After reading the recent comments attributed to Presidential Affairs Minister, Frans Kapofi, regarding his role in the SME Bank collapse, the loss of N$200 million in funds and the tragic loss of over 300 jobs,
we are concerned that actions by the Government and its appointees are not moving the country towards the prosperity promised by the Geingob Administration, but farther away from it.
The triumvirate that is accountable to the public and the depositors of the SME Bank for the lender’s tragic collapse have made their public remarks and we find all three wanting.
President Geingob at a press conference on the matter absolved the chairmen of the board that was responsible for the oversight of all financial dealings of the SME Bank, from any wrong doing.
He said that the officials he appointed were forced to serve on that board and did not go there by choice, implying that their errors were, therefore, both understandable and forgivable. Nothing was vehemently said about demanding reports of what happened, a timeline of the errors made and who signed off on the funds in the first place.
George Simataa, Secretary to Cabinet, defended his lacklustre performance as chairman by blaming the Bank of Namibia, claiming that SME Bank was in good order until the central bank intervened and closed it down unnecessarily.
Now, Kapofi steps up and say that management lied to the board and gave no information whatsoever about any transaction. In fact, he didn’t even know the bank had N$200 million, much less sent it abroad in dubious investments. He also strangely said that as chairman of the board it was not his responsibility to ‘Google’ other board members to check their legality, viability and credentials to serve.
It may not appear to be big money to the SME three, but N$200 million to us is huge. Maybe when you live with Government paid perquisites, cars, drivers, staff, airline travel, S&Ts, and other benefits, the full value of money fades into the background a bit. Most of us struggle just to get our municipal bills paid, so N$2,000, let alone, N$200 million is an enormous amount to lose so casually.
And that is what bothers us the most. There is a casual air about the loss of Government funds. Where was a fiery campaign to either find as much of the N$200 million as possible, or detail systems and processes that failed which caused the money to be sent and then deliver the professional head(s) of those responsible? We firmly believe that at the least, Simataa must resign for his culpability in this affair.
We wonder why high ranking civil servants would take trips to Singapore for training, while we have citizens searching the garbage dump for animal skins to cook in order to have a meal. We have many businesses that, contrary to declarations by the finance minister, were not paid overdue invoices by Government. Salini, building the multi-billion dollar Nekartal Dam in its demands for payment, put the lie to that “we’ve paid all outstanding invoices” claim by Government.
And yet, the president and his family entourage are off to the United Nations in New York for longer than necessary in order to speak at Rutgers University, in addition to his scheduled UN presentation on 19 September. How will that speech at Rutgers, change the Moody’s downgrade, get more funds to the food banks, or create new jobs for those leaving school this year?
We wonder seriously about this administration’s commitment to building prosperity in Namibia when unnecessary spending decisions are constantly taken that do the opposite.
A three-day trip by the president to the UN to make the necessary statement by Namibia accompanied by the first lady and the requisite security and secretarial detail and the minister of international cooperation is all that is required as the country faces its most precarious financial times ever. The ambassadors and staff already based in the USA and at the UN must do their duty and cover all the other bases in these times of economic hardship for the people of Namibia.
How can one stop the civil service jaunt to Singapore for ‘courses’ that could likely be taught at NIPAM (what is that Government training institution for anyway?), when the presidential party is off on a jaunt of their own? It is difficult to take the ethical high ground for others’ behaviour when you don’t operate from that level yourself.
We wonder how can anyone in Government punish an office cleaner for stealing toilet paper and cleansers from her job, when she justifies her actions of stealing N$200 from the tax payers by pointing at higher officials who are stealing hundreds of millions and getting away scot free?
This is the climate created when State funds are flying out of accounts with no one held to task; no one arrested and jailed; no money returned and no change in the structures and systems that allowed the malfeasance in the first place. Does this build prosperity? We think not.
Government decisions, speeches, statements and policies must move the country towards the prosperity promised by the administration, otherwise we are moving in the opposite direction.