WINDHOEK- Despite the fact Namibia’s poverty levels being evident, the ministry tasked to alleviate poverty failed to fully utilise allocated funds of N$26 million meant to roll out food banks to other regions. The food bank has only been rolled out in Khomas Region thus far.
This follows a New Era article published on Friday regarding the Ministry of Poverty Eradication and Social Welfare having returned N$118 million to treasury.
Although the article quoted the key audit findings on under-expenditure as observed by the Auditor General Junias Kandjeke, the ministry has denied underspending the N$118 million stated in the financial report for the year ended 31 March 2017.
The report clearly states that when drawing draft estimates, accounting officers and their financial advisors shall take note of and guard against that more funds than can reasonably be spent shall not be requested.
It further stated that the total budget of the ministry was underspent with a total amount of N$118 million- which the ministry now disputes after the article was published on Friday.
Some members of the public expressed concern regarding the ministry that returned funds to treasury despite the many challenges the ministry faces.
On Monday, New Era send questions to the ministry’s Permanent Secretary Esther Lusepani to give an explanation as to why the ministry returned funds back to treasury as unused capital budget for the financial year ended last year March. She was also asked whether all the objectives of the ministry were met - seeing the magnitude of poverty in the country before returning funds to treasury.
Another issue asked was for which specific programmes were the funds earmarked and how much was returned to treasury and how much was spent out of the capital budgeted.
The ministry responded through a press statement yesterday disputing the N$118 million.
“The ministry would like to put it on record that the N$118 million that is alluded to have been returned to the treasurer is misleading and has led to statements from Namibians indicating that the ministry is perhaps not doing much with regards to the mandate,” Lusepani reacted.
She said the N$118 million that was in the accounts of the ministry by the end of 31 March 2018 for the year ended 2017/2018 included a N$ 78, 5 million which was committed by the Social Welfare Directorate towards payment of Social Grants (Old Age and Disability Grants) by the ministry.
She noted these funds committed towards the social grants won’t reflect that they have been spent due to the budgetary circle of government and the circle for the distribution of the social grants and days of payment and committed funds by end 31st March of the financial do not reflect by end of the financial year.
She said the remaining unutilised funds by the ministry amounted to N$43,8 million of which N$26 million was meant for the rollout of the food bank to the other regions and this was not completed by the end of the financial year.
She said by the end of the financial year, the ministry had only been operational in Khomas Region in terms of the food bank.
Additionally, she explained out of the N$43,8 million of the unutilised funds, an amount of N$17 million that was equally not spent was budgeted for expenditure such as the recruitment of new staff members and their remuneration of which could not materialise due to the freezing of the recruitment process in government ministries, offices and agencies.
“This amount was also linked to the establishment of new offices countrywide and procurement of materials for those new offices where the new staff members if appointed would have to operate from,” Lusepani said.
According to her, by the end of the financial year, the ministry had returned only N$43,8 million to treasury and not N$118 million.
“While the ministry recognises that returning of funds to treasury is not helping in the tremendous task of eradicating poverty, the ministry wishes to inform the public that some factors that led to the return of funds was beyond control of the ministry and that the ministry is still committed to the task of eradicating poverty and improving the lives of our people,” she remarked.
Equally, she stated that all expenditure of the ministry was done through treasury authorisation and all virementation were done in compliance with directives. She said the ministry has complied with treasury instructions at all times and is committed to spending public funds in the interest of the public and promoting a culture of transparency at all times.