It was a circus - Mutorwa

While announcing a new board for the embattled parastatal, transport minister John Mutorwa lashed out at the old one, saying their infighting was a “circus”.

08 February 2019 | Transport

After barely limping along for years, TransNamib is being shaken, in order for it to live up to its mandate as one of the most strategic state-owned enterprises in the country.

A new board has been appointed and new a five-year integrated strategic business plan was adopted by cabinet.

The new board - Josefine Shikongo, Dr Michael Ochurub, Geanor Michaelis, Oscar Kaveru, advocate Sigrid Tjijorokisa and Vincent Mberema - was announced yesterday and will serve for the next three years.

Transport minister John Mutorwa said a submission was made to cabinet for a seven-member board. However, one of the candidates shortlisted is the CEO of another parastatal.

Mutorwa said there is no policy clarity on such a situation and a seventh board member is still being sought.

Both Mutorwa and public enterprises minister Leon Jooste emphasised that infighting and personal clashes will not be tolerated within the new board.

The new board members were selected from 55 applicants after advertisements that were placed in August and September last year.

Mutorwa said the ministers - without wanting to interfere - will intervene when things get out of hand, as has happened with the previous board, which was severely hamstrung by internal clashes.

He said when he took over as the works ministry a year ago he was confronted with an unprecedented situation dogging the previous TransNamib board. “I have never seen it and want to condemn it publicly and want to say it must not happen again. What happened was a circus,” Mutorwa said. “If you have problems, sort them out. If you cannot, we are here. If you don't, you won't last long.”

Personality clashes

Jooste concurred and said TransNamib, despite its strategic importance, is “not where it should be” because of the personality clashes that beset the parastatal in the past.

“We are fighting each other as Namibians,” Jooste said, adding, “It is the downfall of many public enterprises and it has to stop.”

Jooste said the new board has everything in its favour – a new business plan, political will and the shareholder's support.

“The ball is in your court; only you can mess it up, not the shareholder,” Jooste said.

Strategic plan

Cabinet in December approved TransNamib's new N$2 billion integrated strategic business plan, for which the parastatal has to source funding, due to the current economic climate and government's constrained ability to help out.

Jooste, however, said there will be a shareholder contribution, and was quick to say that this was not a bailout. “A bailout is when a company is in trouble and the shareholder steps in. This is not what is happening here,” Jooste said. TransNamib anticipates to fund its business plan from the sale of its non-core assets. The new plan intends to “resuscitate the fortunes” of TransNamib, which intends to leverage the scale of its non-core, unencumbered properties to generate funds for its operational and capital expenditure plan.

The business plan spells out that first priority should be given to other state-owned enterprises when TransNamib sells off its non-core properties. Cabinet has approved that the works minister, in collaboration with TransNamib, should compile a comprehensive valuation report of the 12 redundant locomotives that were bought through a N$410 million loan some time ago.

A forensic audit committee will also be appointed by the ministry to investigate the mismanagement of funds in the deal.

TransNamib CEO Johny Smith said the company is 25 years behind and has to make significate strides from an operational perspective, in order to develop the company.

Smit said the company will henceforth not be distracted by operational matters that do not add value to the growth of the business.

He said a mammoth task lies ahead to achieve an average growth of about 20% per annum for the next five years.

“It is our ideal going forward that we remain focused on strategic matters pertaining to the company, so that this company creates the economic value that is required for the shareholder and the people of Namibia,” Smith said.

Currently the company handles 18% of the market share of bulk freight; it intends to double this by 50% over the next five years.

By June or July it will also completely phase out its road services; it has already terminated its OPX service, a parcel express service for small consignments.

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