When it comes to the implementation of standards, specifically for the construction industry, Namibia still uses pre-independence laws that were imposed on the country when it was governed as a province of South Africa. These laws made clear distinctions in terms of construction activities in cities, towns, villages and rural areas.
“What Namibia urgently needs is a National Technical Regulations Framework, because some of the laws we use date back to 1951 and some, like the Food Safety Regulations, date back to 1919. How relevant and modern can regulations from 1919 still be?” asked Ueritjiua Kauaria, the General Manager and acting CEO of the Namibia Standards Institute.
During an exclusive interview with New Era, Kauaria proposed that the National Technical Regulations Framework should be comprised of the Ministry of Justice, the Office of Attorney General, the Law Reform Commission, as well as key regulators from the ministries of health and social services; industrialisation, trade and SME development; as well as works and transport.
“This framework would compel regulators to see if they have their houses in order,” added Kauaria. He argues that a National Technical Regulations Framework would completely change the way laws have been made in Namibia.
“Regulations should include an impact assessment, a risk assessment and an internal capacity assessment to determine if the respective bodies can implement the respective regulations,” Kauaria explained.
He further questioned whether the life of a person in an urban area is more valuable than someone in a rural area, as there are clearly different standards and regulations applicable, depending on where people live.
As an example, he cited government’s multi-billion dollar mass housing project: “When this project started no one came to the NSI to consult us on the standards that should apply. There was no clear effort made for national standards to be applied in the construction industry.”
“We cannot regulate. We don’t have that power as the NSI is merely a participant in the process. However, regulators are not assuming functions of being accountable and responsible to both government and the public. For instance, if a building collapses, who is the responsible authority to deal with it?” he asked.
He further encouraged regulators to use the NSI to enforce regulations. He noted that Cabinet established the NSI with a clear purpose. To operationalise the NSI and to foster relationships with key stakeholders, however, the NSI itself should go out to engage with the relevant regulators, he said.
He however admitted that the relationship between the NSI and the various regulators is poor and feels that this sorry of affairs needs to be improved, particularly if the NSI is to live up to its mandate.
“There is a clear distinction between standards and regulations. While the use of standards in any country is a voluntary exercise, technical regulations are laws that everyone has to abide by”, Kauaria explained.