Health and Social Services permanent secretary Andrew Ndishishi has confirmed he will leave the ministry this month, but dismissed rumours that his exit is due to bad blood between him and health minister Bernhard Haufiku.
New Era has established that Ndishishi will join the Cabinet Secretariat as its permanent secretary on November 1. He also played down suggestions that his redeployment was due to controversies reported in the press about the health ministry’s operations, especially with regards to tenders and procurement.
He challenged anyone accusing him of corruptly influencing tenders to produce evidence of their claims. Media reports suggested Ndishishi and Haufiku never saw eye to eye, with speculation rife that it was Haufiku who asked for Ndishishi’s removal, because of a working relationship that has supposedly become irreparable.
“That’s a lie. I never quarrelled with my minister at any point in time. In fact he is my long-time friend and has been my family doctor for many years,” said Ndishishi.
He defended his record at the ministry, singing his own praises on major transformations seen at the ministry in recent years. Ndishishi believes he is one of the best performers in, not only the public service, but also at his current ministry. “I feel I have reached my apex at the ministry of health, and the records are there for all to see,” he said. “It was under my stewardship that this ministry managed to balance its books for the first time in 24 years. I developed an official roadmap for the ministry, as well as its corporate culture,” he said.
Health officials separately told New Era that Ndishishi arrested a ballooning overtime situation at the ministry, among other initiatives. “When he came here, everyone – including human resource personnel – claimed huge sums in overtime. He has since changed things and saved the ministry millions of dollars.”
Another official said Ndishishi brought more transparency to the ministry. Asked why he clings onto the role of permanent secretary, while he has thriving businesses in mining, finance and insurance, Ndishishi said resigning would be a selfish decision.
“I have two degrees, including a master’s [degree] in finance. Swapo got me educated and the principle was that those who get educated on the ticket of the party would be required to pour their expertise into the country once we return from exile. I’m doing exactly that.”
“It is true that I’m doing well in business, so what I earn here is not what is feeding me or carrying my family. I’m doing my patriotic duty.” Ndishishi, however, dismissed claims that he is often more powerful than his ministers and that he is untouchable.
“I’ve been a permanent secretary since 1994 and I’ve been moved from the National Planning Commission, the ministry of labour, ministry of trade, ministry of agriculture, to the ministry of health, and now my next deployment. How can someone who has been moved so many times be ‘untouchable’,” he wanted to know.
“I didn’t come to this ministry to stay. I’ve always moved to where the leadership felt I would make a good contribution.”
During the interview, Ndishishi produced 14 reports of studies carried out in all regions about the state of public health facilities – most of which are falling apart. “This was done under my stewardship and I have forwarded our findings to government with a request for money so that these facilities can be renovated. There are serious budgetary constraints, which is the only reason why progress has been slow in this regard.”
“At least I’m leaving behind a clear roadmap, detailing what should be done to rectify some of these things once government makes money available.”
“I’m painted to be what I’m not. My hands are clean. If anyone believes otherwise, they must produce evidence. I’m not filthy rich, but I don’t make my money dubiously. I’m in legal entities and I don’t run them personally.”
Ndishishi was unapologetic about owning businesses, despite being a senior civil servant. “This is my country too. Why should my country reject me? I’m a former PLAN combatant and all my businesses are in the areas of my academic qualification.
“People look at my cars and start suspecting me of doing illegal things. I worked for the UN (United Nations) before I came back to Namibia and my companies were started long ago – in the 1990s.”
Ndishishi, who is expected to be replaced by Dr Andreas Moombola at the health ministry, expressed confidence in Minister Haufiku’s ability to take the public health sector to another level.
“He has good intentions and wants to get things done. He needs support in terms of resources, both human and financial.”