This week, Namibians were stunned by the goings-on in various publicly funded organisations that seem to be unable to outgrow challenges.
What was called a mafia-style drug bust shook the National Petroleum Corporation of Namibia (Namcor) to the core on Monday when the petroleum import and retailer’s board chairperson was arrested after police acted on a tip-off about a sizeable amount of hard drugs in her car.
The fact that Jennifer Comalie was in a meeting rumoured to deal with the suspension of the company’s managing director, Immanuel Mulunga, when the arrest happened made many sit up and notice.
The arrest was the culmination of corporate warfare between Mulunga and Comalie after the board chairperson promised an investigation into a N$100 million deal Mulunga struck for Angolan oil blocks.
Last week, the suspension of Namibia Institute of Public Administration and Management (Nipam) executive director Maria Nangolo grabbed the headlines. The institution’s governing council accused Nangolo of impropriety, while she has made counterclaims of meddling and bullying.
Moreover, the Namibia University of Science and Technology (NUST) employees also wrote to the head of the university’s council to bemoan perceived nepotism, mismanagement and unfair labour practices.
TransNamib, never far from controversy, again steamed into the headlines with the board controversially exonerating executives who received bonuses from the struggling rail-carrier in the absence of a performance assessment system at the company.
Board chairperson Theo Mberirua told New Era they responded to all the recommendations of an Ernst and Young report, commissioned to investigate management at the parastatal. The report suggested the executives “pay back the money”.
Not so fast was finance minister Iipumbu Shiimi’s reaction. ‘We are still studying the replies’.
For the uninitiated, it would look like open war and sometimes lawfare in public enterprises almost always at and on the expense of the institution. Other public enterprises might escape public scrutiny but many struggles with these same issues of greed, mismanagement, power struggles, meddling and interference.
Regardless of these factors, there is no doubt many of these entities are terribly mismanaged.
Effective management of public enterprises is crucial to ensure they operate efficiently and effectively in meeting the needs of Namibians. These entities serve the public interest by providing goods and services essential to the economy and society.
Transparency remains a key aspect of managing public enterprises to ensure accountability. This means there should be clear lines of responsibility, and the public should have access to information about the organisation’s operations, finances and decision-making processes.
Public enterprises should be subject to regular audits and evaluations to ensure they are operating successfully and cost-effectively.
Another crucial element of managing public enterprises is to ensure they are staffed with competent professionals who have the necessary expertise and experience to carry out their duties.
This requires merit-based recruitment, training and development programmes to ensure staff members have the skills and knowledge required to meet the needs of the organisation and the public.
Additionally, public enterprises must be managed in a way that promotes innovation and adaptability. This means they should be responsive to changing market conditions and technological advancements, and they should have the flexibility to adjust their operations and strategies accordingly.
Proper management of public enterprises also requires a long-term perspective that prioritises sustainability.
These institutions should, therefore, be managed in a way that meets the needs of the public and contributes to the broader social and economic development of the country.
Namibia has a large number of public enterprises that do not perform up to par due to poor management, corruption and political interference.
Many public enterprises are managed by officials who lack the necessary expertise and experience to effectively manage complex organisations.
This leads to poor decision-making, inefficient operations and a lack of accountability. Even boards of directors who are appointed to guide these companies on behalf of the nation often do not have the requisite skills to oversee them.
Corruption is a significant problem in Namibia that affects many aspects of public life, including public enterprises. Corruption can lead to misallocation of resources, hiring of unqualified staff, awarding contracts to unscrupulous companies and severe investment consequences.
In addition, Namibian public enterprises are often subject to political interference, which can hinder their ability to operate as intended. Political interference can result in the appointment of unqualified individuals to key positions, the implementation of policies that are not in the best interests of the enterprise or the public, and a lack of financial support.
Many public enterprises are facing stiff competition from private companies able to better operate in a more streamlined fashion and thus more profitably. This puts pressure on public enterprises to improve their performance, but they often lack the resources and expertise to do so.
Addressing these issues will require a concerted effort from government officials, civil society and the private sector to improve governance, increase accountability, and promote innovation and efficiency.