The Ministry of Education, Arts and Culture has banned its personnel from undertaking foreign trips because of a N$458 million shortfall in its remuneration budget. The ban on foreign trips is “in light of the current shortfalls under the remuneration budget, which stands at N$458 287 938 and if not remedied will result in the non-payment of salaries for the month of March 2016,” permanent secretary Sanet Steenkamp wrote in a circular to staff on February 17.
Steenkamp says the banning of non-approved international trips is aimed at saving money that would be used to defray the anticipated shortfalls.
The circular has left many staff members at the ministry in a panic, as they fear that they will not get their salaries at the end of the month.
However, Steenkamp said the circular should not be misinterpreted that the ministry is unable to pay the salaries of staff members.
“The ministry is financially stable to carry the cost of all personnel expenditure and related costs. We herewith categorically state that while strong internal, control and preventive measures are in place to curb any wasteful expenditure and unproductive spending, we remain, as a ministry, committed to channel our resources to critical, priority spending,” Steenkamp said.
In April last year President Hage Geingob imposed a ban on foreign trips for top government officials including ministers for them to focus on solving national issues.
“Continuing with the theme of prioritising public interest, I would like to announce that no outbound travel requests by ministers will be approved for the time being,” Geingob had said.
Then he had said that only the deputy prime minister Netumbo Nandi-Ndaitwah, who is also the minister of international relations, would be allowed to travel outside the country.
“Ministers should first travel internally to the regions and familiarise themselves with the needs of our most impoverished citizens,” Geingob said.
The president, who is responsible for approving foreign trips for ministers, at the time said he had already turned down applications from ministers who wanted to travel, a few days after their being appointed.