Petty secrets

10 August 2012

The controversy surrounding the supposed leaking of the report on irregularities at the Namibia Airports Company (NAC) is really a storm in a teacup – and a small teacup at that.
Before Government goes into its usual knee-jerk, over-reaction mode it needs to stop and consider matters carefully.
With regard to the leaked NAC report, local daily The Namibian last Friday quoted Minister of Works and Transport Erkki Nghimtina and State House making dire threats to punish those responsible for leaking the report.

Nghimtina went as far as stating that he had instructed the police to arrest anyone who leaks confidential Government information.
Steady there minister, let us not go overboard!
The Government unfortunately does have the means to take action and could make the life of anyone found to have leaked the document extremely unpleasant if it decides to take that route.
This country still has draconian secrecy laws on its statute books like the Protection of Information Act (Act 84 of 1982) and a host of other laws dating back to the days of the repressive apartheid colonial regime.
There is such a maze of these security laws that it is almost impossible for anyone to make out which ones are still in force and which ones have been amended, superseded or repealed by subsequent legislation.
The fact that so many of them appear to still remain in force is a mark of shame that the first five post-independence Governments will never be able to erase.
Because Government has the means to crackdown on whistleblowers does not necessarily mean that it is a sensible, judicious or wise thing to do.
Most people accept that there are sound reasons to have legislation in place to protect what people can legitimately consider State secrets.
Genuine State secrets cover matters that might endanger national security or the sovereignty of Namibia, including those related to national defence.
The other situations in which Government might invoke the legislation include to protect people from physical danger or to prevent compromising ongoing criminal investigations.
This country should, however, not misuse security legislation for petty or trivial reasons; to serve a political agenda or simply to save a minister from political embarrassment and cover his backside.
It is difficult to understand why Minister Nghimtina should become apoplectic and fly into a rage over the leaked report.
If no one has done anything wrong at the Namibia Airports company, then neither Nghimtina nor anyone else should have anything to hide.
Oh what a tangled web we weave,
When first we practise to deceive!
If people have made themselves guilty of irregularities, corruption or any other form of misconduct or wrongdoing then we have a right to know.
The idea that the NAC gave consultant Brian Nalisa an upfront payment of N$1.7 million for a job he failed to complete and then compounded the folly by bumping up the consulting fees to anywhere between N$5 or 7 million is in itself an outrage.
We deserve answers on this mess at the NAC, and we deserve them now.
The NAC like most other parastatals employs large establishments of over-paid and pampered executives at taxpayers’ expense.
The chief executive probably earns over N$1 million a year with other top executives no doubt on salaries of at least half a million a year.
We pay them these fantastic salaries because of their supposed management expertise, and on the assumption that they should therefore not need to hire over-priced consultants for every little management problem that arises.
When the management challenges are of such a magnitude that the company does not have the institutional capacity to tackle them itself, then it should hire highly qualified, reputable management consultants to advise it.
Nalisa has a chequered history at best. He is a former nightclub owner who at one time owned Club Kongoma, part-owned Club Pamodzi and a nightclub in Otjiwarongo as well as music shops in Windhoek.
He gained notoriety in 2007 when he refused to return a N$512,000 Mercedes Benz he had bought through the Roads Contractor Company (RCC) after the company refused to renew his contract as human resources manager.
He also served as a gun for hire on the politically motivated Commission of Inquiry into the Activities, Affairs, Management and Operation of the Development Brigade Corporation (DBC) and Amalgamated Commercial Holding (Amcom).
Minister Nghimtina, the NAC board and CEO Ben Biwa – among many other questions – need to answer the question of what institutional capacity does Nalisa have, that the NAC does not have, that qualifies him to advise on a major corporate restructuring exercise.
As far as anyone knows, Nalisa is a one-man show with no institutional capacity whatsoever.
Even if he worked 24 hours a day, seven days a week for 365 days a year he would not be able to put in enough man-hours to warrant a N$5 million fee.
For most people, when thinking of reputable management consultants, names such as PriceWaterhouseCoopers, Deloitte, Ernst & Young or KPMG might spring to mind – not a former nightclub owner.
Instead of going on a witch-hunt, under the pretext of national security, Minister Nghimtina needs to consider that his own Cabinet colleagues might have leaked the NAC report because they are fed up with him sitting on it for so long.




The Windhoek Observer is an English-language weekly newspaper, published in Namibia by Paragon Investment Holding. It is the country's oldest and largest circulating weekly.

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