Auditor General, Junias Kandjeke, deserves a medal.
Along with the Ombudsman, John Walters, Namibia’s judges and a few effective ministers in Cabinet, he is a spark of hope among largely inept decision-makers in government who assures us that all is not lost.
In these tough economic times, there have been too few reassurances that someone is minding the store in Namibia.
Kandjeke and his audits affirm that someone in government is actually doing their job. In spite of outdated reports, missing receipts, wrong data, poor record keeping and incompetent and clueless accounting officers, he lets everyone know with his reports that he is watching.
This auditor is actually reading reports, checking bank accounts, asking hard questions, demanding explanations and assigning culpability, and challenging inefficiencies in capacity that have led to state funds flying all over the place.
The state coffers are empty and one need only review the reports given by Kandjeke to see one of the reasons why.
The latest gold mine of incredulous idiocy uncovered by the Auditor General concerns nearly N$1 billion in payments made by the Ministry of Health and Social Services to companies that are not registered for VAT.
Companies not registered for VAT and not paying over any VAT to the Receiver collected and pocketed that 15 percent. No one checked, no one realized and no one did due diligence on the procurement rules in place that demand that any government vendor over a certain threshold, must be registered for VAT.
Either purposeful corruption or unutterable stupidity sent hundreds of millions out of the ministry’s budget and into the arms of vendors greedily laughing at the ineptness of a government so broke it cannot even pay the water and electricity bills of its own ministries’ offices around the country.
There have been many audit reports of various SOEs that have been released, questioning where money went, why documentation was not in place, who authorized expenditures, and a list of other queries that have caused qualified audits.
These negative audit reports should have led to someone at the very top, losing their jobs immediately. But, of course, in Namibia, the government doesn’t hold people accountable, they reshuffle, blame someone else or ignore the entire thing.
The intrepid auditor has submitted audit reports of municipalities around the country disclosing tens of millions that are ‘lost’. The accused authorities respond just like a kudu caught in the headlights of an oncoming car; they panic and do not know what to do.
The Minister of Finance, now backpedalling on his previous calls for a presumptive tax on informal businesses, is prepared to spend time and energy chasing pennies from the working poor rather than acting on the Auditor General’s reports and aggressively pursuing the missing government millions revealed.
Some of these audits have only been completed many years after-the-fact. But, if the statute of limitations is not expired, why isn’t the minister pursuing these past SOE executives, boards, civil servants and ministers responsible for those losses, whether last year or several years ago.
Unless people are held visibly, tangibly responsible for reckless fiduciary behaviour, it will go on ad infinitum.
In the AVID case finally concluded, one of the convicted felons was guilty as a board member of signing financial agreements and minutes without being fully aware of what was involved. This must signal a trend in Namibia, not a once-off.
Kandjeke must be able to put his qualified audits in front of board members, CEOs (MDs), financial executives and permanent secretaries (past and present) and hold them accountable for missing money, poorly administered state funds and bad record keeping.
Audit firms that did not issue qualified audits of SOEs and did not throw red cards at SOEs or agencies receiving state funds, must also be raked over the coals as accessories in the perpetuation of the crime of misusing (or stealing) state funds.
This is Kandjeke’s hunting range and we are fully convinced that this Namibian lion will defend his territory with alacrity.
Recently, there was a call for the Auditor General to be invested with the policing power to follow-up on his audit findings with legal action and penalties as the South African Auditor-General is currently allowed to do.
It is great to reveal potential malfeasance, but it is better when such revelation is backed up with swift, punitive legal action. Dragging a few errant PSes, SOE financial executives and CEOs out of their offices in handcuffs due to qualified audits, missing money, and ‘lost’ documentation will cure the rest of the bunch in a hurry.
It is a tradition in Namibia, that those who are effective and efficient at threatening the bank accounts and power bases of those with clout are quickly (and cleverly) undermined and frustrated.
We hope that the tenacious and skilled Auditor General has a thick skin and strong political backing from somewhere powerful as those he exposes will soon turn on him and attempt to harass him out of office.
Kandjeke’s scathing reports and scolding of officials responsible for a collective total of billions of wasted state funds are declarations that he is minding the store. But, at the same time, he is stepping on landmines and daring them to explode.
Kandjeke must watch his bureaucratic back otherwise, he will be promoted out of the Auditor General’s office to a higher rank with lots of perks to buy him off and kill his efforts at rooting out inefficiencies, silent theft, and bureaucratic stupidity.
We will follow his status in earnest and see what the future holds.
The backdoor to the candy shop (i.e., the Namibian Treasury) has been purposefully left unlocked. People from all directions are stealing everything in sight.
Finally, we have someone in place who can mind the store, lock the doors, install CCTV cameras, take an inventory, find out what is missing and identify how it was stolen.
Good luck to the Auditor General. We wish him good hunting and a bullet-proof vest.