In the past three years there has been much hullabaloo about poor performances of state owned enterprises or put bluntly the talk has been how inefficient public entity bosses are.
It has been typical in Namibia that SoE bosses get the job looking like thin threaded cows and within a few months they will be looking like fat cats, thanks to the good perks associated with their jobs. In any way do not blame a man for living the life given to him.
All that being said and done reality is that there is a cocktail of problems associated with parastatals and their perennial difficult operating conditions.
The simple challenge is that sometimes we expect too much from them. That includes the government, taxpayers and obviously the outside world. If the belief has been that SoEs cannot make money then NBC has proven many wrong. TransNamib have been given a lifeline and Air Namibia seem to be getting somewhere.
The ghost that will forever haunt our SoEs for a lifetime is a lack of clear engagement rules between the minister who appoints the board, the board that steers policy and the Managing Director or Chief Executive Officer who is responsible for the day to day running of the organisation.
There is need for clear engagement rules which stipulate that the Minister’s jurisdiction starts at one point and ends at the other. At the same time board members meddling in the day to day operations of these institutions is tantamount to ignoring the corporate governance policies that are essential for the running of public institutions. But whose fault is it anyway our State Owned Enterprise Governance Council is a toothless bulldog that has never been called to order. In this year alone NBC made profit, Air Namibia made a significant N$10m in August and MVA is showing signs of better fortunes, so it can be done. We need to believe in our structures and support them in their quest to shake the unprofitability tag away.
However how do we do that if the SOEGC is a boardroom union where a few government officials drink coffee and talk about their daily lives without enforcing good corporate governance policies in these SoEs? The office of the Prime Minister needs to take blame for creating a brilliant body in SOEGC but never making sure they have biting teeth to chew trouble away from our public entities.
The SOEGC has talked numerous times of penalties associated with failure in our SoEs but what happened to that fat cat who has run down a public entity because of his or her insatiable appetite for luxury. My best guess is nothing, so whose fault is it anyway? All we hear from the SOEGC is we will crack the whip, we will institute performance based contracts, we will fire those who do not perfom but have we seen any heads rolling for flashing our tax payers money down the drain? The answer is no because maybe the SOEGC might not even have an understanding on what is going on in these parastatals.
In any case whose fault is it anyway? This is Namibia a place where mediocre can be celebrated and villains pampered even if they are squandering taxpayers’ money in these SoEs without accountability.
Now that NBC and Air Namibia seem to be showing good signs someone needs to stand and support them and also make sure that there are ways of curbing board interference in daily operations of these intuitions. That someone is the SOEGC and if they keep giving reasons for failure in public institutes then they more than anyone else deserve a strong lashing.