12 July 2018

Namibia: Government Should Outsource Transport Services

TRADEGY recently struck a family at Rundu, the administrative and business centre of Namibia's Kavango East region. One of the country's larger towns with a population exceeding 80 000 inhabitants, Rundu is situated on the Kavango River which forms part of Namibia's northern border with Angola.

As reported in daily newspapers, this homicide at Rundu might have been averted, and lives could then have been saved had the police responded timeously to a plea from the family for help. A lack of transport was cited by the Rundu police contingent on response duty for their late arrival. As a result, the family's homestead then became the scene of a bloody crime.

It is not the first time that transport problems have been reported as undermining efficiency at the law enforcement agency. It's easy to blame the police, but it really is irrational to expect the long arm of the law to execute their duties and responsibilities if inadequately resourced.

However, should it be a case of the misuse of vehicles that created the transport problem, then we must trust the Inspector General, and cut him slack to decisively deal with a disciplinary matter.

On the assumption that transport lies at the heart of the police's response problem, to avoid a repeat of the tragedy at Rundu, surely the number of vehicles allocated to the police, against the actual requirement, now requires closer examination by decision-makers.

Remedial action must be taken by those controlling the country's purse strings, should it be necessary to increase the police's vehicle fleet.

The vehicle population on Namibia's roads has increased significantly over the years. In its 2014/15 annual report, the Roads Authority said it numbered 334 232. This was a growth of 8,98% over the previous reporting year.

With a limping economy, growth might have slowed down. But in all likelihood, the number of motor vehicles on the road will be close to the 400 000 mark by the end of this decade.

Unable to find what percentage of vehicles on the road belong to government ministries and departments, an observation is that there are many green number-plated sedans, pickups, buses and trucks. Actually, so many that one wonders why some of those green number plate vehicles cannot be reassigned to the police to ease their transport problem.

Anyway, does the public sector really need such a large vehicle fleet?

The government is on an austerity drive, and now might be an opportune time to review the policy on public sector transport.

Years ago, corporate firms in Namibia decided to refocus on core business. This resulted in the outsourcing and sub-contracting of services, which included the transportation of goods and people. The strategy deployed was to create entrepreneurial opportunities for historically disadvantaged Namibians (HDNs). Corporates supported fledgling entrepreneurs by guaranteeing work, and thereby revenue inflows and underwriting vehicle loans in this security-based lending environment.

It is no secret that the far-sightedness and this innovative move on the part of corporate Namibia positioned many entrepreneurs, who would have worked their entire life as a driver, to become the owner of a transport firm.

A win-win situation resulted. Firms could focus on core business, and budding entrepreneurs were provided with a business opportunity. Corporates even discovered that by outsourcing, they could actually improve transportation efficiency and cut costs.

The government should learn from this empowerment success story. Give the police the vehicles they require to perform their duties, but remove sedans, pickups, buses and trucks from ministries and departments. Outsource the transportation of officials and supplies, in a spirit of economic inclusiveness, to emerging entrepreneurs, and help more HDNs enter the enterprise sector.

* Danny Meyer is reached at danny@smecompete.com.


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