Proposed Ministry a ‘Waste of Money’

THE proposal by Prime Minister Hage Geingob to establish a new ministry in the place of the State-Owned Enterprises Governance Council has been received with mixed feelings.

The Namibian last week reported that Geingob had proposed that a Ministry of Enterprise should be be established to take over the functions of the underperforming State-Owned Enterprises (SOEs).

Maggy Mbako, the Namibia Tourism Board spokesperson, said it would make no difference because the SOEGC has the mandate to do what the proposed ministry would be expected to do.

Mbako said the new ministry will just be a duplication of the functions that are already being performed by the council and will add to the existing confusion among SOEs.

“All SOEs fall under different line ministries.Will they have to report to two ministries now? This will only confuse things even further,” she said.

Mbako suggested that the SOEGC should be spruced up first before the consideration for establishing a ministry: “You must clean your house first.”

Opposition political parties said establishing the proposed ministry would be a waste of resources and taxpayer’s money.

Rally for Democracy and Progress spokesperson Jeremia Nambinga said the idea is ridiculous and the new ministry would not change the state of SOEs if the existing council failed to do so.

“This thing of turning the SOE governance council into a ministry is just a waste of taxpayers’ money. We must use this money for other pressing matters, like improving the health facilities,” said Nambinga.

He said the idea is just a campaign gimmick and a way of creating jobs for Swapo supporters: “I am sure there are already people he has in mind to serve in this new ministry.”

Nambinga said SOEs in general have failed to meet the Vision 2030 objectives and have not contributed to the development of the country’s economy as they should have.

“This executive officers who run these SOEs are paid high salaries for doing nothing,” said Nambinga, adding that if the SOEs are unable to improve under the governance of the council, they will not be able to do so under the new ministry.

Similarly, DTA of Namibia president McHenry Venaani dismissed the idea, saying the country cannot spent money on a new ministry as it is a waste of public funds.

“If the SOEGC could not do it, what difference will the proposed ministry make? SOE use up more government funds than they contribute to the development. A new ministry will only worsen things, who are they fooling?” asked Venaani.

Namibia Statistics Agency spokesperson Iipumbu Sakaria welcomed the idea, saying it would assist SOEs to play a bigger and better role to the development of the country.

“It makes sense to have a ministerial body for all SOEs. This body will push the SOEs to improve performance and produce their annual reports on time,” said Sakaria. The Rector of the Polytechnic of Namibia, Tjama Tjivikua, felt that the proposal could assist Geingob, who oversees the functions of SOEs.

“The SOEGC members, the Prime Minister and some other ministers, are overstretched and overloaded with responsibilities which hinder his ability to effectively assist the SOEs. Overseeing more than 50 SOEs is not a small task,” he said in an email.

Tjivikua also pointed out that the ministry will be a positive thing and might assist in improving the state of SOEs and their governance.

“Often, problematic SOEs receive huge government bailouts while those that are performing well are seen as not needing funding. This practice does not encourage innovation and excellence. As a result, there is no holistic benchmarking and development of the economy,” said Tjivikua.

The SOEGC has a full time secretariat handling daily activities such as research, performance monitoring and provision of aice on company structuring.

Both structures ensure that the SOE sector contributes to the development of the economy through the realisation of the National Development Plans, Vision 2030 goals and to eradicate poverty, inequality and unemployment.SOEGC’ secretariat’s executive director Frans Tsheehama said the council has been able to do well in assisting the SOEs’ operations as their mandate was only to offer guidance and not to engage in their administrative work.

“We could have done more but we know this to be true because of the feedback we got from them,” said Tsheehama.

According to him, the new ministry will select several SOEs who will be solely supervised by them while the others fall under continue under their line ministry.

“We are not privy of the details but we understand that under the proposed ministry, only a few SOEs will be governed by them,” said Tsheehama, adding that the SOEs needed to be under control and the proposed ministry will be able to do that.

He said the SOEs have performed well, although some of them with bad management have not been able to contribute to the economy.

Source : The Namibian