Windhoek-Ministries should be held fully accountable for the boards of directors they appoint to State-Owned Enterprises (SOEs), as the boards are ultimately responsible for the performance of these entities.
This is according to the executive chairman of Olthaver and List Group of Companies Sven Thieme, who serves on numerous boards in the country, most notably as the chairman of parastatals such as the Windhoek Country Club Resort and Casino (WCCR), the Namibia Broadcasting Corporation as well as Mobipay.
He is also the president of the Namibia Chamber of Commerce and Industry. During an exclusive interview with New Era, Thieme, who was instrumental in the turnaround of the financial fortunes of the WCCR, explained how the impressive feat was achieved.
“It is first of all that a competent board is appointed. Secondly, a common understanding created with the relevant ministries with regards to a turnaround plan. The plan then needs to be relentlessly implemented, speaking only one voice.
“The turnaround of the WCCR was hard work, an absolute teamwork with the government – with no hidden agendas. Absolute integrity, long-term thinking with no self-enrichment and personal agendas are key ingredients for such success,” he said.
Last year the WCCR revealed financial results which showed gross profit margins of N$80 million as of April 30, 2016.
The gross operating profit for the hotel during that financial year was N$43 million, slightly down on the previous year’s N$44 million, mainly due to higher operational costs, but despite the challenges the WCCR was able to pay N$5 million in dividends to government, its only shareholder.
When asked if non-profitable SOEs should be sold or closed down, Thieme said this is a difficult question to answer. “This depends of which SOE you talk about. Some for sure have the opportunity to be able to be run on a profitable basis, some have a national mandate to fulfil and others need to re-evaluated to see whether they fulfil a role. But one thing is for sure, we need a plan for each of them.”
Regarding the role of the private sector in assisting government to get out of the current financial rut, Thieme noted that the private sector has move dfrom an reactive to a proactive private sector.
“We have currently initiated, under the umbrella of the NCCI, a business/enterprise Namibia initiative to unite – or shall I say – create a common understanding with the various stakeholders that we, as the private sector, need to become more active. The main focus point right now is the joint (with the government) enhancement of the Namibian Investment Promotion Act,” Thieme explained.
Commenting on the private sector’s apparent loss of confidence in government’s ability to manage the economy, Thieme was quite optimistic, saying that, if anything, the last 12 to 18 months offer sufficient the reason to regain trust, as he believes the right issues are being attended to.
“Rome was not build or rebuilt in one day and the latest credit downgrading right now is rather unfortunate at this time. If anything, it should have been seen before by the credit rating agencies. We, as Namibians, should however not allow ourselves to be discouraged,” Thieme said.