Soon after the coming into the light of the Hybrid Model by SOEs Minister Leon Jooste, nothing has changed in the governance space of public enterprises; instead, some SOEs have fallen in the limelight for the wrong reasons.
These sentiments have been expressed by the Institute for Public Policy Research’s (IPPR) associate researcher Max Weylandt.
“In fact, the act which was supposed to enable the new system has not been tabled in Parliament, more than half a year after it was supposed to,” Weylandt has argued.
Taking a closer shot at the Hybrid model which at its inception was heralded with acclaim, Weylandt observes that it is still unclear which enterprises are covered under the new governance guidelines.
“This should be a necessary first step; unfortunately, government guidelines on the topic are often contradictory or unclear. Also, the board appointment process proposed under the new system needs a far greater degree of transparency. Boards are crucial to good governance, and political influence has to be removed,” he says.
With change seemingly not in sight of the SOEs, Weylandt has advised the responsible ministry that it clarifies which public enterprises it owns, make board appointments more transparent as well as make the oversight system public and keep pushing for the publication of annual reports and financial statements.
For now, Weylandt says, Epangelo, the state-owned mining company, published its first-ever annual report for the year 2013-14 but he argues that “this has not been published widely online”.
He says “The Minister of Works and Transport promised that Air Namibia, which has not published annual reports for over a decade, would publish all of its audited financial statements since then in an annual report by the end of the year (but) this had not occurred by mid-September.”
“This has worked to great acclaim in other countries. After decades of being kept in the dark, Namibians deserve to know what is going on with the enterprises they own,” he argues.
Weylandt submits that “It is important to address the elephant in the room” and queries, “Amongst all these attempts at reform, will senior leaders in government be able to stomach real reform.”
“Political will is difficult to quantify, impossible to outsource, but it is the sine qua non of governance reform, the essential ingredient without which all other efforts, no matter how well-conceptualised or intentioned, will fail.
“It is difficult to assess the extent of political will for serious reform in this area. It is tempting to think of government as a single, monolithic actor in all of this, and debate whether ‘government has the will’ to seriously reform the sector or not,” he says.
He notes that there is some form of friction over reform attempts among big political wigs.
“Sometimes, it appears the signs are pointing in the right direction. When the RCC was placed under judicial management in early September, many commentators read it as a sign that there was a willingness (and ability) to pursue decisive action,” he says.