By Marianne Nghidengwa and Patience Nyangove
PRIME Minister, Saara Kuungongelwa-Amadhila says she harbours no political ambition to be Swapo’s leader in the near future contrary to reports that she has expressed interest to claim the Swapo party vice presidency at its Congress slated for later this year.
Kuugong e lwa-Amadhi la stunned political analysts when she did not throw in her bid in the recent hotly contested Swapo Party Women’s Council (SPWC) election where Deputy Prime Minister Netumbo Nandi-Ndaitwah and Home Affairs Minister Pendukeni Iivula-Ithana emerged as victors for the SPWC Central Committee and the National Executive Committee.
Veteran politician Eunice Ipinge re-emerged strongly to reclaim her position as SPWC secretary which she lost 11 years ago to former Health Deputy Minister Petrina Haingura in 2006.
Responding to questions sent to her, Kuungongelwa-Amadhila also opened up to instances of the first billion dollar tenders awarded during her tenure as Finance Minister, inclusive of the Walvis Bay oil storage which spiralled from N$900 million to N$5.5 billion, the controversial multimillion dollar mass housing project, the N$9.1 billion Targeted Intervention Programme for Employment and Economic Growth (TIPEEG), the Neckartal Dam inflated to N$2.6 billion, and the Customs X-Ray scanner deal where Government lost N$600 million.
She also responded to allegations that she protected northern businesspeople from paying corporate tax, how the country’s economic hardships had started during her tenure as Finance Minister and her views on calls from some quarters for an Owambo President. Below is the full question and answer session with Confidente.
CN: Do you have any aspirations to lead the Swapo Party as we approach the 2017 congress?
PM: No, I do not have any such ambitions. I focus myself to the current tasks assigned to me to support the efforts of our Government and our party and its leaders to take our country to the envisioned development level.
CN: What is your take on reports that some Owambo want an Owambo President?
PM: Both the country and Swapo party have systems for assigning leadership responsibilities. These systems are centred on the values of One Namibia, One Nation and Unity in diversity. In our value system, there is no place for tribal considerations in the assignment of national and party responsibilities.
CN: There are allegations that you protected the business community in the north from paying tax while at the finance ministry of which the impact is being felt now, what is your take?
PM: This accusation is false and malicious.
Tax Administration has always been done in full compliance with the tax laws, and I have never intervened in the administration of tax laws to influence decisions to divert from the provisions of the law in order to benefit individuals.
To the contrary, the Ministry has, during this period, initiated several reforms to improve tax compliance enforcement and tax administration which have resulted in record growth in revenue collection even during the global financial crisis period. These initiatives include;
a) The requirement of a certificate of good standing with the tax office under the public tendering process
b) Introduction of tax audits in cooperation with private audit firms
c) Introduction of a computerised tax administration system (ITAS) and specialised
Tax Offices in the Revenue Office
d) Introduction of a Semi-Autonomous Revenue Office
e) Development of a double taxation agreements policy frame work, etc.
The ministry also initiated proposals for new sources of revenue through new taxes and levies such as; environmental levies, taxes on export of raw materials and tax on income from sale of shares in entities exploiting mineral resources etc. It also introduced initiatives to curb tax evasion and avoidance.
I challenge those who continue to make these malicious accusations against me to substantiate them.
CN: What is your assessment of performance agreements signed by Permanent Secretaries? In terms of accountability and performance, how have the performance agreements changed the way ministries operate?
PM: All Permanent Secretaries have signed performance agreements with the Cabinet Secretary and do submit quarterly progress reports which are reviewed by the office to assess progress in implementing agreed programmes.
The reviews have revealed that there is good progress in implementing agreed programmes and we are on course to meet most of the HPP targets.
Performance agreements help to promote improved performance and accountability of Government through these agreements, O/M/A’s actions are better targeted to the set objectives and targets, and it is possible to better track progress and assess the impact thereof, so that interventions are made timeously to rectify whatever shortcomings are identified.
The public is also enabled to be informed about government programmes and hold government accountable for its performance.
CN: Briefly tell us about some of the projects you implemented such as drought relief, how far have you gone?
PM: The Drought Relief Programme aims to provide assistance to 595 839 people who are food insecure due to the impact of the drought. So far, the following assistance was provided to the communities at a cost of N$298 713 634.40;
•Provision of seeds
In addition to this, N$1 996 791.95 was received as donations from International Development Partners, while local companies and individuals donated N$550 000.00.
CN: How do you respond to allegations that the current “liquidity” crisis started during your tenure as Finance Minister?
P.M: The country is currently facing economic and financial challenges but it is not facing a “liquidity” crisis.
Information on the financial performance of Government is published in the annual budgets.
The Government also submits itself to assessments by international organisations such as IMF through its article IV consultations and credit rating agencies. All these reviews have confirmed sound public finance and macroeconomic management in Namibia.
The country’s macroeconomic position has been strong over the past years, with the country recording three consecutive years of budget surplus (2006/07, 2007/08 & 2008/9) and significantly reducing public debt, which enabled Government to use fiscal policy to support the economy during the period of the global economic crisis, thereby averting an economic recession and protecting jobs and public service delivery, while still maintaining fiscal sustainability.
As a result of Government’s sound macroeconomic policies, the country has managed to maintain high levels of investments and economic growth even during the global economic crisis period. It also acquired and maintained investment grade credit ratings from two rating agencies and made a successful debut into the international capital markets and a successful return to the markets a few times after this debut.
The current economic and financial challenges faced by our country do not come from any financial mismanagement in Government. Rather, they are a result of the current challenges in the global and regional economies and the debilitating drought our country is experiencing. The effects of these negative developments are being felt on our economy through lower economic growth, lower public revenue and higher public debt, amongst others.
CN: The first billion dollar tenders inclusive of Neckartal Dam, fuel storage and container terminal at the coast, mass housing and airport scanners (to name a few) were all approved during your tenure at the finance ministry, how did you protect Government’s interests and taxpayers’ money with regards to these awards?
PM: The Government programmes are approved by Cabinet after investigations and planning by sector ministries.
The tender awards are made by the Tender Board as an autonomous body in terms of the Tender Board Act. This has always been the case and is still so, and the contracts were signed after the approved legal clearances.
The Ministry of Finance initiated reforms to the procurement system that include a new legislation that has now been approved by Parliament. Reforms in Government expenditures and revenue collection were also introduced that are ongoing and are yielding results.
Projects implemented by SOEs are managed under the systems of those respective SOEs and are overseen by those SOEs and the line ministries. Under the new Public Procurement Act, such projects will be covered by the Central Government Procurement System, while the Public Enterprises Amendment Act strengthens Central Government control over SOEs governance through the Ministry of Public Enterprises.
CN: Kindly tell us more about TIPEEG and how its constructs began to affect the current fiscus/Government account?
PM: TIPEEG is a Cabinet approved programme that was implemented under the coordination of the National Planning Commission assisted by a Technical Committee made up of officials from different O/M/As.
The budget documents and the NDP Implementation reports give an account of the implementation of TIPEEG.
The costs of the TIPEEG projects are included in the budget allocations to respective ministries and their impact on the economy and fiscal position are included in the GDP and fiscal figures for the respective years. These can be obtained from the Ministry of Finance and the National Planning Commission.
Confidente. Lifting the Lid. Copyright © 2015