By Frederick Philander WINDHOEK Due to gross negligence and degradation things are literally falling apart at the country’s most southern customs and excise offices at Ariamsvlei, which fall under the Ministry of Finance. This is the view of the head of a three-person in loco investigation by the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Accounts, Chief Samuel Ankama. The other two members of the delegation to Karasburg and Ariamsvlei were Elma Dienda of the Congress of Democrats and McHenry Venaani of the DTA. The one-day spot-assessment visit on Monday was a sequel to a public hearing last week in which the Ministry of Finance’s Permanent Secretary, Calle Schlettwein, defended the Customs and Excise Directorate before this particular committee. “Structurally the place is basically falling apart from roof ceilings to toilets and washbasins, creating a very bad first impression to any visitor coming across the border from South Africa to our country. The border post also has a chronic shortage of staff. On our arrival at Ariamsvlei, we found policemen busy cleaning toilet pots, instead of policing the post. Renovation is urgently needed on all fronts,” said Ankama yesterday during a New Era interview in his parliamentary office in the capital. According to Ankama, the devastating findings of the delegation will be tabled in the National Assembly during this current session. “What disturbed me most about the border post is the fact that due to the absence of a proper fence anyone can freely cross into Namibia without being detected from the south, especially at night. Furthermore, there are no forklifts to offload cargo for thorough inspection. Whenever the need arises for such offloading inspection, the nearby community has to be rounded up to assist the customs officials. This temporary community service delivery is then unfairly charged to cargo companies. This situation needs to be reassessed as a matter of urgency,” Ankama said. His delegation proposed that stricter measures of control need to be applied and that the existing format be upgraded for incoming and outgoing vehicles. “A sort of differentiated approach between cars and trucks should be implemented to speed up customs and excise procedures. Presently, it is too time consuming for motorists to wait for long periods of time before they can enter the country. This causes frustrations and unnecessary delays to visitors. One has to keep in mind the border post is the first face to visitors,” he said in a perturbed tone of voice. He and his delegation were pleasantly surprised by the dedication and commitment of the border staff. “Despite the shortages the present staff have to make do with what they have at their disposal to efficiently and properly serve the travelling public. Officials on the South African side of the border indicated their willingness to give a helping hand in collaboration with their Namibian counterparts with regard to off-loading cargo and other technicalities,” Ankama, who mentioned that his delegation had consultative talks with the South Africans, said. To him everything is too informal and lacklustre at the border post on the Namibia side. “There are no scanners, no sniffer-dogs that can search for drugs or explosives or any other substance that can easily be brought for ulterior motives into our country. However, the staff appear to be trustworthy and do their work with professionalism, despite lack of any real incentives to work under such conditions and proper training, a prerequisite for high quality service delivery. The current basic one-month training for officials is pathetic, to say the least,” he said.
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