THE chaos currently gripping various parastatals points to boardroom inefficiencies and further reflects challenges of governance in Namibia, a challenge that seeks urgent resolve.
For long, mediocrity has been allowed to flourish at these State-owned enterprises with people being appointed as board members not on merit, but for their status in the society.
With urgency, the criteria used in appointing board members of parastatals is in need of serious interrogation. While qualifications and specifications have been put in place they remain too broad, thus allowing the appointing officers to assign their people to protect their own interests rather than those of the nation.
The media and particularly this publication has on several occasions probed and accused ministers of appointing their people as board members of state-owned enterprises that fall under their ambits, a situation that has led to SOE’s being driven by individuals that cannot be trusted with stewardship of government’s income generating institutions.
Just recently, we have seen compromising actions of the RCC board which allegedly signed an unsanctioned N$600 million deal with the Chinese, the inefficiencies in the recently dislodged NSFAF board and surfacing claims of an NIP Board member, Frans Kwala who has been found to have on various occasions intentionally misled the courts under oath, as contained in High Court judge, Harald Geier’s judgement of 2014 where he referred the matter to the Law Society of Namibia for investigation and disciplinary action (section 25 of case A109/2008).
This has become a common chorus yet apparently nothing is being done to address the anomaly, that has cost the country light years of progressive development and poses further threat to the stability of our parastatals which are now infiltrated with ‘bad apples’.
Some rogue board members have been using their authority outside the jurisdiction of the board and their actions are no longer serving the better good of the organization but instead are based on a personal agenda and what they feel is “right” for the organization. Some of these rogue board member behaviours have manifested themselves in many ways but commonly targets the organization’s Executive Directors which culminates in bullying and abuse of these.
Some board members have also been micro-managing staff; board meetings become full of surprises and have adopted adversarial behaviour of knit-picking Executive Director decisions.
With the view that should never be allowed to transpire as much individuals with faulty record should never be considered for board selection as the selection criteria stipulates, it is commendable that the public enterprises ministry under Minister, Leon Jooste has proposed a vast array of measures to bring sanity to the way state-owned enterprises are run, among them making boards accountable for losses.
These new plans for 2018 that are aimed at compelling board members of state-owned enterprises (SOEs) and executives to take responsibility and ownership and “to equally embrace the consequences for failures” should be expedited in the name of saving what is left of our ailing SOEs.
Parastatals have a big role to play in the country’s economic developmental agenda and we have to get it right on who is appointed to these parastatal boards. For this reason alone, we cannot continue to demean our SOEs to be dumping grounds for semi-retired servants or politicians who have found the going tough in their chosen fields.
It is high time people were appointed on these boards to deliver for the benefit of the country and not to just keep them busy while they clearly try to serve their own interests.
Just as what the SOE ministry is advocating for, we must also have a pool of experts ready to be deployed as board members in their areas of expertise.
A pool of experts would allow the appointing authority to extract names from the same depending on their areas of expertise.
Some boards appointed in recent years seem like closed circuits of ideas — where ideas go round and round in a circle and more often than not, die through exhaustion or in others, emerge with most of their original freshness talked out of them.
It is time to create opportunities for fresh men and women, persons of substance who check the external environment in which parastatals are operating and are not hesitant to press for achieving high levels of standards.
Confidente. Lifting the Lid. Copyright © 2015