Namibia: Intelligence Scrutiny Forces Namra to Go Hunting Again

11 February 2020

The Ministry of Finance is re-advertising the position of commissioner for the new tax collection office, just over seven weeks before the launch date. This, after the national intelligence agency declared candidates that were previously short-listed unfit for the job.

In an advert placed last week in the mainstream media, the Namibia Revenue Authority (NamRa), whose primary mandate is to assess and collect taxes and duties on behalf of the state and administer tax, customs and excise laws, said it is looking for an individual with the requisite expertise and experience locally, regionally and internationally to fill the position of the commissioner.

The commissioner, who will also serve as the chief executive officer, should be a holder of at least a master's degree from an internationally recognised institution in the fields of taxation, tax administration, tax and customs law, accountancy, economics, law, finance or business, among other tax administration experiences.

Late last year, finance minister Calle Schlettwein appointed Ebson Uanguta, the deputy governor of the Bank of Namibia, as the Namibia Revenue Agency's interim chief executive officer, saying the short-listed candidates who were interviewed then did not meet the required standards.

The candidates included the current commissioner Justus Mwafongwe, PwC Namibia's tax leader Chantell Husslemann and Heinrich Mihe Gaomab who is the chairman of the Communications Regulatory Authority of Namibia and a non-executive director of the Capricorn Investment Holdings Group.

When he made the announcement, Schlettwein did not mention what standards the three had not met, however, The Namibian recently learnt that the trio actually failed the Namibia Security Intelligence Agency vetting process.

Uanguta's secondment, which was for six months, is expected to end towards the end of March 2020 so that the new commissioner, together with the board, can develop a structure for the agency and recruit staff.

The Namibian reported last year that the finance ministry was struggling to launch the agency, mainly because there was no commissioner appointed although the names were submitted for treasury consideration in July 2019.

Individuals close to the matter say they did not know why the national intelligence agency was being involved in the recruitment process, while officials within the ministry claimed it was a necessary measure to ensure that the correct and uncompromised individual is appointed for the job.

Last year, The Namibian reported how the intelligence agency was blamed for crippling the tender body by sending home about 14 employees after they were found unfit to work at the national tender body.

Then, the finance minister had said there was nothing his ministry could do if the vetting process finds that people are not fit to work at the institution.

The Namibian understands that during the vetting process, the short-listed candidates were asked if they were members of the ruling party Swapo or not.

At the appointment of the board of directors last year, the minister had said the tax authority would be operational by March 2019, but that take-off date was later pushed to October 2019 and then to March 2020. At the pace at which the process is handled, it will not be surprising to see another postponement.

The board was appointed to serve for three years and has been in office for over a year already without movement at all, especially around its role in the appointment of the commissioner, which was one of their primary duties, as given to them by the minister at appointment.

The vacancy advert is available on the Ministry of Finance's website and the closing date is 6 March 2020.

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @Lasarus_A

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