Government has announced that it has received over 500 names of potential board members on its database-and although preference will be given to Namibians-foreigners will not be sidelined completely.
The upsurge in potential board members comes after the Public Enterprises ministry embarked on an intensive lobbying campaign calling for potential individuals to submit their names for possible board appointments. Yesterday the Minister of Public Enterprises Leon Jooste, at a media briefing, announced that the pool of potential board members has since skyrocketed.
“We will also continue with our efforts to attract more potential board members for PEs by advertising in the media as we’ve done before. Our database of potential board members has grown to more than 500 and we are currently busy to convert the manual database to an electronic one where all candidates will be grouped according to their skills and experience,” said Jooste.
“Preference[will be given] to Namibians but we will request Cabinet approval to appoint specific rare skill Board members to the complicated public enterprises. [It is]Very important to create a skills balance between the Board and Exco – in the absence thereof the CEO/MD may be able to manipulate the Board and they may not even know this. Some of these rare skills may not be available locally,” he explained.
He said the electronic recruitment process will facilitate a smooth process of identifying the most suitable individuals possible for “our boards”, adding that emphasis will be placed on appointing individuals with quality. There are officially 72 PEs listed under Schedule 1 of the Act, they will however be reclassified next year when the SOE Act is amended.
Prior to the establishment of the public enterprises ministry, the media and research institutions have been forced to rely on their own counts in the absence of official numbers. The situation persisted despite taxpayers forking out billions to keep parastatals afloat.
According to an IPPR publication on SOE Governance in Namibia: Will a Hybrid System Work? Released recently: “If citizens do not know how many companies they own – let alone their names, functions and details on their performance – it is impossible for them to know how SOEs are doing.” Life on SOE boards in Namibia is that of glitz and glamour because serving on boards in Namibia has become a lucrative way of making money, a trend used nowadays to fill the pockets instead of managing institutions. In fact, in June The Patriot reported that it cost taxpayers N$2.2 million to fund the Namibia Students Financial Aid Fund’s board during its first year in office.
NSFAF’s remuneration policy makes provision for the directors to receive an annual retainer fee of N$76 649 for the chairperson and N$62 613 for the other directors. The chairperson is entitled to claim N$10 580 for chairing a meeting while other board directors claim N$5 983. Several officials that The Patriot spoke to at the time said board members at bigger public enterprises claim that board earnings can be as high as N$20 000 per board meeting.
Jooste yesterday said the Hybrid Governance Model for Public Enterprises which was approved by Cabinet earlier this year is set to be launched during the first quarter 2017.
Furthermore, in its short time of existence the public enterprises has used the guidelines to appoint new board members for MTC, Namcor and Nampower and will continue advertising for board positions in the media.
Jooste said the ministry’s legal department have put in tremendous efforts in the process of designing the hybrid model and that there are still minor amendments to make before it is finally implemented.
According to Jooste, the adjustments will make provision for the Ministry of Public Enterprises to categorize Public Enterprises in three categories.
“The Ministry of Public Enterprises will be empowered to classify Pes according to three new categories, namely Commercial Public Enterprises, Non-Commercial Public Enterprises and Financial Institutions,” said Jooste. Moreover, the Ministry is at an advanced stage of developing a super data base for the commercial public enterprises under the Public Enterprises Monitoring and Evaluation System (PEMES) in order to track performances and make relevant interventions when necessary.
With the PEMES model in place, each board member within the public enterprises will be expected to sign a new performance agreement that will contain measurable Key Performance Indicator (KPIs).
“The KPIs include economic, operational and compliance indicators custom made to each entity’s unique environment and the performance agreements are legally binding agreement,” added Jooste. Additionally the boards will sign performance agreement equal to those of the chief executive officers or managing directors which will contain the same KPIs and this will cascade to the lower of employee all to improve service delivery to the public. Also, the guidelines would better equip the board members with technical and professional skills.
In contrast, the ministry has struggled due a variety of factors such as non-compliance by some public enterprises. According to the minister, many public enterprises struggle to bring in the annual reports on time which makes it very difficult for Treasury to release funds.
“There has been non-compliance to performance agreements that must be in place, business and financial plans that must be submitted 90 days before a financial year ends,” he said.
Similarly, the minister complained about the lack factual data as it slows down execution of certain by his ministry. “There is a lack of a factual database in place and it compromises some of our exactions because we cannot speculate but always rely on facts,’’ added Jooste.
However, Jooste said one of the main challenges government is faced with is the habit of throwing “money” at problems thinking they would disappear. He said there are improvements especially with those problems that can be solved without the use of money.
“Unfortunately, we have neglected the core causes of problems at most of our public enterprises but we want to solve things differently,” said Jooste.
Currently the Ministry of Public enterprises is sitting with some business plans but has not been approved because they are not feasible and bankable in the long run.
“Until this mindset changes, we will be delaying things slightly and will not approve business plans until we are assured that they are 100 per cent sustainable and feasible,” said Jooste.
Additionally, Jooste lamented the salary gap between the public enterprises and privately owned ones. The minister said adjustments needs to be put in place in order for public enterprises to attract and retain the best professionals in top positions.
However, Jooste maintained that change that his ministry intends to bring within the public enterprises will not happen overnight.
“It is not possible for to transform overnight, and it will take us at least five or 10 years before we start to see the real change,” Jooste said.