THE media landscape has in recent weeks been filled with reports from the scandals which are being unearthed at State-owned company NetOne. We have learnt, probably only very little so far, but enough to conclude all is not well. This includes potential prejudice to the company of millions of dollars in underhand deals, cronyism in awarding of contracts as well as shady and irregular banking procedures.
There are three angles from which the unfortunate developments and revelations about what transpired at NetOne should be viewed.
First, fears of financial impropriety at the State-owned mobile phone network could be just a tip of the iceberg in terms of the rot that exists in the majority of State entities.
It is an open secret that there are very weak governance systems at most public enterprises and widespread abuse of standing procedures, which has often times been confirmed by the Auditor- General, yet little corrective action is taken.
Secondly, NetOne has been a major disappointment inasfar as helping generate significant additional income that would have gone towards supporting critical socio-economic activities of the Government, battling to meet deliverables from its $4,1 billion budget.
It is generally believed thatparastatals and State enterprises have potential to contribute as much as 40 percent to the country’s gross domestic product, which is an indictment of these entities on the extent to which they have contributed to the poor state of the economy.
Thirdly, there is empirical evidence across the globe that telecoms can play a significant and profound role in national economic growth and development apart from its potential positive impact on people’s lifestyles and cost benefits within and across national boundaries.
It is in light of this narrow, but potentially wide perspective that the rot that has been happening within NetOne should be regarded with the sternest disdain that it deserves and culprits brought to book.
Like many other State- owned enterprises and parastatals created to fill up spaces private players would not enter, prevent monopolies that would exploit the public and ensure service and product affordability, let alone drive economic growth, NetOne benefits from Government support, which in some way is a cost to the public.
This exhorts authorities to act without restraint in efforts to get to the bottom of the financial, regulatory, ethical and moral impropriety that took place at the State-owned mobile phone network.
We applaud the suspension of senior executives at the company to facilitate a forensic audit to fully understand the magnitude of the cancer that had taken root in what should help officials to chart a new course and better performance guidelines for the firm going forward.
What is happening at NetOne is no different from what happened at the National Social Security Authority recently.
At NSSA we were told that top management awarded themselves hefty perks and loans to the detriment of the workers whose welfare is supposed to be the primary focus.
Many other parastatals have been found with the same weaknesses. What does this tell us about the people we appoint to these positions?
It is high time we implemented parastatals reform to rid ourselves of this cancer.
State enterprises and parastatals in a functioning economy should provide services to the public and corporate institutions as well as a platform upon which other economic activities can ride and grow.
State enterprises and parastatals are key enablers that facilitate economic growth and sustainable development, but this has not been the case, instead they have been a drag to economic turnaround.
This situation has been compounded by general weaknesses arising from weak corporate governance enforcement mechanisms.
As a result, institutions have been established and countries, as well as groupings of countries, have developed corporate governance standards to improve the way corporations are governed and controlled as well as mitigate against occurrences of failure.
Enhancing transparency and accountability in State enterprises and parastatals is central for improving the corporate governance compliance. It is one of the efficient entry points for governance reforms.