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Public assets report needed

5th March 2012
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Editorial Cartoon

There have been intermittent calls to the government to revisit the privatised enterprises with a view to ensuring that the new owners had indeed fulfilled what was agreed during the change of ownership.

This has been so after it was noticed that some of the new owners had reneged on some of the critical clauses of the transfer agreements, such as failing to pay up agreed sums of money or to ensure the expected revival measures are implemented.

For it will be recalled that the main objective of the privatisation of most of the 400+ parastatal organisations was to give them a new lease of life, especially those that were critical to the lives of the general public.

Most were ailing from lack of capital, technology, overstaffing and general mismanagement. Only a handful then paid dividends to the Treasury Registrar, while most drained government coffers through subsidies.

Important as some of them were, it would have been impossible for the government to marshal the needed resources to turn them around on its own.

While some just needed infusion of working capital to recover and continue offering the much-needed goods and services, quite a good number of them needed deep restructuring and technology change to resume operations.

Apparently many of these enterprises served a large consumer base and their inability to operate would have dealt a debilitating blow to the country and its economy.

It is encouraging that many found willing buyers or partners, delivering success stories such as those of beer, cigarettes and cement to name but a few.

The government now enjoys dividends from these entities, instead of the persistent headaches of pouring money annually with little or no returns. A recent report by the ministry of Trade and Industries shows that 42 privatised firms have been performing well, boosting jobs and revenue to the government.

But it is also true that some of the enterprises have either remained dormant or had the functions changed unilaterally, after privatisation.

Indeed the same report cites 15 firms being operational, but doing poorly. Some of the premises of these enterprises have been turned into godowns, while others have been abandoned with plant and machinery left to rust or cannibalised.

Government ministers, especially those on the Trade and Industry docket have on several occasions promised to follow up the matter and take action against those who have violated the conditions in the contract they signed with the government.

Our interest has been drawn to the warning by the Livestock Development and Fisheries minister Dr Mathayo David Mathayo that the government will revoke the right of occupancy of privatised ranches whose new owners failed to develop them.

He gave the warning when addressing livestock keepers from the eastern zone, following reports that some investors have failed to develop the privatised ranches, to the extent that some of them have been invaded by farmers who were conducting agricultural activities in them.

Hopefully, the minister will act on his promise, showing the way to his colleagues in the other ministries who have allowed the public assets to be mismanaged. The public deserves a proper account of these assets.

SOURCE: THE GUARDIAN
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