WINDHOEK – President Hage Geingob’s announcement last week that he has placed a moratorium on foreign travelling by ministers has been welcomed as a timely and correct intervention by the Head of State.
Geingob’s decision has received rave reviews from, among others, former Prime Minister Nahas Angula, who is now retired.
Speaking to New Era yesterday, Angula said the decision is “in order because ministers first need to acquaint themselves with their ministries before travelling abroad”.
“Sometimes ministers have not even read the basic laws of their ministries to understand what they should administer and already they want to travel,” Angula, the Minister of Defence until he headed into retirement three weeks ago, said.
“In my case, there were also several occasions where former President, Hifikepunye Pohamba, stopped me from travelling abroad,” he said.
Geingob made the announcement last Thursday during the opening session of the induction seminar for ministers, governors and permanent secretaries.
Angula is, however, worried that should lower-ranked officials or ambassadors represent ministers at international conventions, those representatives risk being isolated.
“International diplomatic hierarchy is very problematic because if you send someone who is not a minister to an international meeting for ministers that person might be ignored because they are not on the same rank and simply because of the fact that the representative will not be able to make any decision,” he said.
President Geingob told ministers last Thursday not to travel outside the country until they each complete a thorough assessment of the needs for the most impoverished citizens in the regions.
In addition, the Presidency would soon be issuing a public call for a plan on how to cut costs and reduce wastage in government, in response to public criticism towards the size of the executive and an enlarged government structure due to new ministries.
The best plan would win a prize.
Geingob revealed the new measures during the induction of ministers saying government officials need to prioritise public interest above their own and that “it is important that as government we adopt a serious approach to the war on poverty from the onset”.
“I would like to announce that no outbound travel requests by ministers will be approved for the time being. Only the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of International Relations and Co-operation [Netumbo Nandi-Ndaitwah] will be allowed to travel,” said Geingob.
According to Geingob, his office already received six requests from ministers, who wanted to travel abroad, of which he declined four and approved two.
He said the ministers would only be allowed to travel once they understand the scope of poverty and needs of the people, and the travel outside the country would be to “seek the necessary assistance and opportunities to help fight the war on the home front”.
“This is why I have decided to take all Cabinet ministers on regional visits, starting with Tsumkwe and surrounding areas as well as the Kunene Region,” the President said.
The induction served as a platform at which the ministers chart the government approach towards poverty eradication, in line with the Geingob’s inaugural stance of war on poverty. “Nobody disputes the fact that we have not grown economically but one must also be honest and attest to the fact that this growth is skewed,” he said.
The public would be asked to submit what they deem as best ideas and plans on cutting costs and reducing wastage in government. “The winner will receive a prize. So the challenge is out, it is time for the critics to put the money where their mouths are,” he said.
“People fail to see the big picture and what we are trying to achieve by reducing wastage of resources, which eventually links to our efforts to tackle poverty,” he said.
“Dealing with issues of poverty will require us to discard our rigid approach and adopt a new modus operandi, which is flexible, modern and practical. We will need to optimise our systems in order to effectively deliver goods and services to the populous,” Geingob told the ministers.