Palestina Pombili Indileni Shilongo-Nghiitete, the firstborn in her family, was born and raised at Endola village in the Ohangwena region. Besides, she is a devoted wife and a mother of three beautiful daughters. Professionally, Shilongo-Nghiitete is in the league of the most experienced public service accountants in Namibia. She is the chief accountant in the Ministry of Labour, Industrial Relations and Employment Creation in Windhoek.
Shilongo-Nghiitete has about 20 years of working experience in government. She joined the public service in 2000 as an assistant accountant in the salary office at the Ministry of Defence. From the defence ministry, she was transferred and promoted to the Receiver of Revenue’s Oshakati office as a VAT tax auditor.
In 2006, she moved to the Ministry of Health and Social Services as control officer for the Ohangwena regional management team. However, the desire to be an accountant has always been strong. This dream was realised in 2008 when she took up the senior accountant post under the Budget Management and Control division at the Ministry of Defence.
Shilongo-Nghiitete said it was at the defence ministry “where the foundation of my career as an accountant was firmly laid.” And she has her former supervisors and mentors at the defence ministry to thank, which include Dr Wilhelmine Iyaloo Shivute, the executive director of the defence ministry.
Others are former director of finance and administration, retired Brigadier-General Rauna Hamata; her predecessor Marlyin Maurihungirire and Selma Haos, the acting deputy director of finance and administration.
She joined the labour ministry in May 2018. Talking about her responsibilities, she said “As chief accountant of the ministry, I am responsible for the overall supervision of the Subdivision: Financial Management, which includes sections such as salaries, daily subsistence allowances, accounts payable (creditors), revenue, reconciliation and budgeting. I also act as the ministry’s financial advisor when my deputy director is out of office.”
She added that her extensive experience in public service accounting “made it easy for me to supervise the subdivision with confidence, and I am proud of my team that we did not fail our ministry.
“I previously worked for the Ministry of Defence, which has a much bigger budget allocation than my current ministry. I thus found it easier to work and manage our small budget.”
But this is not to say the job is not without any challenges. “The most challenging part is that many people are not familiar with the State Finance Act and Treasury guidelines, hence they make it difficult for us accountants to do our work properly. In some instances, you may be advising a certain directorate or division on how to go about a certain transaction. But the same person will decide to ignore your advice and force you to do what they want, even if it is against the law.”
On a positive note, Shilongo-Nghiitete said she is proud to be working with a supportive and dedicated team. “The finance sub-division in any ministry or organisation is supposed to be the backbone of the administration in that particular entity, and this requires a committed team. I have a great team that is very supportive, hardworking and understanding,” she added.
Her accounting expertise was cemented by various qualifications in commerce and business administration. She completed Grade 12 in 1996 at Mweshipandeka Secondary School, and proceeded to the Polytechnic of Namibia (now Namibia University of Science and Technology) to do a national diploma in commerce.
In 2012, she graduated with a bachelor of technology degree in business administration from the University of South Africa. “In all of my qualifications, I have majored in accounting. Currently, I am busy with my honours in business management with the University of South Africa,” she said.
The main objective of public service is to provide essential services to the public. And this fits in well with Shilongo-Nghiitete’s caring nature. “By nature, I am a person who likes to serve the people around me. So, to be a public servant, it satisfies me that I am serving my country. It is true that the government pay structure is far less than that of the private sector, but I am satisfied with what the government pays us because we are servants,” she noted.
Meanwhile, Shilongo-Nghiitete does not take kindly to the general misconception that professionals in the public sector are unproductive and inefficient. “I do not agree, because at the end of the financial year, government ministries are required to provide accountability reports of their appropriations. And in these important public documents, one has to factually account for whatever transpired in that period.
“Yes, there might be two to five people who are not productive, but it is not justifiable to generalise. We are public servants, and we are there to serve people,” she stated in defence of civil servants in general. “I will remain a public servant until I retire if the Almighty permits,” she declared.
She has her wish list, though. “I want in the near future to lead a directorate in public service, and want to further my studies up to doctorate level. Individually, and being a part-time farmer, I’m planning to advance my farming to promote regional and national nutrition and food security.
“It is high time that young Namibians take over agriculture and do away with our dependency on importing everything. Let’s aim at producing our own food locally.”