Rebuttal of the Namibian Ports Authority’s hysterical outburst to sound financial analysis
Statement by the Economic Association of Namibia.
While it is not common practice for the Economic Association of Namibia (EAN) to respond to unfounded public criticism, and while it is our preference to allow our analysis to speak for itself and to be proven over time, the recent response to the EAN’s SOE report on NamPort, and the one-sided media coverage that that response has received, leaves us with little option, particularly given the personal nature of such, as well as the factual inaccuracies thereof.
With regards to consultation with NamPort, despite statements to the contrary, NamPort was sent, and at times responded to, drafts of the report from as far back as 30 May 2018, and again in June 2018 and August 2018. Moreover, Mr. !Uirab himself responded to the report in August 2018 – we presume he forgot this when penning his recent media statement.
Notwithstanding the incorrect statements as to NamPort being consulted, upon review and reassessment of the core findings of the report, the Economic Association is happy with, and stands by such. Moreover, we are confident that time will indeed prove our assessment correct, and that NamPort’s performance over coming years will indeed be relatively poor. In this regard, it is our hope that we are wrong, however our belief that we are not.
Nevertheless, we do not seek short-term vindication and trust that NamPort will be sufficiently mature to provide an equally prominent written apology when our findings are indeed proven to be correct in the future.
With regards to the motivation for the report, the Economic Association of Namibia has recently embarked on a project to analyze Namibia’s large State-Owned Enterprises (SOEs). As these are owned by the state, they are de-facto the property of the nation’s people. Unlike the national budget, these enterprises are rarely scrutinized or analyzed in detail, and thus a certain degree of public accountability is plausibly foregone. Despite claims to the contrary, the NamPort report has nothing to do with personal relationships or similar, and everything to do with scrutiny of a public institution. This is a common practice elsewhere in the world, and further, a desirable one.
The Economic Association will continue to analyze further SOEs and produce similar reports on such public institutions. While we understand that certain publicly owned companies that have been operating with public assets and funds may not like this scrutiny, and may indeed respond to these reports in personal and churlish manners, we will continue to issue these reports and undertake such analysis, as providing these assessments and transparency over public assets is the right thing to do for the Namibian people, the de-facto owners of these assets.
Finally, we wish to address the issue of the personal nature of the NamPort response. The report was issued by the EAN, with work done by our researcher, Mr. Ritter. We condemn, in the strongest of terms, the heinous personal criticism of the Researcher, and encourage NamPort to direct any criticism it may have at the Association, and not its team members.
Furthermore, we believe it highly unbefitting of a SOE to make personal attacks on individuals that present a view on a public entity, especially one owned by the State – as the custodians of public assets, we expect these entities to be more mature and to behave in a manner more befitting of guardians of public assets.
The Economic Association of Namibia does, however, recognize the valuable, and often unthankful, work that many of the SOE bosses and their teams do in the country. Our analysis of these entities does not negate that appreciation. However, our assessments are founded in the belief that transparency and accountability are critical for the future success and improvement of Namibian SOEs. We wish Mr. !Uirab all the best for his new post at Airports Company Namibia, and trust that he will apply his skills to bring about the further development of that entity.
We thank the Hanns Seidel Foundation for their on-going support of the EAN, their support of the EAN’s SOE project and their commitment to transparency and accountability.