PM wants SOE watchdog
Prime Minister Nahas Angula has called for the establishment of a Ministry of Public Enterprises dedicated to the supervision of all State Owned Enterprises in order to have accountability and efficiency in the public sector.
In an exclusive interview with the Economist, Angula said a Public Enterprises Ministry with departments performing an oversight function to a parastatal in a particular economic sector was the panacea to the problems of inefficiency and unaccountability.
He said: “They are so many (parastatals), almost close to a 100 and they are very different; some are economic, some are service rendering, some are regulatory; you have different animals and obviously we don’t have the technical capacity to oversee their operations but we are gradually building this technical capacity.
“I believe that at the end of the day, perhaps there must be a ministry responsible for State Owned Enterprises.
“That is the only way we can have a uniform policy and also uniform control. Now when you have different portfolio ministers, some pay attention to the parastatals while some see them as an addition to what they are doing, as not their core business; they (parastatals) are just left there to themselves.”
Angula said there was no close monitoring of the operations of SOE, and this he said, must stop if the SOE are to become agents of development.
“There is no close monitoring of the operations of the parastatals. I think in the future if we want these parastatals to be agents of development and growth, there is a need for proper political supervision and this proper political supervision can only happen if there is a Minister responsible for all of them.”
The premier said as things stand now, “the power is just too diffused.”
“The SOE Council is just there to provide an oversight over them, but in between you have a portfolio Minister, you have a board of a parastatal, you have a CEO with management; so you realise that the council is a bit far from the actual operation of a parastatal as it only exercises an oversight function but of course if something goes wrong with the operations of a parastatal, the council gets blamed.”
He said what the State Owned Enterprise Council had managed to do was to set up guidelines in terms of how CEOs and the boards of the SOEs are compensated and guidelines for performance agreements. The Prime Minister however felt that that was not enough to ensure proper supervision and accountability.
“But these are just generic broad guidelines …when they come to a particular parastatal, they still have to be made to fit in ,and as I have said, these parastatals are animals of different types.
“That’s what I see as a weakness . If you really want proper political supervision, it is better to have a Ministry of Public Enterprise then you will have dedicated people focusing on economic parastatals, perhaps another department focusing on service providers or social parastatals….at least you will have somebody who is giving a proper oversight to what is going on.
“As of now these things are just spread all over the place and as I have said some Ministers don’t see them (parastatals) as part of their core business, they are just out there with their boards.”
Meanwhile, the Prime Minister said he doesn’t see privatisation of struggling state Owned Enterprises taking place any time soon because of what he called a lack of political consensus. He added that what he sees happening is parastatals getting into partnership with private companies.
“To privatise a SOE you need political consensus and there is no such political consensus in Namibia on privatisation. What I have seen emerging is the kind of joint ventures, government going into joint operations with companies. That is how things like the mobile telecommunications company is organised. There is private shareholding in MTC.
“The private operator is in a position to bring in technology or if you want efficient management services, the private operator is likely to give you efficient management services but pure privatisation no, we are not yet there Namibia; there is no political consensus on that one. That is definitely out of the picture for now. Joint ventures yes perhaps I can see that emerging but privatisation no.”