Govt cornered on aviation experts

January 23, 2015, 9:03am

Govt cornered on aviation experts

By Ndanki Kahiurika

THE Ministry of Works and Transport was cornered into extending the contracts of the aviation experts in December after receiving veiled threats.
Correspondence seen by The Namibian from the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) to the transport ministry appears to suggest that if the contracts of the six remaining experts were not renewed, the organisation would withdraw its support for the country.
Another letter came from Intrepid Aviation, the American company that leases two Airbus A330 aircraft to Air Namibia.
Acting transport ministry permanent secretary Willie Kauaria signed the extension after he received two letters from Ivan Galan, an ICAO director of Technical Cooperation Bureau, who warned that if the contracts were not extended, ICAO would suspend all the projects as well as all activities in the country involving the aviation organisation. 
In his letters dated 12 December and 17 December 2014, Galan gave the ministry three days to respond or risk losing ICAO's support.
Kauaria said if this was not done, the repercussions would have had a significant impact on the country's civil aviation capacity, especially regarding safety and security oversight obligations.
Galan, who wrote from ICAO Montreal in Canada, also said the extensions should be done by the end of December 2014 to allow Icao a three-month time frame to work on a bigger project scope.
When Kauaria signed the extensions, the works permanent secretary, Peter Mwatile and the minister Erkki Nghimtina were both on leave.
Nghimtina, who last year in July blamed the ICAO experts for doing nothing when the Hosea Kutako International Airport was downgraded, wrote to Galan on 19 December telling him that his ministry had extended the contracts pending Cabinet approval.
This appears to be a U-turn for a man who had said he had not seen any reports of what the Icao experts had been doing in the country for the past six years.
Cabinet also expressed concern and demanded an explanation from Nghimtina as to why the experts, who are paid by government, should have their contracts renewed while they seem to have done nothing.
Kauaria refused to comment this week, referring all questions to Mwatile, who said the extension of the ICAO experts' contracts was approved after consultations.
Nghimtina refused to comment on the matter saying he was still on leave.
Although the aviation experts' contracts have been extended by three months, The Namibian understands that ICAO is seeking three-year contracts unlike in the past when they would be renewed annually.
Mwatile confirmed the three-year contracts request but said this would need Cabinet approval. He also said the Directorate of Civil Aviation (DCA) would be turned into a parastatal should parliament pass the Civil Aviation act.
The letter dated 18 December 2014 and written by Isaac Husseini, said ICAO had learned that the “certified inspectors who were in place within the Directorate of Civil Aviation in Namibia with responsibility for the larger aircraft type, are no longer in situ”.
Husseini, the vice president for risk management, said the situation “undermines the safety oversight infrastructure”.
“We have a genuine concern that the re-certification process which is currently underway for Air Namibia might become invalid in accordance with the standards as laid down by Icao, due to the current lack of certified inspectors for this aircraft type at the DCA,” Husseini wrote.
Furthermore, Husseini said Icao was also concerned that Air Namibia might face problems within the European airspace system regarding the operation of its flights due to lack of a full and confirmed air operating certificate.
“It is implicitly in our interest that the aviation authority having oversight responsibility of our aircraft should be appropriately resourced and comply with the standards laid down by ICAO,” he said.
The Namibian has a copy of a report compiled by DCA director Angeline Simana giving a grim picture of staffing within her department. 
Simana's assessment report shows that there are five vacant posts in her department and that the two Namibian inspectors - Izak Hamunyela and Beavan Wamunyima are not qualified for the Airbus A330.
In her response through the Office of the Media Ombudsman, Clement Daniels, yesterday, Simana said that every decision she took was in response to the safety and security oversight responsibilities of DCA.
She said that the Icao audit shows that the critical elements with the lowest effective implementation rate, demonstrated serious concerns and deficiencies which explains why the downgrade scored 42% in the audit which is below the average of 65%.
The ICAO experts' task was to transfer skills to Namibian people so that the DCA and the country would be self-sufficient but it had not been done.

The Namibian