15 April 2019

Namibia: Parliament Disregards Own Rules

The National Assembly last week passed the public enterprises governance bill without following the necessary procedures.

The bill was passed with new amendments introduced by public enterprises minister Leon Jooste after it had been reviewed by the National Council.

The bill will dictate how public enterprises are managed.

All People's Party member of parliament Ignatius Shixuameni raised concerns over the passing of the bill, saying the National Assembly violated its own rules and orders.

Shixuameni said parliamentary rules and orders state that if the National Council reviewed a bill, the National Assembly can only reconsider the amendments but not introduce new amendments. He added that any new amendments were supposed to be referred back to the National Council for approval before the bill is passed.

Shixuameni and other members of the opposition agreed to allow the bill to go through unprocedurally after agreeing that it should not happen again.

"Let's pass the bill with amendments but going forward, let reconsideration read what it is. Reconsidering the amendments that were made by the National Council, nothing new, nothing less. It is wrong, instead of reconsidering the amended issues, we are now introducing new amendments," he said.

The bill was passed with "noted" objections to some of Jooste's amendments.

RDP National Assembly member Mike Kavekotora objected to Jooste's amendments saying they were against corporate governance.

Kavekotora said the clauses also repudiate the existence of commercial entities and that it does not follow the orders in which dividends are to be declared by state-owned enterprises.

If signed into a law, it would give public enterprises minister Leon Jooste powers to control more than 18 profit-driven state companies with a combined value of N$32 billion.

Under the new legislative, Jooste will also have powers to create parastatals, appoint parastatal board members, monitor their performance agreements, and approve special investigations at state-owned entities.

Last year Jooste was quoted saying the bill would make his ministry a direct shareholder in state-owned businesses on behalf of the state.

The Namibian reported last year that the public enterprises' portfolio of more than 90 parastatals has a total asset value of N$93 billion (as at 30 June 2018), employing more than 17 220 people.

The parastatals' total liabilities, however, stand at N$44 billion, leaving a net asset value of N$49 billion.

The changes in legislation will makeJooste the political head of parastatals such as TransNamib Holdings, Air Namibia, Namibia Power Corporation, Namibia Ports Authority, National Petroleum Corporation of Namibia and Namibia Wildlife Resorts.

Also to fall under Jooste's ambit would be the Namibia Airports Company, National Fishing Corporation, Meat Corporation of Namibia, and the Namibia Industrial Development Agency.

The Roads Authority, the Namibia Post and Telecommunication Holdings, Namibia Institute of Pathology and the Roads Contractor Company (RCC) would also report to him.

When he motivated the bill last year, Jooste said the failure of these parastatals was linked to the failure of the current system of reporting to two ministries.

Jooste said those ministries will introduce multiple measures to eradicate mismanagement, corruption and overall poor performance.

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