The government should look at open public tendering in the spirit of greater transparency and accountability, particularly in the context of fighting corruption.
In its November report released today, the Institute of Public Policy Research said that this should be done because the scope of discretion for public institutions is sometimes too wide in areas such as the awarding of fishing quotas and Exclusive Prospecting Licences.
These proposals come in the wake of corruption claims in the awarding of EPLs by the Ministry of Mines and the long running Fishrot case associated with the Ministry of Fisheries and Marine extractive industries account accountable, as this will give the Anti-Corruption sharper teeth to investigate and prosecute corruption in these areas, where public contracting often ends up being governments number one corruption risk.
Public contracting is the world’s largest marketplace, covering USD$13 trillion spent every year, with less than three percent of that total USD$36 billion openly published.
The IPPR Executive Director Graham Hopwood made this revelation during today’s briefing on its push for open contracting as a mechanism to bring about more transparency particularly in the mining sector, fishing industry and public procurements.
According to the Open Contracting Partnership, open contracting is the publishing and usage of open, accessible and timely information on public contracting to engage citizens and businesses to fix problems and other results.
Hopwood stressed the importance for Namibia to join in with other global countries in the Extractive
Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI), adding that when countries commit to the EITI to contract transparency, they accept to publicly disclose the full text of any contract agreements, licenses, and concessions among other governing exploitation of oil, gas and mineral resources.
This becomes necessary in view of Namibia’s poor performance, particularly in the mining, fishing and public procurement sectors, as companies are often offered tenders without a list being published about the particulars of the companies.
The lack of transparency from the government side Hopwood said, is one that is worrisome, as this is where corruption often lingers around.
The IPPR Executive Director also took a swipe at the alleged N$50 million bribe taken to benefit a particular company for attaining an Exclusive Prospecting License (EPL) which the Mining and Energy Minister Tom Alweendo is being implicated in, but which he strongly denies.
This could have been easily avoidable had the ministry demonstrated transparency in the awarding
of such contracts.
Under the 2019 data standard, EITI sets a requirement that its member countries would require to disclose any contracts and licenses entered into or amended after 2021.
Namibia is not yet a member of EITI, but government has made policy commitments to either join the initiative or adopt some of the EITI’s key standards to the national framework to improve transparency.
According to the Natural Resource Governance Institute, there are about 49 EITI countries who have
disclosed at least one extractive industry contract, with about 30 policies in place that make publication mandatory.
Contracts that are disclosed are easily enforceable. Disclosing of contracts also supports companies to open, act-based dialogues that can be helpful in building trust, which will reduce conflicts and reinforce a company’s social license to operate.
Disclosing contracts also increases the capacity for good governance as well as consistency and Comparability. It also helps government to understand if contracts are in line with the country’s legal framework.
Regarding the fishing industry, the IPPR research indicates that after the Fishrot scandal, there have been holistic reforms in ensuring that the industry is safeguarded, as well as the none listing of registered companies who have obtained quotas and who they benefit or how it is being utilized.
Although noticeable efforts have been made, they are still falling far behind. The IPPR reports main focus is to explore the sector’s readiness to enhance transparency with regards to the publication of mining and petroleum agreements, contracts and mining licenses. Graham, did however, cautioned that the open contracting might have a negative impact on foreign investors as not many companies will be willing to open their books as they deem it as sharing very sensitive information, making them very vulnerable to competitors.
But he emphasized that, this is the best remedy to counter corruption and put value on its resources and make government to stand in good books with its citizens and also have a global respect and trust from companies outside who wish to invest in Namibia.