This is completely unacceptable and certainly such services do not benefit the majority of people in the region but only the residents of that particular town where the office has been set up. Most regions are vast and hence towns are far apart from each other and instead people from other towns within the same region have to fork out money for transport to travel and cover between 10 and 100 kilometres and for those who own cars to drive there, to reach such towns where crucial government services are available. In many instances people (non-residents) might have to leave that town again just to return the following day because they could not be assisted on time the first time around when they came. Here are a few examples to share more clarity on what I am talking about: when the Social Security Commission (SSC) opened their multi-million-dollar northern head office in Oshakati few years back it was reported that the office will serve Oshana, Kunene, and Omusati. Can you imagine having to travel such a costly and long distance in order to seek services and three different regions are expected to be served by one office? The most recent media report has stated the Ministry of Home Affairs and Immigration’s plans to built their own state-of-the-art office building at Keetmanshoop, expected to cost about N$19 million. That’s a commendable initiative on one hand as it will transform and enhance Keetmanshoop’s CBD, however it cannot be said that such an infrastructure and its services will necessarily benefit the whole or most of Karas. Because again people across Karas will be expected to fork out money and travel far from their home towns to make use of this ministry’s services at Keetmanshoop. I know this has been the case even before the plans to build their own offices was announced on the news. Something else: why in this day and age do most smaller offices, for example of the Ministry of Home Affairs around various regions, still lack the necessary required facilities and equipment needed to locally (at local authority level) capture and produce documents such as IDs for residents without having to send documents back and forth to the Head office in the city? Not to mention the service of issuing passports, which is not available at many of these local offices.
This current practice of putting up services only in the so-called regional capitals merely benefits those specific towns and their residents by advancing their towns at the expense of other towns in the same regions. As a result other towns in the same region end up lagging behind in terms of services and economic growth compared to these ‘regional capitals’. There are certainly many similar cases about government ministries and institutions being only available in the so-called capital towns across most of the regions if not all the regions. My suggestion is therefore very simple: centralise according to towns and not according to regions.
If for example N$20 million is earmarked for a single building which is planned to be built only in one town across the whole region, but this institution or ministry will be expected to serve each and every town in that whole region upon completion, then it’s better to split that money up. Rather then build an office of that ministry or institution in each town across that specific region, the office size and number of staff to be based on the specific town’s population and economic activity. That way we can truthfully speak of genuine meaningful decentralisation, indeed taking services closer to the people.