In response to a panicked financial SOS sent out on Monday by nbc board chairman Sven Thieme, Minister of Finance, Calle Schlettwein has revealed to the Windhoek Observer this week that he will not be giving a bulk sum to the nbc. At this time, the amount to be disbursed will be N$10 million every month.
A detailed report on how the funds were used will be required before further tranches are sent. This is to ensure that the public broadcaster is being run efficiently.
Schlettwein announced that the government had given the first N$10 million to nbc at the beginning of September and will continue to do that until the next budget. He says the lesser funding plan is part of the process of trying to hold commercial SOEs accountable.
“The prevalent situation where supposedly profit-making parastatals keep approaching the government with begging bowls will no longer be entertained and it is high time that board members of such State-owned enterprises ensure that prudent measures are put in place and parastatal management are held accountable.” This, according to Finance Minister Calle Schlettwein is the new government policy for dealing with commercial SOEs.
The minister was responding to a query by this newspaper on the deplorable state of affairs at the Namibian Broadcasting Corporation (nbc) and the government’s position about remedying the situation.
Schlettwein maintained that it is unreasonable for state-owned enterprises to expect government bailouts.
He said, “We have looked at the nbc for years now and the situation at this enterprise is not improving. We understand that it is a public broadcaster with an important role to play and a mandate to deliver. However, the way that this mandate is being delivered is proving to be unsustainable.
“The situation should be improved, and it is up to the board and management of this entity to do that.
“I was taken aback by the timing of this whole situation. We understand that the current situation will impact the broadcasting of the forthcoming elections and this demand is tantamount to blackmail.”
The minister firmly demanded, “Are they saying that there are no other programme that can be cut?”
There have been reports that between 2014 and 2018 the NBC was earning revenues amounting to N$100 million. However, the Finance Minister doubts this figure. He says, “In all honesty, the opposite is true. We looked at the past five years and the corporation hasn’t had a clean audit opinion. They have been on the receiving end of government bailouts but still couldn’t account for the money.
“Their request is hard to entertain but of course, we have given them some sort of relief in the form of monthly N$10 million since the beginning of this month to address their cashflow problems.
“Also, we have requested them to give us their detailed cash flow projections for the remainder of the financial year and what the money will be used for. We only received this on Monday this week and we are still reviewing them before we can make a final decision,” the beleaguered minister declared.
Meanwhile, Nampa reports that Namibian Broadcasting Cooperation (nbc) Acting Director-General, Umbi Karuaihe Upi said top executives at the national broadcaster are not overpaid as has been claimed by National Unity Democratic Organisation (NUDO) secretary-general Joseph Kauandenge.
Karuaihe-Upi said this on Thursday in an interview with Nampa, when she responded to remarks made by Kauandenge earlier this week that the national broadcaster’s top executives are overpaid and their salaries should be revealed to the public.
She said the salaries of nbc’s top executives are not secret. They are already in the public domain because they are paid according to the law. “One thing you also have to take into consideration is that most people on average have been working here for 25 years and some even longer. This means if you worked for so many years, your salary is at a particular level based on tenure. We are not paid out of context, no one here is overpaid,” insisted Karuaihe-Upi.
Kauandenge had commented that at parastatals, executive salaries are where most of the money goes and when they want to retrench to save money, they target lower-ranked employees whose combined salaries do not make a difference to the overall capital flow of the organisation. “We need to know how much they are being paid and should there be retrenchment, why don’t they start where most of the money goes? The salary of one top executive might save 10 to 20 lower-ranked jobs,” he said.
The State broadcaster has announced cost-cutting measures that include downsizing and program cancellations.