Payback Time for Relief Workers

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By Chrispin Inambao WINDHOEK Several people charged with distributing drought and flood relief food to needy communities in the Caprivi Region are silently repaying excess overtime payments amidst allegations that the annual emergency exercise is beset by greed and nepotism. Internal documents made available to New Era indicate over-payments for overtime submitted collectively by dozens of officials in 2003/2004 which exceeds N$111 000 despite allegations of inefficiency and general ineptitude in the system. During 2003/2004, one of the officials was overpaid by N$12 910 because he pocketed N$54 587 instead of N$41 600. Another bureaucrat from the Education Ministry who received N$198 000 instead of N$163 825 was overpaid by N$33 274. An official from the Kunene Region was overpaid by an amount of N$9 848,86 and in between there were those expected to pay back amounts of as little as N$49,44 to a few hundred dollars, according to the information gleaned from the internal document. And despite the food debacle that precipitated high-profile suspensions of the Regional Governor Bernard Sibalatani and Raymond Matiti the Chief Regional Officer, a Swapo politician said last year one official pocketed around N$300 000 through normal (daytime) and overtime claims apparently accrued by working at night when the pay rate is double. Several other officials received amounts exceeding a hundred dollars each in overtime. Sources said some of the “overtime” claims are suspect because some people in their submissions claimed that they worked on a 24-hour basis. “Are they saying they were working even after midnight? And if so were villagers receiving food aid throughout the day and night,” asked an official closely monitoring the overpayments but who requested anonymity lest there be victimisation. Sources say nepotism in the manner in which some of the officials are appointed year in, year out, without appraising their performance is directly to blame for the non-delivery of the 230 tonnes of food that was meant for flood and drought victims. Those paying back the excess amounts are from various line ministries though the majority were seconded to the exercise by the Oshana Regional Council, Kunene Regional Council, Kavango Regional Council, Caprivi Regional Council and from the Ministry of Regional, Local Government and Housing, sources revealed. Those involved in the selection process for people who are supposed to distribute food whenever the need arises stand accused of selecting their relatives or in some cases themselves, to enrich their relatives or themselves from generous overtime payments. Usually, the regional council through the Regional Emergency Management Unit (REMU) submits a request to the heads of various Government ministries to second staff who do not have a heavy workload to the food distribution exercise. Robert Mapenzi the Director responsible for General Services at the Caprivi Regional Council said: “I have no authority to disseminate that information. The only person authorised is the Chief Regional Officer (Raymond Matiti) and the Regional Governor.” But Matiti is presently on suspension for his role in the yet to be resolved food saga while Mwilima, the acting Governor could not be reached for comment.