Saturday 15 May 2021
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Namibia’s love for acting CEOs

Namibia has developed a culture of being comfortable with people acting in positions for extended periods.
In most cases, the acting officials would serve in those positions, without getting any considerations to land the job on a permanent basis.
In some cases, acting CEOs even go for interviews to land the job permanently, but they end up not making the cut.
Makes one wonder how someone can be allowed to act for more than a year but yet again the company’s board harbors the feeling that person is not fit to lead the company on a permanent basis.
This trend is very common within Namibia’s parastatal ranks.
A Kenyan author Edwin Okoth who writes for the Daily Nation media outlet rightfully puts it that that the acting status render the parastatal chiefs puppets of senior government officials who keep them under undue pressure so that they “toe the line”.
He furher states that the uncertain situation has an adverse impact on service delivery in the government agencies as the acting bosses are too timid to act.
Take for example the case of Air Namibia or Telecom where the MDs, Mandi Samson and Theo Klein, have been acting for long. It is rather perplexing to know that someone can be allowed to act for so long but that person is not fit to get the job on a permanent basis.
If someone acts for long without being given the job it can only mean one thing-that person is not fit for the job.
So why then burden the company with an acting head who is not fit to lead the company?
And if the acting person is fit to lead the company, why is there a delay to appoint that person?
SOEs are a strategic and integral part of the country’s growth, but over the years little attention has been given to these entities apart from throwing money to them when they are in trouble.
The shortage of skills within the SOE sector is partly linked to the politics that accompany most operations in that area.
Professionals prefer working for private companies where they enjoy more job security.
In recent years many professionals also refrained from availing themselves to serve on SOE boards fearing reputation damage because of political meddling.
The situation is made worse by the fact that in some cases the board and the CEO do not see eye to eye-a situation which often compromises performance.
Towards the end of last year the Minister of Public Enterprises Leon Jooste announced that it has received over 500 names of potential board members on its database.
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.
SOEs in Namibia have the potential to grow the country’s economy provided that the right leaders are appointed. In addition, politicians should remain politicians and refrain from exerting unnecessary pressure on CEOs and boards.
Jooste has on several occasions agreed that SOEs are key to grow the country’s economy while at the same time remaining cognizant of the fact that such growth cannot be achieved in the absence of effective governance.
Another challenge is the fact that some parastatals employ more than double the number of employees employed at a similar company that provides the same services operating in the private sector.
This situation seemingly gives credence to claims that most SOEs were created merely for job creation purposes and not really to represent the interests of government in a particular sector.
Currently the 72 parastals employ over 15 000 people with some annual salary bills of SOEs surpassing N$300 million.

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