor quality.

Nghimtina refused to comment on the Cabinet meeting yesterday, saying he does not discuss Cabinet issues with the media.

The ICAO experts are flight operator Timothy Bull, personnel manager Louise Stols, flights operations manager Nduati Njama, airworthiness officer Maimuna Taal-Ndure, aerodromes expert Maamoune Chakira legal expert Peter O’Brein air navigation services safety oversight expert, Adrian Dumsa and air navigation services expert Anders Ellerstrand.

Sources said the DCA was given a year’s notice by the ICAO of its intention to carry out the audit. The experts reportedly only rushed through putting together the regulations a few weeks before the ICAO deadline. The regulations were supposed to have been put in place a long time ago so that ICAO could use them to conduct audits at the airport.

DCA’s director Angeline Simana confirmed that the new regulations were made available a few days after the audit. “These regulations will be implemented as from August.”

According to documents seen by The Namibian, the regulations will establish jurisdiction to deal effectively with aircraft incidences or accidents, and ensure the appointment of qualified and competent rescue and fire fighting services officers.

ICAO started their audit mid this month, after the DCA had locked horns with Air Namibia when the civil aviation regulator refused to renew the national airline’s operator’s certificate. This almost grounded the airline’s operations.

On the DCA’s insistence, Air Namibia suspended its managing director, Theo Namases, and three other senior managers.

Source : The Namibian