Competition Agency on Cards

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By Wezi Tjaronda WINDHOEK The Competition Commission, which will become operational once staff has been seconded from the public service, already has cases awaiting it. The commission got the nod from Cabinet at a meeting last month, during which the Public Service Commission was urged to approve the secondment of four officials to the commission. Riundja Kaakunga, Deputy Director: Internal Trade in the Ministry of Trade and Industry told New Era yesterday there are already a number of cases that are awaiting the commission. The Competition Commission, established by the Namibia Competition Commission Act of 2003, will ensure that businesses in Namibia have an equitable opportunity to participate in the country’s economy. The Act aims to promote efficiency and adaptability and development of the Namibian economy and to provide consumers with competitive goods and products. The Act could not be enforced until now because the commission was not operational. The officials, all of whom will be public servants will comprise one senior officer to serve as secretary, two officers with economic and legal backgrounds to serve as competition research officers and one administrative assistant. A press release on the cabinet decisions said to prevent Namibia from being negatively influenced by the absence of a functioning Competition Commission, the secondment of staff to the commission was necessary. Kaakunga said the Namibia Competition Act provides for a secretary and members of staff, but due to lack of financial resources, the officials will have to be seconded from the public service. The four will just start operations and once money becomes available, Kaakunga said, more staff members would be appointed. A consultant has already been contracted to work with the commissioners in drafting rules and prescribed forms, after which work will commence. “It will take the consultant three months to draft the rules and forms and by the end of June, we will take the rules to the Ministry of Justice to gazette them,” he said, adding: “We will get the staff as soon as possible but for the commission to start receiving cases, it will need to have rules.” The commission will deal with cases of prohibitive and restrictive business practices; unfair practices in general such as collusion, price fixing, dominant positions and acquisitions, as well as mergers among others. Kaakunga said to promote competition, the commission would also carry out campaigns to make people aware of how competition takes place. The inactiveness of the commission has had serious implications for the country and its image in the international trading arena, thus its proper functioning, said the statement, was crucial for the country’s competitiveness in the export market as well as its competitiveness to attract foreign investments. “The absence of a watchdog over unfair trade practices and to safeguard Namibian industries shall retard the ambition of the country to enter the value addition sector as foreign companies may destroy emerging industries in the absence of a legal framework,” the statement said. Further delays in establishing the commission would have resulted in disruptions of economic activity and tarnished Namibia’s image in the multilateral trading system. The World Trade Organisation (WTO) makes it an obligation for countries to establish competition commissions and failure to comply with the trade treaty’s obligations may result in a country facing sanctions in the export markets. The commissioners include Nelago Kasuto, Festus Hangula, Douglas Reissner and Dr Omu Kakujaha Matundu, with Frederick Truter as the chairperson.

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