The National Council’s Standing Committee on Gender, Youth, Information and Communication Technology on Monday applauded New Era Publication Corporation (NEPC) for weathering the storm under severe budgetary constraints.
The committee made the observation after a presentation before it by the NEPC management, led by chief executive officer Dr Audrin Mathe. The NEPC management briefed the committee on the corporation’s mandate, successes and challenges.
Acting chairperson of the committee Okahandja Constituency Councillor Steve Biko Boois expressed disbelief that NEPC is surviving under the weight of challenges it faces.
Briefing the committee, Mathe touched on the corporation’s governance and reporting structure and urgent challenges that need redress, such as transport, non-payment by advertising debtors, such as ministries and State-owned enterprises (SOEs), high printing costs, a small allocation from government and under-staffing.
He said the corporation is underfunded, as the N$13 million it received from government is inadequate to run the affairs of the institution and deliver its mandate optimally.
“I don’t think there is another SOE that gets a budget of N$13 million. It’s a miracle we’re surviving,” Mathe said. “As a matter of obligation, we have to go to the most remote areas of the country to deliver newspapers and this is done at a loss, but we have to do it, as per our mandate,” he told the committee, saying other newspapers have no obligation to do the same. “We understand this is part of our mandate, but it does not come with that recognition from the shareholder,” he added.
He further pointed out the company does not have sufficient resources, such as vehicles, to dispatch reporters to assignments on time, adding that if money owed by institutions – totaling about N$12 million – could be recovered, NEPC would be able to run its affairs more efficiently.
“There is no question you have so many challenges. We have seen there are so many challenges. We commend and thank you for playing a good role with a corporation that has so many challenges,” Member of Parliament and Outjo Constituency Councillor Antsino Johannes said.
“The committee also commend NEPC for initiating the columns, ‘Know Your Governors’ and ‘Know Your MPs’. People, especially the youth, end up knowing [US President Barack] Obama, but don’t know their own leaders. We encourage you to go on.”
The MPs implored government institutions owing NEPC to pay up, so that the news corporation can continue to deliver on its mandate.
The committee also wanted to know what mechanisms NEPC is using to recover its money from non-paying agencies. In response, NEPC chief financial officer Beatus Amathila said the company has requested its line minister to write letters to defaulters requesting them to pay up.
Boois said: “There are a number of issues you have brought to our attention and we will really take them up. Your sentiments, we shall share. We expect you to carry the mandate you have with dignity and honour.”
Windhoek East Constituency Councillor Joyce Nangula Namuhuja asked what the future plans are for NEPC to open bureaus in other regions to add to its current six regional offices.
Mathe said the Ministry of Information and Communication Technology is willing to provide office space at some of its offices in the regions, where NEPC is not currently represented.