Why the PPP Bill was rejected

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Esme Konstantinus

Windhoek-The National Council recently rejected the principle of the draft Public Private Partnership (PPP) Bill, and referred it back to the National Assembly (NA) due to what it says was inadequate consultations by the Ministry of Finance with the wider public and relevant stakeholders.

In its report on the outcome of public hearings conducted on the Bill in Kavango East, Oshana, Otjozondjupa, Erongo, Hardap, //Kharas and Khomas regions, the Select Committee on the PPP Bill, Bill 24 of 2016, revealed that a PPP unit has already been established within the structure of the Ministry of Finance, despite the required law not being passed yet.

Amongst other reasons why the committee rejected the Bill, according to the report, is because the PPP committee is centralized and does not promote decentralization while excluding major key stakeholders such as the Ministry of Urban and Rural Development, Ministry of Public Enterprises, the Association of Local Authorities in Namibia, Association of Regional Councils and the Namibia Association of Local Authority Officers.

The Select Committee therefore recommended that given that the Bill is not in tandem with Namibia’s current socio-economic reality, it might potentially be prejudicial to small and medium enterprises and other vulnerable groups.

During the debate on the Bill in the National Council yesterday the standing committee chairperson Lebbius Tobias expressed concern that with the current economic slump, Namibia cannot afford to take part in PPPs as they might be too costly for the country and would result in the country moving into further financial strain.

He explained that once the government engages in PPPs, it (government) will be held liable to pay back money and at the current state of the economy, government will not be able to pay back.

He also said currently services rendered through PPPs are expensive, which make it unaffordable for the man in the street.

Tobias however cautioned lawmakers to be careful when dealing with such bills and encouraged them to thoroughly read them as to what they entail.

Councillor Cletius Sipapela from Linyanti Constituency in the Zambezi Region who also made a contribution to the debate, called for a review of projects under the current PPPs in the country to particularly assess as to how they benefit people.

He explained: “The intention of the Bill is clear, but what is hidden? What is hidden are the advantages and disadvantages which are not outlined.”

Sipapela said people at the grass-roots level should be consulted through their traditional leaders, as they have traditional knowledge on such issues.

Sharing similar sentiments was Councillor Nico Mungenge of Mariental Urban Constituency who argued that companies such as the regional electricity distributors (REDs) were established through PPPs, which resulted in electricity to be very expensive for people.

He therefore said that all government agencies and local authorities must first get approval from their ministers before engaging in PPPs, adding: “Government infrastructure has been given away and government is now bound for life.”

He added there is a need for Namibia to learn from other countries on the benefits of PPPs, noting that many countries such as Greece also engaged in PPPs that did not work.

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