Time to Take Off

While the board of directors of the Namibia Airports Company (NAC) were focusing on ‘nice-to-have’ projects, and becoming embroiled in the day-to-day running of the company, dishing out tenders, taking joyrides to China and embarking on dodgy restructuring, they flew Namibia’s fledgling aviation industry into one hell of a storm.

The NAC owns and manages eight airports in Namibia. That’s right, eight (8). Some are not even in operation and the rest are relatively small. It has three main objectives. Three (3).

According to their website, these are to ensure:

– The arrival, surface movement, parking or departure of aircraft.

– The servicing of aircraft, including the supply of fuel and lubricants.

– Ground handling of aircraft, passengers, baggage and cargo.

Namibians know that this company has long been asleep at the wheel. The downgrading of this country’s only international airport is the resultant nightmare. It is but one of a seeming never-ending carousel of mishandlings reported on by the media.

They let their focus slide.

Instead of setting out to do their work well, they allowed a consultant, Brian Nalisa, to bamboozle them with a N$7 million restructuring plan in 2012.

The only thing appears to have been restructured was Nalisa’s bank account.

Not only did the ill-conceived plan cause dozens of workers to lose their jobs, it allowed qualified and experienced people, including emergency staff, to leave.

Still, the board was allowed to execute Nalisa’s ‘plan’, setting the company on a downward spiral!

When an inflated tender to provide scanners was exposed earlier this year, the company went all out to get rid of those workers who refused to implement the dodgy tender.

The Namibian ran a story in 2012 on how Nghimtina sat on a report that urged him to act against the NAC board after it reportedly failed to follow good corporate governance principles and act in the best interest of the company when dealing with suppliers and making irregular payments.

The report singled out NAC board chairperson Ndeuhala Katonyala and board member Frieda Aluteni for criticism.

Nghimtina decided not to act.

Who other than Katonyala can now claim that on her watch Namibia’s standing in aviation went from navigating perennial turbulence to grounded?

What is worrying is that she was allowed to chart the course she did.

No one should bat an eyelid if Air Namibia sues the NAC to recover any losses and damage to its income and reputation, which it is definitely experiencing after Hosea Kutako International Airport was downgraded.

Will the business people whose plans got derailed and delayed be able to recover the opportunities and money they have lost because of NAC’s inability to do three things right? Will they claim restitution from the NAC?

Will Namibia’s tourism sector recover from getting a bloody nose during its peak season at a time when many credible publications and global bodies are telling the world that Namibia is one of the top places to visit before you die?

How will Air Namibia ever be forgiven and be able to explain to their customers the nightmare in logistics handed to them at the eleventh hour when flights are redirected to foreign lands?

This is what happens when we lose focus and let things slide.

We are sure that when government says it wants Namibia classified as a least developed country it does not mean we should aim for banana republic status.

Do our political masters not feel responsible or ashamed enough to fall on their swords and say, “I can’t do this job, give someone else a chance”. If true, it is even more shocking that President Hifikepunye Pohamba only found out about flights diverted to Botswana in the media.

Nghimtina’s lack of management is to blame for this chaos.

To add insult to injury, this newspaper understands that we, the public, have been paying for consultants from the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO), the very body that decided to downgrade the Hosea Kutako International Airport, for the last three years. What were they doing and what did we pay them for?

If they aised on a course of action, why did we not follow that aice? If they did not do their job and turned a blind eye to slipping standards, can we please claim our money back?

The DCA, the regulatory body in the transport ministry, headed by Angeline Simana Paulo, should have ensured that the situation did not deteriorate to the point where an entire nation sits with egg on its face.

It is time for the director of the Directorate of Civil Aviation (DCA) to go.

It is time for the board and management of the Namibia Airports Company to go.

It is time for the transport minister, his deputy and the permanent secretary to take a long haul flight out of that ministry. His baggage has become too much for Namibia to handle.

But, come Monday, these people will still be sitting pretty and continuing to pretend to do their jobs.

Source : The Namibian