Privatising will not be a cure for failing SOEs – Weylandt


Privatising State-Owned Enterprises (SOEs) will not be a cure to save them from failing as no buyer will be willing to buy the enterprises, a research associate at the Institute of Public Policy Research (IPPR) Max Weylandt has told The Villager.

He said this at a time when the state is looking into privatising some of the SOEs to save these enterprises and to avoid the loss of jobs. 

“The problem with privatising these massive companies that have a lot of assets is that if we don’t trust the government to run an SOE, then I do not know if we should trust the government to sell these things off in a transparent way either. It is not even clear if the private sector players are interested in buying these companies” he said.

He added that privatisation of some of the vital enterprises would affect services such as the supply of water and electricity to Namibians in rural areas.

He said NamWater supplies water to rural communities and privatisation would mean more costs which will impact access to water by people in rural areas.

At a recently held 7th annual Institute of Public Management (IPM) conference, Weylandt said that appointment of Board of Directors for public enterprises takes too long which has a negative impact on the performance of the enterprises. 

“They say that they are building an e-data base that has an eligible list of board members where they will draw candidates for appointments, and there are a lot of questions about this. 

"For instance, how do we get on that list and what are the criteria, and who will ensure that the list is kept up to date?" 

"The ministry’s guidelines say that they will engage companies, private and state-owned to make sure that’s exactly how that whole process will be managed. We need to ensure that it is not only the selected few who get on the list,” he said.

Weylandt said that the process will be complex and that if the appointment of boards is not affected properly, this could have a negative impact on success.

He further questioned why SOEs have been failing to print annual financial reports for years and why they are not held responsible.

“Some SOEs are not even aware of the consequences of not printing annual reports. This is also an issue of transparency, again the ministry plans to build a system where they will fill in all the data about public enterprises in one centralised system but again will people have access to it or will it only be the centralised government  having access to it?

"Because it is only a centralised government agency that sees all of this then it is tough for the rest of us to ensure accountability,” he said.