• September 24th, 2020

Can't Explain Where President's Money Went

By Mbatjiua Ngavirue WINDHOEK State House officials are still red-faced over an incident almost two years ago when a special assistant to the President allegedly misappropriated N$502 430,97 in subsistence and travel allowances. The advance the special assistant was unable to account for was N$79 390,77 for himself, while the balance of N$423 040,20 was to cover the S&T and entertainment allowance of former president Dr Sam Nujoma during an overseas trip. On returning from the journey, the special assistant failed to produce receipts for the money, or return the cash if unspent. When confronted, he signed a document acknowledging that he owed the government N$502 430, but then apparently immediately resigned from government service. It has however been reliably learnt that the official in question did not so much resign as receive a swift kick out of the door. The debt - which to this day remains unpaid - was raised yesterday during the Standing Committee on Public Accounts hearings into the Auditor-General's report on the Office of the President for 2004/2005. Chairperson of the committee Johann De Waal was careful to explain that no one was attaching any blame to Dr Nujoma. When a Namibian president travels the government issues an S&T allowance in his name, but the president personally never handles the money. The money is released to a special assistant, who is then responsible for taking care of all the president's incidental expenses. "When the president travels, you can't expect him to stand in queues to pay hotel bills so the money is given to a special assistant," Secretary to the President Dr Ndeutala Angolo said. When the special assistant resigned, he agreed in writing that the government could claim the debt from his pension at the GIPF. He had however failed to fill in tax returns for several years. Now the Receiver of Revenue has first claim on his pension before the State can attach whatever remains for settling the debt. Financial Advisor to State House Clarina Barker informed the committee that State House has handed the matter over to the Government Attorney to investigate whether the State can attach the personal assets of the former employee. De Waal was distressed that former President Dr Nujoma, former First Lady Kovambo Nujoma, President Pohamba and First Lady Penehupifo Pohamba's names should appear on an S&T list. "Neither the President, nor the First Lady, ever receive cash. Please you must do something to protect their names," he pleaded with Angolo. Committee member McHenry Venaani suggested there must be a better way to handle presidential expenses to avoid having presidents' names mentioned in such matters. "Can credit cards not be used? The officials who handle the president's S&T must be the most trusted officials, then such embarrassments could be avoided," he suggested. Angolo explained that State House has tried "everything". They tried credit cards but they were also misused, adding that honesty depended on the character of the particular individual. In addition, service providers particularly when travelling in other countries did not always accept credit cards. De Waal was still not satisfied, saying he did not want to see President Pohamba's name on an S&T list, suggesting that the S&T should rather be in the name of the permanent secretary. This prompted a smile from Angolo, who tried to explain that current law states that the government must issue money in the name of the person for whose use it is intended. Committee member Elia Kaiyamo suggested that perhaps there was a need to amend the relevant law to avoid similar problems in the future. "When the 2006 report comes I don't want to see the two presidents, or the first ladies' names on any S&T list. It is an embarrassment, and the whole S&T situation is an embarrassment. We can't continue like this," a frustrated De Waal said. State House exceeded its budget by N$3.6 million in 2004/5, attributed to the need to specially hire aircraft towards the end of the year and to the allocation of insufficient contingency funds. State house reported 72 cases of outstanding S&T advances totalling N$1 115 196,30 on March 31, 2005. This represented an increase from 62 cases amounting to N$963 374,06 on March 31, 2005.
New Era Reporter
2007-02-16 00:00:00 | 13 years ago

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