Free for All … As Govt Lifts Ban On Civil Engaging in Private Businesses

A three-year ban on government workers to engage in private businesses and competing for state contracts has been lifted, despite concerns of widespread conflict of interest in the public service and neglecting of work.

This was done through the Public Service Commission (PSC) after it introduced ways to regulate the businesses of state employees instead of imposing an outright ban.

A state commissioned audit found that “requests (by civil servants) for permission to engage in work outside employment had increased tremendously over the past years”.

Awareness campaigns, introducing ministerial internal policies and monitoring work outside employment are among the new regulations enforced this month.

The new rules come at a time when Prime Minister Saara Kuugongelwa-Amadhila confirmed that she has set a deadline on a declarations system for public servants.

“I will announce, within the next few weeks how that system looks like, inclusive of what will be declared and how that will be managed. The details of the rules will be incorporated in that system,” Kuugongelwa-Amadhila told The Namibian on Friday.

The premier said government had set a deadline of end of next month to have a system in place.

A memo from the PSC last week shows that a circular was distributed to all the ministries on 9 April 2015 on the latest decision about engaging in outside businesses.

That circular was followed by the deputy permanent secretary in the Office of the Prime Minister, Etienne Maritz, who wrote a memo explaining the new changes to public service staff rules. Maritz directed that the new rules be implemented on 1 May this year.

Among those copied in that letter is the Secretary to Cabinet, all permanent secretaries, the deputy auditor general, secretaries of the National Assembly, National Council, directors of the Electoral Commission, the Anti-Corruption Commission and the Namibia Central Intelligence Agency.

According to the law, civil servants should obtain permission to do private work by asking their respective permanent secretary who engages the prime minister based on aice of the PSC.

Government banned civil servants from running private businesses in 2012 after it asked PricewaterhouseCooper to do an audit to give a clear picture of government employees doing side businesses and to make recommendations. The audit that was completed last year found that civil servants are increasingly doing private business.

The new regulation warned that engagement in work outside employment should not compromise service delivery.

“This relates to time lost as a result of absenteeism, use of official resources and possible conflict of interest (insight into procurement of tenders, access to information of servicesroducts to be rendered),” the memo said.

The government said the intention of the rules is not to prohibit private interests of public servants but to regulate them in a transparent manner.

Monitoring and evaluation of work outside employment is also part of the new directive.

The permission to do private business is valid for 12 months but it can be revoked if it is found that it negatively affects government work. Namibia has around 100 000 civil servants. The government will create a database on the human capital management system to identify civil servants who do private business.

Government agreed to educate public servants about doing private work.

“The rule can only be successfully implemented if staff members are conversant with it. The primary responsibility lies with an individual staff member in ensuring that he or she complies with it fully,” said the memo.

Another new rule was to empower ministries to develop internal policies.

“Each industry has its own set of role players, functioning environment and indicators with reference to possible conflict of interest. It is thus aisable that ministries assess their specific environment relating to the performance of remunerative work outside employment in the public service,” said the circular.

PSC chairperson Eddie Amukongo raised red flags over government workers doing side businesses with the state.

“You cannot be a client if you are part of the system. So if a public servant is a client of the government there is a likelihood of conflict of interest, because they may use inside information, which they obtain through official means,” Amkongo said in the Namibian Sun last year.

President Hage Geingob, who declared his assets publicly last week, promised during his state of the nation address that Kuugongelwa-Amadhila will ensure that civil servants disclose all outside interests.

Geingob believes that a key requirement in preventing undue benefits to public officials is the disclosure of assets.

Permanent secretaries who deal with billions of dollars worth of state contracts, some of whom being accused of forming cartels for their benefit, are set to declare their assets. It is not clear whether their declarations will be made public.

Source : The Namibian