Monday 12 April 2021
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Clash of mandates at tertiary SOEs

The Ministry of Higher Education, Training and Innovation (MHETI) is faced with an avalanche of complications as a number of State Owned Enterprises reporting to it either do similar or overlapping functions, and in some cases even usurping the powers of the ministry.
Chief among the culprits are the Namibia Qualifications Authority (NQA), Namibia Training Authority (NTA), Namibia Students Financial Assistance Fund (NSFAF) and National Council for Higher Education (NCHE).
These duplications of functions, according to the ministry, are a cost on state fiscus hence the need by the ministry to harmonize them.
Dr. Itah Kandjii-Murangi highlighted that the duplication and overlapping roles of some of the SOEs under her ministry is a major strain, especially on the fiscal position of the country.
“The duplication and overlapping of roles in the higher education sector is affecting the roles of this body (NQA), NTA and NCHE…this must be addressed. And already as a ministry we have initiated the process where the three have been engaged and we are working towards harmonising these overlaps,” said Kandjii-Murangi at the unveiling of the NQA board.
She called on the newly appointed board to assist the ministry in the process of “streamlining” and “harmonising” the said overlaps.
This year saw NQA and the National Commission on Research Science and Technology (NCRST) operate for the better part of 2017 without boards, which are key oversight players in the SOE sector where accountability and transparency is often found wanting.
NQA for example went for nine months without a board, while NCRST was board-less for over four months.
Those familiar with operations at MHETI attributed this situation – whereby terms of office of the board members are left to lapse without the immediate appointment of new board member – to the ministry’s plot to consolidate State Owned Enterprises (SOEs) that report to the ministry.
When approached by The Patriot, higher education permanent secretary (PS) Dr. Alfred van Kent said the brouhaha of overlaps stems from some “outdated Acts” at some of the SOEs.
“We have Acts that goes as far as 1996. There’s been many developments over time. You have one Act that was maybe passed in 2000 and another in 1996. In this case what we have picked up that NCHE and NQA both partly responsible for program accreditation,” said the combative Van Kent.
Van Kent explained how duties of the NCHE and NQA collided when it comes to accreditation.
He said: “In terms of accreditation, although the NCHE Act is saying they should do it[accredit] in concurrence with the Namibia Qualifications Authority, the reality is that it still creates a problem. Who is the main accreditation body (between NQA and NCHE)? There is no clarity pertaining to that. So we are trying to do is to eliminate some of those uncertainties,” he stated briefly.
A situation exists whereby several SOEs in the ministry has a mandate of funding students, something he said needs to be addressed.
“Currently we have NCHE funding research and post-graduate studies. We have other bodies funding students…we have NTA funding students. How do you align all those things? Those are some of the things that we are looking into…whether we should remove or merge some of those functions,” he said candidly.
He was quick to note that the idea is not to merge the SOEs as was being purported by some sectors.
“It is not institutions that we want to merge. We look at overlaps, we look at efficiencies within the system because if you have a function, you need human resources to implement this function. NSFAF has people dealing with bursaries and another institution (NTA) has people dealing with bursaries, but it is the same the state that is funding the two. So we are saying if we identify those kinds of overlaps, it is draining resources so we need to enhance efficiency. If the functions different, maybe you can leave them,” van Kent suggested.
This, according to Van Kent, is to avoid wastage of resources going forward.
The PS went on to say there should be a clear “split” as to what each SOE’s functions are.
“NCHE deals with universities and colleges while NTA deals with vocational training centres so if we can split it that one deals with issues pertaining to TVET and ensuring that quality systems are developed. While NCHE ensures that quality systems are implemented in higher education and the role of NQA might be different as an outside body that does an external assessment kind of thing into the programmes,” noted van Kent before adding that the trio, NQA, NTA and NCHE were busy compiling proposals to address the predicament.
“If you review something, an Act or whatever (and) if the functions are overlapping between NQA and NCHE, you don’t have to leave it that way. You know those things have lapses and creates confusion in the system. You need to change the function,” he said.

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