NIDA to clean up 'mess'

The new board of the Namibia Industrial Development Agency says it will not tolerate corruption and will grow the entity for greater prosperity for all Namibians.

22 August 2019 | Local News

The board of the Namibia Industrial Development Agency (NIDA) says it is unfairly portrayed in negative media reporting because it is in the process of “cleaning up the mess” left by the former managements of the Namibia Development Corporation (NDC) and the Offshore Development Corporation (ODC).

NIDA was established by an act of parliament in 2016 as an amalgamation of the NDC and ODC, which are being wound down.

Appearing before the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Accounts on Monday, the board agreed that the situation at the two entities was “shocking” and vowed that it is committed to make a complete turnaround.

“We remain shocked by the day as we move on, but we have decided not be distracted and we are determined to do the right thing,” said NIDA executive director Uparura Kuvare.

The chairperson of the board, Frans Kwala, even suggested that the NDC and ODC were worse run than a cuca shop.

By way of illustrating the “mess” at the entities, Kwala said the outgoing board of the ODC at its last meeting in November last year still insisted on pushing through a tender for a pharmaceutical plant at Okahandja.

The minister of industrialisation, trade and SME development, Tjekero Tweya, shortly thereafter dissolved the boards of the ODC and NDC.

Still, Kwala said, without having been properly informed, the new caretaker board of NIDA was confronted with tenders still being advertised in the newspapers.

“We had to rescue the situation because it was very, very bad,” Kwala said, charging that since the inception of the NDC and ODC nothing had happened “except personal interests”. The board reported that there were no management and accounting controls, nor sufficient policies in place when it came on board.

Kuvare reported that there were only three policies in place and that the board is now developing 32 governance instruments to drive the agenda as prescribed under the NIDA Act of 2016.

PDM MP Nico Smit said it is about time that executives and managers be held personally accountable for mismanaging ministries and parastatals.

“We cannot go on like this. One after the other parastatals and ministries just don't care how they spend taxpayers' money and nothing happens to them. They run the company or ministry into the ground, millions upon millions are lost and nobody is being held accountable,” Smit said.

The NIDA board said the effects of the clean-up are already being felt.

The former acting managing director of the NDC, Pieter de Wet, has resigned and four managers are currently on suspension.

“We had cases where we had to call in ambulances because of the queries we make; people collapse at work because we are getting to the right tone of things,” Kuvare said.

The board reported that the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) and the Namibian police are investigating “irregularities”, while internal investigations into alleged mismanagement, fraud and theft are also under way.

It reported having come across a number of “strange” and “irregular” practices at the two entities.

At the NDC, managers would get “as a gift” two cattle for their birthday, N$5 000 if they had to go to a funeral, and despite receiving car allowances were still using company cars and petrol cards.

There were reports of the livestock of the NDC not having been vaccinated, of grapevines planted on 25 hectares at the Naute Dam irrigation project being uprooted two or three years later because the wrong cultivars were planted, and of no auditing at harvest time.

The board has also terminated the long-standing contract with the marketer of the Naute Dam grapes because, according to Kuvare, neither the NDC nor NIDA benefited from it.

“As a board we have said zero tolerance of corruption will prevail, and that is what we are busy with. At the same time, we say Namibians need prosperity and that must be brought about by us growing those sustained industries,” Kuvare said.

“Namibians deserve better,” echoed Kwala.



NIDA Act to be reviewed

The board has suggested that the NIDA Act be reviewed to put it in a position to recruit new staff. The act currently states that the former NDC and OCD staff must be absorbed by the new entity.

The board said a new recruitment process is needed because the current workforce does not have sufficient capacity.

Of the current 271 permanent employees, 55 are over the age of 60. There is only one person with a master's degree. Of the eight young people employed, only one earns a salary of over N$5 000 per month. NIDA has about 230 part-time employees.

CATHERINE SASMAN

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