Geingob Urged to Probe Civil Aviation

EVEN before he has assumed office, pressure is mounting on President-elect Hage Geingob to order a presidential commission of inquiry into the dire straits civil aviation in the country finds itself in.

At the same time, the renewal of a contract with experts of the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) who had already spent six years in the country, awaits Cabinet approval.

The contract lapsed on 31 December last year and had been temporarily extended pending Cabinet’s endorsement.

Directorate of Civil Aviation (DCA) boss Angeline Simana submitted a report to the Minister of Works and Transport, Erkki Nghimtina, to request for the contract to be renewed.

Nghimtina is on record for blasting these experts, saying that during their six-year stint they never provided any report to the transport ministry.

The minister also blamed them for the downgrading of Hosea Kutako International Airport last year.

In August 2013, he said that the ministry would review the performances of the experts and that all those who did not do their jobs will be brought to task.

Now it appears as if the very Nghimtina has been asked to change his tune and request Cabinet to let the team stay longer.

Following a report in The Namibian in late December about a looming crisis should the ministry not renew the licences of the group of experts from ICAO, a torrent of criticism has been unleashed on the DCA.

One concerned commentator, responding to the article on the newspaper’s website, did not mince his words when he launched a scathing attack on the DCA and the ICAO experts.

“If indeed the extension or renewal of the ICAO contract is awaiting Cabinet approval, why is Angeline Simana talking to the media except to try and force the decision in the direction that she prefers? The current ICAO team should in fact be told to pack and go home.”

According to him, “they have little to show for the six years that they have been in the country which culminated in the temporary downgrading of Hosea Kutako International Airport following the ICAO audit a few months ago. We heard the Minister complain publicly that these chaps have become ‘too comfortable’ here and have never submitted any progress reports on their work! The current ICAO team had compromised their professionalism and independence by becoming embroiled in the political battles within the DCA, the dysfunctional relationship with the Ministry and the aviation sector.”

Further not shying away, he said: “I support the voices that are calling on the President-elect to appoint a Commission of Inquiry into civil aviation in this country so that we can get to the bottom of the current mess and sort out this important economic enabler.”

Meanwhile, Simana stood her ground that the civil aviation regulatory authority will be caught with its pants around the ankles if the contract with ICAO is not renewed as the DCA simply does not have the expertise to perform an oversight function over the national airline, Air Namibia. “I cannot see how you can make do without them (ICAO people). The DCA has no one to do oversight over Air Namibia.”

The presence of the ICAO experts is apparently necessitated as a result of government not being able to attract and retain experts to be appointed locally because of relatively meagre remuneration packages being offered for these high-responsibility jobs.

There has been increasing concern about why these ICAO experts have not trained any local people during their six years in the country in order to succeed them.

Upon enquiry, Peter Mwatile, the ministry’s permanent secretary, yesterday maintained that there would be no civil aviation crisis if the contract of these experts is not renewed. By the way, he said, the DCA is not only responsible for overseeing Air Namibia but is “responsible for the entire air space of Namibia”.

Asked about the DCA not having qualified experts of its own to perform the oversight function, Mwatile wanted to know “what do you mean qualified?”

Source : The Namibian