The Namibia Chamber of Commerce and Industry (NCCI)’s CEO Tarah Shaanika is calling for a review of Cabinet’s decision to allow civil servants to own private businesses.
In a press statement, Shaanika criticised the decision by saying that it seems to suggest that civil servants can run private businesses while in the employment of the State without adequate regulations for their involvement.
“We believe that civil servants’ direct involvement in private businesses may result in serious conflicts of interest, especially when the businesses in which they are involved do business with the State”, he charged.
He added that they have already been receiving reports alleging the possible use of civil servants to solicit information crucial to securing Government contracts by businesses owned and/or run by individuals with personal connections to public servants, which favoured such businesses over their competitors. Such conduct has created an unfair competitive environment, and is bad for business.
“Allowing civil servants to engage in private businesses will fuel corruption and the possible abuse of office and garnering information about Government projects to favour their own businesses.
Businesses owned and/or run by civil servants must therefore not be permitted to do business with the Government to avoid perceived or real conflict of interest”, Shaanika warned.
This comes after Cabinet, through the Public Service Commission (PSC), lifted a three-year ban on civil servants owning private businesses and competing for State contracts, despite concerns of widespread conflict of interest in the public service and the neglecting of work.
It was recently reported that the PSC had introduced ways to regulate the businesses of State employees, instead of imposing an outright ban.
Government banned civil servants from running private businesses in 2012 after it asked PricewaterhouseCoopers to do an audit to give a clear picture of government employees doing side-businesses, and to make recommendations thereafter. The audit was completed last year, and found that civil servants are increasingly engaging in private business.
According to the law, civil servants should obtain permission to do private work by asking their respective permanent secretaries, who would engage the Prime Minister based on advice of the PSC.