New Civil Aviation Act gathers dust
The country’s new Civil Aviation Act, which was signed into law by President Hage Geingob in June, is yet to be implemented, prompting the industry to raise questions about whether there is a lack of resources and expertise in the country.
The new Act brings in a number of changes, chief among them, the replacement of the Directorate of Civil Aviation (DCA) by the Namibia Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), which will be an independent entity.
The new Act is also expected to improve the regulation of civil aviation in Namibia by updating all relevant legislation.
Industry players said this week that it is suspicious that the NCAA has not yet been launched by the Works and Transport Minister, Alpheus !Naruseb.
Questions have also been raised about whether the current DCA Director, Angeline Simana, will automatically become the head of this new regulatory body, and if so, whether she is qualified for the new post.
Ministry of Works and Transport Permanent Secretary, Willem Goeieman, said that the minister had already forwarded his recommendations to Cabinet and an announcement in that regard would be made soon.
He could, however, not say what those recommendations were.
Meanwhile, an industry expert has claimed that the new Act has several loopholes that leave room for cronyism and conflicts of interest
Bethuel Mujetenga told the Windhoek Observer this week that certain clauses in the new Act leave much to be desired.
For example, Section 11 of the Act, which talks about the appointment of the new Namibia Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) board, states that two of the five people to make up the board should be industry players, who have at least seven years’ experience dealing with regulation of aviation safety and administration.
His concern is whether the implementing minister will appoint individuals or ask the aviation industry to nominate the individuals.
Mujetenga argued that someone who is being regulated cannot serve on the board, because it would constitute a conflict of interest.
“The Namibia Civil Aviation Authority would regulate Air Namibia, so if they find a nominee from there that would constitute a conflict of interest,” he said.
Mujetenga suggested that the two nominees should be retired aviation experts or persons who are not actively involved with the aviation industry.
He also advised the minister to advertise the posts and not just select cronies.
The other board members should be people with a legal or financial background, he said.
The Act provides for the appointment of a chief executive of the country’s civil aviation authority, known as the Director of Civil Aviation, and a board of directors responsible for the policy and control of the NCAA.
Among other things, NCAA board members must disclose in writing any conflict of interest on any matter to both the board and the minister.
The new Act does not provide for a Commissioner of Civil Aviation, which has also raised eyebrows.
Mujetenga said this poses problems in that if an authorised inspector, for example, confiscates one’s licence to fly, the person only has the option to take the matter to the NCAA Executive Director.
If that doesn’t pan out, the only route left will be to go to the High Court, which is very expensive.
In Mujetenga’s view, the Act should have made provision for a commissioner, who would report directly to the minister and adjudicate disputes between those regulated and the regulator.
The Act provides the director with a comprehensive and up-to-date set of powers for the regulation of the industry, to improve public safety.
The big question now is when the transformation will take place and whether there are funds that were set aside.
According to the Act, the NCAA will get funding from money appropriated by parliament, as well as fees, charges and penalties payable to the NCAA under the provisions of the Act and its regulations.
At the moment, the Directorate of Civil Aviation is funded by the State.
Goeieman said that as provided for in the statutes, and in terms of Section 11 of the new Act, the NCAA board has not yet been appointed, and will only be appointed on the same date as that of the launch of NCAA.
As for the funding of the independent entity, Goeieman said that Section 23 of the Civil Aviation Act 2016, allows the minister to transfer assets, liabilities and obligations to the NCAA.
He added that there are no additional budgetary requirements needed to start up the NCAA, other than the transfer of the current appropriations, which is public information, as well as the balances in the overflight and landing charges account, in consultation with the Ministry of Finance.
As it stands, air navigation charges, as prescribed by the Civil Aviation Act of 1962, are so outdated that the Directorate of Civil Aviation is charging as little as N$40 for operators to fly a small plane and N$6,000 for bigger jets.
Last year, at hearings conducted by the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Economics and Public Administration, it came to light that the account for overflight charges is based in South Africa and the people in charge of the account and calculating the charges belong to a South African company.
The overflight fees are recorded by radar in Namibia and then processed in South Africa, through a computerised billing system, which then calculates the amount to be charged and sends invoices, and the operators then deposit the money into an account controlled by the Ministry of Finance.