More salvos fired at Namport

18 April 2019 | Local News

The Economic Association of Namibia (EAN) has leapt to the defence of independent analyst Rainer Ritter, whose recent assertions about Namport's massive harbour investments were rubbished by the parastatal.

Namport recently slammed a report by Ritter, commissioned by the EAN.

In the report he questioned whether Namport would be in a position to repay a N$3.4 billion African Development Bank (AfDB) loan, because of declining business.

Ritter also questioned the more than N$20 billion infrastructure investment to transform Namibia into a logistics hub in the southern African region. Namport branded Ritter's report as “slanderous” and “blatantly incorrect and uninformed”.

Outgoing Namport CEO Bisey /Uirab also claimed that previous reports, as well as the one commissioned by the EAN, were compiled and distributed “without the courtesy of according Namport the opportunity to either verify the contents thereof or provide the context to some of the issues raised”.

This was not so, said EAN chairperson Roland Brown.

Brown said despite statements to the contrary, Namport was sent, and at times responded to, drafts of Ritter's report as far back as 30 May 2018, and again in June and August last year.

He said /Uirab himself responded to Ritter's report in August last year, but may have forgotten.

Brown said the EAN stands by Ritter's core findings.

“Moreover, we are confident that time will indeed prove our assessment correct, and that Namport's performance over coming years will indeed be relatively poor. In this regard, it is our hope that we are wrong. However, our belief is that we are not,” Brown said.

He said the EAN is not looking for any short-term vindication and asked that Namport apologises in writing for its personal attack on Ritter.

Brown said Ritter's report is part of a drive by the EAN to analyse large state-owned enterprises (SOEs).

“As these are owned by the state, they are de facto the property of the nation's people. Unlike the national budget, these enterprises are rarely scrutinised or analysed in detail, and thus a certain degree of public accountability is plausibly foregone,” Brown said.

He said despite claims to the contrary, Ritter's report “has nothing to do with personal relationships” and “everything to do with the scrutiny of a public institution”.

“This is a common practice elsewhere in the world, and further, a desirable one,” Brown said, adding the EAN will continue to analyse SOEs and produce similar reports for the sake of transparency in terms of public assets.



Personal attacks

Brown bemoaned the “personal nature” of Namport's response to Ritter's report, saying it was a “heinous personal criticism” of Ritter, instead of an attack on the EAN, which commissioned the report.

“Furthermore, we believe it highly unbefitting of an SOE to make personal attacks on individuals that present a view on a public entity, especially one owned by the state. As custodians of public assets, we expect these entities to be more mature and behave in a manner more befitting of guardians of public assets.”

He said the EAN's analyses does not negate the often unthankful work of SOE bosses and their teams.

“However, our assessments are founded on the belief that transparency and accountability are critical for the future success and improvement of Namibian SOEs,” Brown said.

/Uirab said Namport stands by its earlier response, but preferred to engage the EAN directly, and not through the media.



CATHERINE SASMAN

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