The Association for Local Authorities in Namibia said it will engage the line ministry to reconsider the 50% increment for allowances they proposed during the 2020/2021 financial year.
The new president of ALAN, Samuel !Oe-Amseb, said in an interview with New Era last week that they want a transparent and equitable remuneration structure and benefits for local authority councillors that will be commensurate with that of other political office-bearers.
“Our position has always been that serving as a local authority councillor is a public service. Over the years, this service has not been adequately recognised or valued, and it is evident in the fact that the remuneration and benefits of local authority councillors are subjected to the discretion of the Minister of Urban and Rural Development,” he stated.
He added that the matter should be dealt with by the Public Office-Bearers Remuneration Commission.
“The fact that the minister has turned down the requested increase after we were brought under the impression that we had consensus with the ministry that this was a done deal, did not do us any favour in terms of the esteem that our members have for the association.
Moreover, in the context of urbanisation and the demands for strategic leadership and oversight functions of a local authority council, the demands on the time inputs of local authority councillors are changing rapidly. At the moment, local authority councillors even have to take their vacation leave to attend to matters of public interest. This is an unsustainable situation,” he emphasised.
!Oe-Amseb said all elected leaders in the country, including councillors, should be treated fairly when it comes to benefits and remuneration.
“All we are saying is that whether you are a parliamentarian, a regional councillor or a local authority councillor, we are all elected public office-bearers. It does not make sense to treat local authority councillors as if they are the stepchildren of the public governance system in Namibia. Thus, we must all be treated equally, and all the benefits that apply to the parliamentarians and regional councillors must apply to local authority councillors. This is a principled position, not a fight about benefits,” he stressed.
Last year, Urban and Rural Development Minister Erastus Uutoni rejected a proposal by then ALAN president Katrina Shimbulu, saying it would not be entertained.
Meanwhile, Uutoni said last week after a follow-up enquiry was made about the proposal that the country’s economy, having been severely affected by the Covid-19 pandemic, is still recovering. On another score, the ALAN president said they are planning to engage the line ministry to redirect the 5% tax levy payable to regional councils into a central fund for developmental purposes in local authorities.
“As an association, our survival is also dependent on the financial strength of the local authorities, as mere subscription fees are the core component of our budget,” !Oe-Amseb said.
He indicated that local authorities depend on rates and taxes, but with the top-down enforcement of the Regional Electricity Distributors (REDs), a key revenue source for local authorities has been taken away and has not been replaced with any meaningful subsidy.
“At the same time, we have seen that over the last few years, fiscal appropriations to local governments from the national appropriation have consistently been reduced significantly.
This is making it impossible for local authorities to make adequate investments to replace dilapidated and ageing infrastructure, invest in infrastructure development and invest in social development, or regenerating economic development. ALAN is also exploring project funding opportunities through project proposals, grant applications, international sponsorships and donor funding and to approach investors,” he said. He further indicated that the association has established the ALAN Development Fund with the hope that the ministry of fisheries would support the fund by allocating fish quotas to ALAN to be able to assist local authorities’ developmental agenda.
“We will also lobby for private partners to support the fund, and engage the various oversight institutions and agencies responsible for implementing levies and fees for the equitable sharing of funds raised through levies, fees and fines,” he indicated.