US$1,3m grant for think tank

The signing of the grant, which culminated in nearly a year of negotiations, was held in the capital this week.

NEPRU, established to provide key research information and training to Namibia had been dogged by financial problems.

NEPRU’s mission is to support Namibia’s national development goals by providing economic policy advice, conducting economic research and building economic research capacity.

Key donors to the think-tank body, which of late has been failing in its mandate, have cut off the financial aid tape amid reports of financial misappropriation.

NEPRU early this year haggled with key donors after the research body allegedly diverted funds meant for research to cover its administrative and salary costs.

Speaking at the signing ceremony, Nepru chairman Zedekia Josef Ngavirue said that funding constraints had nearly crippled the research institute.

The institute, which has on many occasions criticised and advised the Namibian government on how to handle tax-payers’ money, was in May reported to have been owing government N$6 million in individual income tax and value added tax (VAT).

“The funding constraints were so serious that at one time we were unable to pay taxes. It is a very serious crisis . . . donors have adopted a wait and see attitude,” Ngavirue said.

Ngavirue assured ACBF that the grant would be put to good use but could not give an assurance that the institute’s financial problems were now a thing of the past.

He added that NEPRU was also facing structural problems brought about by the failure of the organisation’s failure to Namibianise.

ACBF executive secretary Soumana Sako said that NEPRU should play a pivotal role in government’s Vision 2030.

“In order to achieve this, it is necessary for the government to receive sound economic information and analysis, and this is where NEPRU comes in,” Sako said.

Sako said that the US$1.3 million grant is for NEPRU to intensify its efforts to promote a more equitable balance in employing research and management staff, scale up staff of Namibians.

Furthermore the grant is also going to see the institute investing in a planned career development and training for its staff, promote equal opportunities in employment and training, pursue a gender based balance staff structure and continue undertaking core-research on key development policies.

ACBF pumped in US$2.4 million to NEPRU in 1994 and an additional US$2 million in 2001. Apart from NEPRU, the Harare head-based ACBF is also supporting a Masters’ degree programme in Public Policy and Administration at the University of Namibia to the tune of US$850 000.

The National Planning Commission (NPC) has also benefited from a grant of US$50 000 whilst US$1.6 million has been donated towards the Strengthening of Namibia Performance Management System.

ACBF has also been supporting the Windhoek based SADC Parliamentary Forum to the tune of US$2.6 million and the Macroeconomic and Financial Management Institute of Eastern and Southern Africa (MEFMI) which is based in Harare for a cumulative amount of US$5.7 million.

“NEPRU has been facing a number of challenges lately that have threatened its financial viability as well as its capacity to retain staff. In light of these challenges, we note with thanks the interim support provided by the Namibian government to keep NEPRU going whilst a long term solution was being developed,” Sako said.

He was however quick to point out that ACBF would be bringing in external auditors to monitor the expenditure patterns. Review meetings would also be held twice annually, Sako said.

“The funds are going to be used properly. The bulk of the grant is going to finance personnel and research at various levels,” said NEPRU acting director Klaus Schade.

December 2006
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