THE minister of information and communication technology, Joel Kaapanda, has been asked to give account of the operations of the technically bankrupt Namzim Newspapers, whose board of directors recently proposed hefty sitting fee increases for its members.
Opposition Rally for Democracy and Progress (RDP) MP Anton von Wietersheim gave notice in Parliament yesterday that he would want to know from Kaapanda tomorrow what the directors of Namzim are doing to deserve the proposed increases.
Von Wietersheim's query follows a recently published report in The Namibian about the financial quagmire Namzim Newspapers finds itself in.
Namzim Newspapers is a joint venture between New Era Publications Corporation, the publisher of the government-owned New Era newspaper, and Zimpapers of Zimbabwe, and owns the weekly regional newspaper, The Southern Times.
Namzim is registered under the Companies Act and according to its auditors it is technically bankrupt with its liabilities exceeding its assets.
During an extraordinary meeting of a Namzim Newspapers board under the chairmanship of Ben Mulongeni, it was decided that the directors' fees should be increased by 30% and 38% for the chairperson and ordinary members respectively.
In terms of the proposal the annual fee for the chairperson will be N$136 000 per year, up from N$98 000, his deputy will receive N$132 000 annually instead of N$96 000, while the annual compensation for ordinary members will be N$120 000, up from N$92 000 each. The total annual fees to be spent on the directors would be N$748 000, up from N$562 000.
However, Mulongeni earlier said that it is only a proposal at this stage and can still be rejected by the board.
Apart from receiving an annual subsidy from the Namibian government, which accumulated to more than N$32 million, Namzim also owes New Era Publications more than N$14 million and Zimbabwe Newspapers about N$3 million.
"At the year-end Namzim Newspapers (Pty) Ltd owed New Era Publications Corporation an amount of N$14 404 129 (2009 - N$ 8 373 309). It is uncertain whether this amount is recoverable. A provision of N$ 14 366 984 (2009 - N$ 8 066 983) has been made for this amount. Management is of the opinion that the unprovided amount of N$37 145 (2009 - N$306 326) will be recovered by the Corporation," said Auditor General Junias Kandjeke in his report on the accounts of New Era Publications for the financial year ending 31 March 2010.
With the establishment of the joint venture in 2005, the Namibian Cabinet urged government ministries, parastatals, civil society and the private sector to continue supporting Namzim and its subsidiary, The Southern Times, through advertisements, sponsorships and newspaper purchases.
Von Wietersheim will also question Kaapanda on his next line of action regarding plans to rectify the situation at the failing entity.
Von Wietersheim will also want to know what Kaapanda and Finance Minister Saara Kuugongelwa-Amadhila plan to do about the fact that Namzim failed to pay over taxes deducted from its employees to the Receiver of Revenue, which amounted to more than N$1,1 million.