After realizing as a parent that government schools are experiencing a severe shortage of textbooks (especially in remote areas), this man decided to actively contribute towards addressing this critical issue. New Era’s Tender Reporter Steven Klukowski spoke to Lemmy Murorua, founder and co-owner of Horizon Book Dealers cc. on what it was exactly he did to succeed as a tenderer.
New Era (NE): How long has Horizon Book Dealers cc. been in existence and how big is your workforce, also in terms of gender?
Lemmy Murorua (LM): Horizon Book Dealers cc. has been operating now for 3 years and has a staff component of 5 permanently employed Namibians (3 female, 2 male).
NE: Tell us about the shareholding or ownership of this business?
LM: My wife (Tesha) and I are equal shareholders (50% each) in this business.
NE: What business is your company involved in?
LM: Horizon Book Dealers’ core business is to supply textbooks and publish educational material such as maps, compasses, globes, etc.
NE: How does Horizon Book Dealers manage competition, particularly in terms of bigger suppliers such as Edumeds, CNA, etc.?
LM: Previously Edumeds (majority foreign shareholding) had been the sole supplier of textbooks to Namibian schools but when we came on board as a 100 percent Namibian owned entity they closed their doors. In addition to that other big companies are more into the publishing industry.
NE: What is the rate of success of your company’s output with regard to tenders/projects being awarded?
LM: Horizon Book Dealers was awarded a tender in 2013 to supply textbooks to 121 primary and secondary schools in the Zambezi Region. When the contract expired we started to supply textbooks randomly and upon request to both government and private schools till now.
NE: Being a three-year old company, what challenges are you experiencing when applying for/renewing required, mandatory good-standing (tax, social security, company registration, etc.) documents?
LM: Being a sales consultant previously in the banking Industry I always assisted clients to register companies and we are as such not experiencing problems in this regard. Furthermore new policies of the Ministry of Industrialisation, Trade and SME Development allows now for tenderers to register companies smoothly and fast without having to pay professional fees to consultants.
NE: What programmes/interventions did you put in place in terms of skills development/capacity building and personal growth with regard to your employees?
LM: Our company concentrates more on in-service training whereby skills acquired by management are transferred to our employees.
NE: It is a well-known fact that corruption is thriving today in the procurement/tender industry. What is your view on this and how can it be controlled best?
LM: Corruption does exist out there and is a real evil. The goals of the Harambee Prosperity Plan will be negatively affected as long as corruption continues to exist. It (corruption) furthermore jeopardises sustainable growth of the small and medium enterprise (SME) sector to a great extent. In addition to that it causes the bulk of public funds to only financially empower a few individuals financially. Measures to counter this ill practice includes constant rotation/replacement of Government Tender Board members and the appointment of commissioners to oversee the procurement process at government institutions, thus ensuring fairness and transparency. When the new Public Procurement Bill comes into power it may also address the element of corruption.
NE: It is a common trend that Namibians are forming joint ventures with foreign companies. How do you regard this as a fellow Namibian and how best can our local people and country at large benefit from these joint ventures?
LM: A lack of finance and technical expertise forced these guys to enter into joint ventures with foreign companies. Consideration should however be given for the introduction of legislation that can ensure a better percentage of shareholding for Namibians in these joint ventures and also for them to understudy foreign technical experts in order to effect the timeous transfer of skills and knowledge.
NE: What is your company’s view on giving back to the community/social responsibility?
LM: Horizon Book Dealers always delivers when it comes to corporate responsibilities. We sometimes contribute at award-giving ceremonies, providing incentives like educational books, medals, floating trophies, etc., to top students. In addition this company previously hosted an ‘old age dinner’ at Fransfontein.
NE: Do your employees belong to a pension fund, Social Security Commission and medical aid scheme, and if not what measures are in place to address it?
LM: All employees are enjoying these fringe benefits. They are also receiving an annual bonus and performance bonus when exceeding their targets.
NE: How best is your workforce equipped when it comes to occupational health and safety at their workplace?
LM: My wife is a qualified registered nurse and first aid officer. Fire extinguishers are in place at the workshop and employees are furthermore issued with protective clothing like gloves, safety boots and overalls.
NE: Anything else that you perhaps want to mention for the readers out there?
LM: Yes, first of all those fortunate ones who were awarded tenders before should start to change their mindset of buying expensive cars and maintaining a lavish lifestyle with profits they make in this process. They should rather re-invest in their business and acquire long-term, profit-driven assets like property. Government has already established platforms (loans, technical training) to improve living conditions for Namibians, providing all with an opportunity to participate in the public procurement process. Lastly those already in the system should always strive to ensure sustainable economic growth for themselves and the country as a whole.