Regional Council on Clean Up Mission

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By Hoandi !Gaeb Mariental The Hardap Regional Council has ordered a verification process to ascertain the validity of claims made for travel and accommodation by all its officials, including those of Chief Regional Officer James San-kwasa and Financial Director Charles Tjijenda. This step has been necessitated by growing concern among council members over alleged abuse of travel and accommodation allowances by some senior council officials. A copy of the document compiled by dissatisfied council officials implicating the chief regional officer and the finance director for alleged irregularities pertaining to travel and accommodation claims is in New Era’s possession. The document contains serious allegations of contraventions of government regulations with regard to claims, especially by Sankwasa and Tjijenda. It says Sankwasa gets whatever he wants, regardless of procedure. “He is the boss of administration, finance and personnel.” He is “everything” at the council. According to the document, employees in the finance division of the office are under constant pressure for Sankwasa’s weekly S&T payments. It is feared that Sankwasa may have exceeded budgetary provisions, it says. It terms of the current government regulations, both Sankwasa and Tjijenda are allegedly only entitled to accidental allowances for travelling to Windhoek on official trips. The document however states that Sankwasa and Tjijenda are instead claiming accommodation allowances for all trips to Windhoek while receiving government housing subsidy. The document further states that all travel and accommodation claims from Sankwasa are being channelled directly to the director of finance for approval, bypassing the Governor Katrina Hanse. It is further alleged that Sankwasa and Tjijenda undertook trips outside the country to attend workshops without approval by the governor. Procedurally, Sankwasa is supposed to get permission from Hanse, the political head of the region, to undertake such trips. The documents also states that Sankwasa’s housing subsidy was paid out to him by the Hardap regional council, while he was residing at a luxury bed and breakfast outlet for a period of almost four months. Sankwasa and Tjijenda also allegedly obtained government houses at Mariental literally “chasing out” junior government officials who were occupying them. The document also says Sankwasa afterwards arranged for a reduction of the monthly rate paid by junior staff, saying it is too high and amended it to the lower rate of rent for government houses. That action, the document states, is not in line with a government regulation which stipulates that staff members who are transferred at own request should pay economic rates. The report further alleges that the working relationship between the governor and her chief regional officer has deteriorated beyond repair. “The governor has been elected by the people of the Hardap region and should be supported in her challenging tasks. The question is however whether she would be able to deliver the goods with a hostile and “witch hunting” chief regional officer in charge of administration matters,” the document says. The governor confirmed that a working relationship between her office and that of the senior officer is virtually non-existent. “Yes, there is friction between myself and Sankwasa. There is no cooperation from his side,” she said. The governor said she reprimanded Sankwasa at various occasions not to go on trips outside Mariental, especially foreign trips without her consent, as she might need him as the accounting officer, for other business. “I am not against him attending seminars or workshops for government business, but we need to coordinate.” She said the deteriorating relationship between herself and Sankwasa was reported to the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Local Government, Housing and Rural Development, as well as the responsible minister and the Public Service Commission. The minister made interventions but to no avail, she claimed. Meanwhile, the Deputy Director of Administration Chris /Uirab confirmed that he has been tasked by the council to facilitate the process of verifying the validity of claims for travel and accommodation claimed by all officials. However, he said the process has now been delayed as the finance director requested him to hand over all documents for claims. “I am waiting for him to give the documents back to me so that I can complete the process within the required period.”

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