GOVERNMENT’S prosaic resolve that public enterprises must undergo review with imposition of radical reforms aimed at addressing accountability and reducing reliance on state bailouts must be applauded, with positive changes in some of these enterprises beginning to show.
In the past week, Confidente reported that the national carrier, Air Namibia, is poised to release audited financial statements that span 17 years, since its incorporation in 1998. This is a positive step in government’s SOE accountability efforts that have also seen other perennial loss making public enterprises, such as the National Housing Enterprise (NHE) and the Namibia Students Financial Assistance Fund (NSFAF), being pushed to account for taxpayer’s money.
Over the years, Namibia’s flagship SOEs have flattered to deceive, eventually appearing to be heavy cultivators of loss but more so, the lack of clear accountability measures has been reflective of how they were not ready to respond effectively to the ill effects of maladministration since most were operating without a clear view of their performance indicators.
The well documented lack of accountability challenges always have found their way to a decline in revenue levels, escalating operational costs, diminishing market share and consequent financial loss. As if this was not enough, a blind eye to an acute lack of innovation, dilapidated infrastructure and out-dated equipment continued to contribute to escalating operating costs, high maintenance costs and unreliable service delivery.
While these challenges threatened economic sanity, the government has for years ignored accountability and financial reporting as a key pillar to addressing these and rather offered faltering SOEs bailouts, allocating them billions of dollars in taxpayers’ money every financial year without clearly evaluating cause and effect particularly in areas concerning public procurement and unauthorised spending.
Going forward, it is imperative for responsible authorities even at local and regional governance level to realise that accountability for taxpayers’ money is an inextricable part of good public management and democratic governance. It can provide assurance over government’s activities, highlight improvement actions, improve policy-making, and engage stakeholders and service users in decision-making.
Ideally, good governance is always a challenge. While we want and expect people to act with honesty and integrity, in too many cases, self-interest, greed, and a lack of respect for the rights of others overcomes the basic obligation to act ethically.
Sadly, as we have repeatedly seen over the years, the exploitation of resources and government corruption are inextricably linked, and the absence of accountability allows corruption to flourish. It is under this this assertion that high profile cases in which the matrix of accountability has collapsed such as those involving public enterprise bosses should never go unresolved with financial record key to discovering foul practice.
We should always heed the fact that just as citizens rely on governments, they trust state line ministries to manage public resources and provide essential services in today’s complex societies. This means providing quality services, of ensuring honest and prudent management of financial resources and assets. It means providing these services in a safe way, in a fair, honest and professional manner. And, at the end of the day, it means demonstrating full accountability to the people.
Confidente. Lifting the Lid. Copyright © 2015