THE government has spent over N$54 million in the past two years on travel allowances for the Office of the President, ministers and their deputies.
President Hage Geingob’s office accumulated the highest subsistence and travel allowance (S&T) bill of N$9,3 million.
This is followed by the office of the international relations minister Netumbo Nandi-Ndaitwah, which received N$5,9 million. Prime minister Saara Kuugongelwa-Amadhila’s office received N$3 million.
These travel allowances are only for the president’s office, ministers, their deputies, personal assistants and executive assistants for their travel and subsistence expenses.
The figures are contained in budget documents from the Ministry of Finance for the 2021/2022 and 2023/24 financial years.
Health minister Kalumbi Shangula’s office, as well as the urban and rural development ministerial office each claimed about N$1,9 million in S&T while the office of Obeth Kandjoze, at the National Planning Commission, got N$1,8 million in travel allowances.
Kandjoze has been a frequent traveller alongside Geingob, including globetrotting to promote Namibia’s green hydrogen agenda. He declined to comment yesterday, while Shangula did not respond at the time of going to print.
The other ministerial offices making up the top 10 S&T beneficiaries include: finance minister Iipumbu Shiimi (N$1,7 million), labour minister Uutoni Nujoma (N$1,3 million) industrialisation minister Lucia Iipumbu (N$1,2 million), as well as works and transport minister John Mutorwa (N$1,1 million) in the 2019/2020 financial year.
The office of the police inspector general spent N$1 million on S&T during the first year of the pandemic, while gender minister Doreen Sioka’s office spent N$816 000.
In the 2019/2020 financial year, the treasury spent N$31,9 million.
This amount dropped to N$22,5 million during the year Covid-19 hit Namibian shores.
Travel and subsistence expenses refer to payments for sanctioned tips, including travel tickets, subsistence allowance, accommodation (if not provided by the host) and other related costs.
Former fisheries minister Bernhard Esau testified last year that ministers exploit travel allowances for their own benefit.
“My lord, travelling is lucrative for ministers, that is where we make our money and that is why there is so much public interest,” he said.
The former minister said he had an annual budget of around N$1,5 million specifically for S&T allowances.
This, he explained, meant he got about N$10 000 daily in S&T allowances while on official duty abroad.
Last year, The Namibian reported that Geingob may have pocketed about N$3 million in travel allowances from the 19 foreign trips he undertook that year.
Geingob spent 74 days out of the country in 2022.
This payout is the highest he has made from travels since The Namibian began tracking his travelling when he became president seven years ago.
Political analyst, Rui Tyitende says there appears to be a hardened indifference by the political elite when it comes to the utilisation of public funds and other resources.
“The government must explain how those trips contribute towards making a dent in the lives of the 1,6 million Namibians living in poverty, young people who are consumed with hopelessness and women and children who are at the receiving end of sexual violence and assault,” he said.
He said there is no evidence in Namibia and elsewhere that shows that S&T is nothing but a second salary.
“Those expenses are mostly frivolous and it is a form of rent-seeking behaviour that should be discouraged,” Tyitende added.
He said going forward, government officials should ask what is the value of the envisaged trip.
“Greed and conspicuous consumption is the primary objective when it comes to S&T,” he said.
The international relations executive director, Penda Naanda, defended the N$5,9 million spent on S&T, saying these official visits have resulted in Namibia becoming the first African nation to export beef to China.
“Equally, Namibia started exporting beef and coal to the United States in February 2020, as well as the export of Namibian beef from the northern communal areas to West Africa,” he said.
Nandi-Ndaitwah’s office further said the N$5,9 million is for the 26 times she and her deputy minister travelled with her security detail, in addition to a special adviser, personal assistant and protocol officer.
These travels were for her position as the minister of international relations and deputy prime minister.
“[The minister and deputy] attended international conferences and meetings, such as the Southern African Development Community (SADC) ministerial meetings and summits, African Union ministerial meetings and summits and the United Nations General Assembly, to mention but a few,” Naanda said.
Documents show that Nandi-Ndaitwah is entitled to US$1 540 (N$26 800) per day while she is working in New York. In Washington, she qualifies for US$1 431 (N$24 900).
Similarly, the prime minister’s executive director, I-Ben Nashandi said the N$3 million was also spent on S&T costs for security and support staff to Kuugongelwa-Amadhila
Nashandi said the amount spent on S&T is justifiable because of the role of Kuugongelwa-Amadhila, as the administrator and coordinator of the government.
“During the same period, the prime minister participated in countrywide town hall meetings and engagements. Internationally, the prime minister attended the global summit of the women council held in Basel, Switzerland, where she addressed women leaders in business, government and civil society,” he said.
Furthermore, the prime minister also travelled to Maputo, Mozambique, to convey Namibia’s humanitarian assistance to that country.
“This was in response to the plight of the people of Mozambique following tropical Cyclone Idai and Cyclone Kenneth, which caused devastating damage, including the loss of many lives,” Nashandi added.
Acting gender executive director Martha Mbombo failed to explain the N$815 000 spent on S&T during the Covid-19 pandemic.
One of the trips undertaken by gender minister Doreen Sioka was to Nkurenkuru’s Siurungu and Mayara villages where she handed over 33 corrugated zinc shacks for members of a marginalised community in Kavango West region.
Meanwhile, the spokesperson of the Namibian Police, Kauna Shikwambi, defended the N$1 million expenditure, stating that the amount listed under the Office of the Inspector General was spent on the other directorates of the force.
“I would refute the statement that it was spent by the Office of the Inspector General alone,” she said.
Shikwambi said this amount was spent on over 500 employees of the Namibian Police.
“The expenditure was not solely from the main division of the office of the inspector general. [It was] inclusive of the other eight offices (directorates and divisions), with a staff complement of over 500, who given the nature of their policing responsibilities, required to travel,” Shikambi said.