Good governance, but what about accountability?

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Accountability is a fundamental requirement of good governance. Government has an obligation to report, explain and be answerable for the consequences of decisions it has made on behalf of the citizenry – no matter how uncomfortable the facts may be.
From a good governance point of view, this week has been a great one. We saw the Supreme Court vindicating government’s efforts for greater transparency when it delivered a verdict in the airport tender saga on Tuesday.

President Hage Geingob last year stopped in its tracks the awarding of the said tender, worth N$7 billion, to Chinese firm Anhui.

What seemed to have stirred Geingob’s to action was the fact that the cost of the project had skyrocketed from just over N$3 billion to N$7 billion. It is important to note too that apart from what clearly looks like an inflated cost, the court also ruled that the permanent secretary of the ministry of works had no mandate to award a tender, which was issued by the Namibia Airports Company.

In an interview with New Era recently, President Geingob hinted that commissions were paid to individuals involved in the tender, a situation that might have influenced the shocking escalation of the cost to N$7 billion.

Because of schoolboy mistakes made – whether by default or design – scarce state resources ended up being spent on protracted litigation. If those in charge had done their homework, such as knowing that the permanent secretary had no mandate to issue the tender, the pain the country endured as a result of this fiasco would have been avoided and legal fees saved.

In the end, it was a significant victory, not for President Geingob as an individual, but rather for his concerted campaign to improve transparency and provide good governance.

The significant victory is, however, not complete in this particular matter. It is not a complete victory when no official has been taken to task over their sloppy handling of an important multi-billion national project. That is not accountability.

When officials rake in commissions from such transactions and tenders, as if they do not earn salaries for doing exactly that, it borders on self-gratification, a serious offence in terms of our laws and statutes.

The parasitic tendencies that officials in this country display in every public procurement situation is, for lack of a better word, nauseating. But what is more worrying is when no decisive action is taken against the waste of resources, reckless delays of vital national projects and, sometimes, downright theft through unjustified commissions.

Therefore, while we commend government for its never-say-die attitude on the airport tender, which eventually brought victory in the court of appeal, we are reluctant to dance in excitement until action is taken against those responsible for this cock-up.
Those who made a meal of this well-intended national project must be investigated, if we are to be fair to both themselves and the taxpayer.

Another significant point of progress noted this week, as far as good governance is concerned, was the announcement in parliament on Wednesday that members of the Central Procurement Board (CPB) have been appointed.

The old Tender Board of Namibia, which ceases to exist today, had been infested with bloodsucking parasites in the form of officials whose narrow parochial interest reigned supreme. They pulled strings to sway matters in the direction of their own interest, thus robbing the average Namibian of broader benefits.

It is our deep-seated hope that the new procurement regime will hit the ground running and will live up to the high exciting expectations of the nation at large. They must usher us into a new, incorruptible era where public procurement signifies transparency, inclusivity and good governance.

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