Yesterday’s State of the Nation Address (SONA) by President Hage Geingob suggests his administration has made great inroads on governance – probably outscoring achievements recorded under all other pillars of the president’s flagship Harambee Prosperity Plan.
The president’s personal involvement in cancelling the N$7 billion airport tender awarded to Chinese company, Anhui, as well as his queries into the escalation of the cost of the oil storage facility at the coast, seem to have propelled his ratings on governance.
He cited in his address yesterday the investigation by state arms into the SME Bank’s N$200 million saga and the N$3.5 billion tax evasion case in which a business partner of his, Chinese businessman Jack Huang, is among the suspects.
This series of actions, under Geingob’s watchful eye, has inspired confidence in the country’s fight against corruption and could boost good governance ratings internationally.
Speaking in a fully packed National Assembly, Geingob said the government’s governance architecture is further made strong by the promulgation of the new Public Procurement Act, effective from the 1st of April 2017.
He stated that regulations and guidelines to the act have been finalised, and the members of the Central Procurement Board and its review panel were appointed.
Geingob says that the act extends to all public entities and will promote greater accountability and transparency.
He added that the act was further enhanced by the Supreme Court ruling in the ‘Airport Upgrade’ case that all public procurement, including that of state owned enterprises, require the approval of Treasury.
“We believe this to be a game-changer in ensuring fair, transparent and accountable usage of public funds in procurement processes,” he said.
According to him the act is also transformational as it promotes inclusivity and economic development through local content sourcing.
Unfortunately, he said, the Whistle-blower’s Protection and Access to Information Bills were not finalised timeously, but he added that he anticipates their enactment this year.
He said the Minister of Justice Albert Kawana and Information and Communication Technology Minister Tjekero Tweya are enjoined to take the necessary action.
Geingob said that to improve accountability the government has introduced a performance management system at the highest level.
“In the interest of transparency, ministerial performance contracts are available on the website of the Office of the Prime Minister,” he said.
He added that apart from the quarterly performance reports by OMAs, the government has introduced one-on-one performance discussions between himself and individual Cabinet ministers.
On the Infrastructure Development pillar of Harambee, Geingob cited the drilling and equipping of 16 deep boreholes in the Windhoek area and linking them to the supply network.
A total of 5 554 houses were completed nationwide in the first year of Harambee, exceeding the annual target of 5 000 houses, the president reported.
According to the Namibia Statistics Agency, the income of the top 1 percent Namibians is equal to the combined income of the bottom 50 percentile, Geingob said. “This situation is not sustainable and underscores the need for the introduction of a wealth tax,” he said, further justifying the need for the much-contested NEEEF policy.
In total, 560 000 Namibians benefitted from drought relief assistance during the year under review, while N$495 million was allocated towards drought and emergency relief, of which N$402 million was spent on food provision and N$93 million on water provision, seed and livestock marketing incentive claims.
Geingob said poverty has been reduced from a baseline of 70 percent in 1994 to 18 percent in 2016.
On the Economic Advancement pillar of Harambee, Geingob said total GDP in nominal terms stood at N$159 billion in 2016, compared to N$5.5 billion at independence.
The president conceded that the first year of implementation of Harambee targets had its fair share of teething problems. “The valuable lessons learnt have been incorporated into our approaches and processes.”
The expansion of the bitumen road network is also progressing well, with a total of 463km added to the national road network during the year under review.
On the international relations front, Geingob affirmed Namibia’s relations with Germany, with which genocide talks are underway, as well as China, whose nationals are often accused of flouting Namibian labour and wildlife laws.
“Our relationship with Germany remains cordial and Germany is one of our biggest development cooperation partners.”
“Our relationship with China is not built on personalities. It is a state-to-state relationship spanning many decades and based on the principles of mutual respect and trust. Namibia and China are ‘all-weather friends’ and we subscribe to their characterisation that our relationship must be ‘win-win’,” the president concluded.