THE Director General of the Namibian Broadcasting Corporation Stanley Similo lashed out furiously against Calle Schlettwein, the Minister of Finance and accused him of making unfounded allegations about the national broadcaster’s dire financial situation without bothering to consult detailed reports.
During an exclusive interview with Informanté Radio at the Public Enterprises Conference in Swakopmund facilitated by the Ministry of Public Enterprises, Similo said the board of directors have been diligently reporting and updating their line minister and his Executive Director about the public broadcaster’s financial situation.
“For the minister to question the revenue of the NBC which has been consistently above N$100 million per year for the past three financial years and to accuse the board of directors of standing in front of him with begging bowls for yet another bail-out is wrong,” Similo said.
According to Similo the finance minister knows that the public enterprise is coming from a bad situation where no systems were in place and that the board is doing their best to clear up outstanding auditing issues that date back as far as 20 years.
“For the Minister to say that the current board is not keen on turning the national broadcaster around is wrong. If he did not know, all he needed to do was ask.”
With regard to the severe austerity measures announced by the NBC board earlier this week the director general said that they had to get the message out that the NBC is in a very serious situation.
“It is wrong for the minister to make allegations about the timing of the announcement. It is not a political matter,” he said.
In a media report the finance minister was quoted as saying that the financial situation at the public broadcaster has not improved in years and the way the commercial public enterprise is delivering on its mandate is not sustainable.
Schlettwein said he doubted the revenue figure of N$100 million per year and added that the corporation has not had a clean audit for the past five years. The finance minister said that NBC could not account for the money spent after bail-outs by government.
During a panel discussion with leaders from the private sector, Dr. Quinton van Rooyen, Group Managing Director of Trustco Group Holdings, was asked if he would serve on the board of a public enterprise. Dr. van Rooyen answered that he would but only if he would be allowed to do so without the meddling from the line minister.
“If a line minister knows how to run the state owned enterprise better than the board of directors, he or she should serve on the board instead,” Dr. Van Rooyen said.
In response an emotional Similo said it is an unfortunate reality and dilemma that is faced by the boards of most of the public enterprises in Namibia.
“To have the intentions and motives of such boards questioned by the line ministers and Fiscus especially in media reports, is a little bit overboard to say the least,” Similo said.