The Windhoek Observer can report that Inland Revenue Commissioner Justus Mwafonge, Communication Regulatory Authority of Namibia (CRAN) Chairperson Heinrich Mihe Gaomab II and Tax Leader at PWC Chantell Husslemann are all in the running to become Commissioner/CEO of the new semi-autonomous state-entity Namibia Revenue Agency (NAMRA).
The trio has already been vetted and their names have been forwarded to Cabinet, which is expected to announce its favourite candidate soon.
The agency’s board led by businesswoman Anna Nakale-Kawana allegedly differs with Finance Minister Calle Schlettwein on who should be appointed. Sources alleged this week that Schlettwein wants Husslemann to take over.
The revenue agency is expected to tighten the country’s tax system, which many say is riddled with loopholes that allow businesses and individuals to avoid paying their fair share of taxes.
Schlettwein recently told the Windhoek Observer that the government has been able to meet its revenue targets which are above regional averages.
“Our revenue collection rate stands at about 32 percent of GDP, inclusive of SACU receipts or some 22.1 percent less in SACU remittances. This is seen against the sub-Saharan average collection capacity of about 17 percent,” he said.
This is despite the fact that the finance ministry ran an extended tax amnesty campaign from February 2017 to April 2018 which was targeted at businesses and individuals who reportedly owed the taxman N$4 billion.
The appointment of the NAMRA Commissioner has been delayed by at least seven months.
The seven-member NAMRA board failed to meet its January 2019 target to appoint a Commissioner. Schlettwein defended the delay by the board which was appointed only into office in December 2018, attributing it to the slow-motion public procurement policy.
“For the purpose of recruiting the Commissioner of the Agency, the Ministry intends to acquire the services of a recruitment contractor to ensure an independent and transparent process. Acquiring such services follows the procurement process.
“We are still engaged with this process in terms of the national procurement law. Once finalized, this will set us on course to commence, starting with the recruitment of the Commissioner,” Schlettwein told the Windhoek Observer in March this year.
The recruitment of the Commissioner was then expected to be finalized in May 2019, but the new deadline was also missed together with the operationalization date of the new agency which was shifted from March 2019 to October 1, 2019.
It has since been shifted again to March 2020.
This week, Schlettwein refused to comment on the news that Mwafonge, Gaomab II and Husslemann have been shortlisted for the commissioner position.
“As per normal practice of appointing Heads of SOEs, the Minister has approached Cabinet for possible appointment. We cannot disclose further details, pending cabinet pronouncement,” the minister said through his Chief Public Relations Officer Tonateni Shidhudhu.
NAMRA Deputy Chairperson, Stefan Hugo, could neither confirm nor deny that the trio has been shortlisted.
“I was not on the interview committee and they did not disclose the names of the shortlisted candidates to the board. What you are telling me now is news to me,” Hugo said before directing questions to Schlettwein who is the appointing authority.
Nakale-Kawana also refused comment before referring this reporter to the minister.
“The right person to talk to would be the minister who is spearheading the whole process. I know nothing about the appointment of the commissioner. All I know is about my appointment as the board chair,” she said.
This is despite Schlettwein telling the board in December last year that one of its main tasks is the recruitment of senior staff.
“You can advise, but that is not your main task. The recruitment of key senior staff is another task,” Schlettwein said, adding the board must ensure it happens quickly.
Mwafonge could also not confirm or deny if his name has been shortlisted while Gaomab II and Husslemann could not be reached for comment.
Gaomab II is the Chairman of the Board of the Communications Regulatory Authority of Namibia (CRAN) since July 2019.
He also serves as the Non-Executive Director at the Capricorn Group since August 2018 and as Director of Namibian Institute of Corporate Governance (ICGN) since 2016.
He previously served as the Executive Director at the African Development Bank Group representing the Southern Africa Group Constituency from July 2016 to July 2019 and as the Alternate Executive Director from July 2013 - June 2016.
During his tenure, he served as the Chairman of the Operations and Development Committee of the Board of Directors between 2017 and 2018.
Gaomab II is the Founding Chief Executive Officer of the Namibian Competition Commission.
He worked at SACU as Deputy Director on Common Policy Development and Regional Integration from 2006 to 2009 and as Company Secretary to the Board & Special Assistant to the Governor of the Central Bank of Namibia from 1998 to 2006.
Gaomab II has a Master’s Degree in Quantitative Development Economics from the University of Warwick, in the United Kingdom and a Senior Diploma in Investment Analysis & Portfolio Management from the University of South Africa.
According to information on PwC’s website, as a partner for the Indirect Tax Practice, Husslemann has serviced client portfolios from a broad range of industries.
She was previously involved in consultations between Inland Revenue Directorate and Ministry of Finance on the deferment of Import VAT payments and also has experience in facilitating consultations between large international groups involved in the merchandising of inter alia mineral products.
She has extensive experience in the small and medium enterprise industry, in particular retail, agricultural and property entities.
Husslemann further assists in the provision of tax clearance on the audits of clients from various industries, including financial service providers, medical service industries and large cross border retail groups.
She has been involved in the performance of various VAT reviews for state-owned enterprises, an airline company, Telecommunications Companies, Local Authorities and various other public sector entities.