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Geingob warns permanent secretaries

by Rodney Pienaar

President Hage Geingob, without mentioning names, gave a stern warning to permanent secretaries to refrain from running ministries as bosses. 

He said this while speaking at the last cabinet meeting yesterday at State House.

Although Geingob did not mention names, The Namibian last week reported that the problems at the health ministry could be a result of the fight between the minister and the permanent secretary. 

It's no secret that minister Bernard Haufiku and Andreas Mwoombola do not see eye to eye and that this hampers planning in the ministry.

About two weeks ago, some concerned surgeons wrote to Haufiku informing him about the sad state of affairs in hospitals.

Mwoombola was suspended from the ministry of health pending investigations on misconduct but was later reinstated and allowed to return to work.

He and Haufiku have been at each other’s throats and are said to be the cause in some challenges experienced in the administrative functions of the ministry as they are unable to sit and make decisions at the same table. 

The health ministry’s top-level trouble is however not new as former minister Richard Kamwi could also not see eye to eye with his permanent secretaries, Kahijoro Kahuure and Andrew Ndishishi. 

The doctors said they were working under very difficult conditions with no equipment and protective gear as well as having to deal with a severe shortage of medicines.

Some of the doctors who wrote the letter were at State House yesterday, but Mwoombola was not. 

Geingob said ministers should take a firm stand as political appointees and should not allow permanent secretaries to make decisions without consultation.

“You as the minister need to be accountable as the head of the ministry. You should approve any decision that is taken.’’ 

"Now I do not understand why you allow permanent secretaries to walk over you. I have heard quarrels between ministers and permanent secretaries and this has to stop,” Geingob said. 

He added that permanent secretaries have to understand their duties in ministries and not act like they are single-handedly running the ministries. 

The relationship between these ministries has often involved blaming of one or the other for troubles the ministries have experienced.

The permanent secretaries have dismissed allegations made by their ministers as witch-hunts.