In the Namibian context it is safe to say that the high ranking public and civil servants are paid in part to attend workshops and conferences. After all, not a month or even a week passes without a government-funded convention taking place in Windhoek. One would beg to ask where the recommendations and resolutions taken at these gatherings are?
In less than two months, we had a Foreign Policy review conference, Heads of Missions Conference and a Drought conference. It is an undoubted fact that all of them are of important nature, but one doubts whether the millions of State funds used to host these events are justified. Conferences and workshops have become a cash-cow for many in Government. In fact it is the new way of tapping from government’s subsistence and travelling kitty. Why not kill a bunch of birds with one stone and just have fewer conferences? They’re terrible for the environment and a completely decadent use of money that should be going towards addressing challenges facing the nation and eventually eliminating poverty as per the ambition of the current administration.
At most of these conferences, discussions and information provided are often issues which are already known and recommendations emanating from such gatherings are seldomly implemented.
Some people argue that information presented at conferences could have been learned just as much by staying at home, reading papers from authors or on the websites of the bodies involved.
One can easily conclude that officials hardly have work on their desks, because you see the same faces at all national conferences – so much for efficiency and effectiveness.
The interesting part in this whole scenario is that you often find that targets set during past conferences are not met, but instead of finding ways to address such shortcomings, delegates would often move on as if everything has been achieved and come up with new targets that are more intense.Under the current debt-ridden and economically struggling conditions, one would expect Government to adopt stringent cost-cutting measures by doing everything possible to reduce the deficits. It will be interesting to note how spending on this conventions forms part of the saving measures which the State continues to advocate but fails to attain.
The Windhoek Observer recently reported that Government splashed N$10 million on the Foreign Policy Review conference. It may be unfair towards the Ministry of International Relations and Cooperations to say the reported amount was too high without getting the exact details as to what necessitated that amount. In 2013 it was reported that in the Kunene Region, 14 boreholes have been drilled at a cost of N$1,9 million. Using this figure, calculations shows that the reported N$10 million spent on the conference could have been used to drill 74 boreholes in the regions-at least 10 boreholes per constituency.
With the presence of policy analysts and researchers, it will not be naive to think that the Ministry could have cut cost by requesting presentations from the various speakers who were approached which will be analysed by the in-house researchers and based on that come up with recommendations. With the current state deficit, saving on workshops and conferences is one way that Government can use to pursue and save money for the taxpayers.