Geingob considers deputies for 'overworked' ministers
26 June 2020 | Government
President Hage Geingob is considering appointing a new batch of deputy ministers, but this will depend on the workload of his current crop of 19 ministers.
Presidential press secretary Alfredo Hengari said this week the president's decision will be made based on a number of criteria.
“As we have indicated before, the president will make a determination on the basis of the ongoing workload at ministries, and based on that, appointments might be made or they may not be made,” he said.
Geingob appointed 15 deputy ministers earlier this year, compared to 32 in 2015.
Calls for the removal of deputy ministers were made as far back as 2007, when then Congress of Democrats (CoD) leader Ben Ulenga proposed cutting cabinet “in half” and getting rid of “useless deputy ministers”.
Experts welcomed the president's decision earlier this year not to appoint deputies for some ministers.
Political commentator Graham Hopwood said this week it makes sense for some of the deputy posts to remain vacant, as long as ministers and other staff can manage the workload.
According to him, deputy ministers have tended to act as “substitutes”, mainly filling in for the minister at certain events.
“I'm not convinced that they add much value. It's inevitable that we will have to move towards a smaller and less expensive government and leaving some deputy posts vacant – while not a major saving – is at least symbolic of the need for a more streamlined government,” Hopwood added.
Economist and University of Namibia (Unam) lecturer Dr Omu Kakuhaja-Matundu said this raises the question of whether deputy ministers are really necessary.
“Experience has told us that they are not very much needed. And this gradualist approach by the president of not filling those few vacant posts is a move in the right direction. More so now that public funds are going to be under tremendous strain,” he said.
During a briefing with the president in 2015, some deputy minsters complained that they were frustrated and bored.
Treasurer of the Popular Democratic Movement (PDM) Nico Smit said there are enough directors who can do the jobs of deputy ministers, and added that the time has come for the consolidation of such tasks.
“Having two ministers never made sense. In fact, it was an overkill. There was a recent World Bank report which stated that in Namibia, three civil servants were appointed to do one job,” Smit said.