Windhoek – The Inspector General of the Namibian Police, Sebastian Ndeitunga, has confirmed a lack of adequate resources has forced the decision to abolish the provision of free transport to police officers, and that recruitment of new officers has been suspended for the next three years.
The police chief said only officers on night duty and those guarding VIPs would be transported at the force’s cost.
Ndeitunga was quick to point out that the provision of transport to and from work for police officers is not a condition of service and was merely permitted by police chiefs.
“It’s not a condition of service,” he emphasised to New Era yesterday. “We were assisting because of the nature of work they find themselves in and we take care of them because it’s difficult for them to buy houses or vehicles.”
He cited the escalating cost of providing free transport to officers, saying it costs the police millions of dollars in fuel bills and reduces the lifespan of vehicles as they have to drive from one end of the city to the other to pick up and drop off officers.
The purchase of new vehicles has also been placed on ice for the next three years, the inspector general further revealed.
He said if police officers were well paid the provision of free transport would not have arisen in the first place.
“We are paid lower than City Police and Anti-Corruption Commission investigators, yet we are a national police,” a seemingly frustrated Ndeitunga said.
Suspending recruitment in the force for the next three years was also a difficult decision and Ndeitunga foresees difficulties in future as the force loses members in huge numbers to retirement, resignation and death.
The decision to take away free transport has been greeted with mixed reactions, with some arguing it risked the personal safety of officers, especially those residing in areas infested with criminals.
Ndeitunga defended the decision, saying the police have an avalanche of mandatory responsibilities that, if necessary cost-saving measures were not put in place, would be severely affected.
“It’s not an arbitrary decision, it’s a decision taken within the framework of available resources,” said Ndeitunga while referring to the financial crunch the country faces due to the global economic slowdown.
Government’s financial position is severely affected by the current global economic climate that has also affected neighbouring South Africa, Namibia’s main trading partner.
Although international rating agencies Fitch and Moody’s have confirmed in their last ratings that Namibia remains creditworthy, they have downgraded the country’s economic outlook from stable to negative.
Moody’s expects the situation to persist in 2017, but government is hoping for considerable recovery because of commodity prices that are expected to pick up significantly this year.
One of the country’s largest uranium mines, Husab, is expected to start exporting the mineral this year and government hopes this will help boost its financial position.
Explaining who in the force qualifies to be transported, Ndeitunga said: “We will provide transport for those doing risky duties such as protecting VIP houses and VIPs in general because houses are in remote areas and are scattered.”
“The lack of finance has affected the fuel. Cars are ever on the road and in the garage for servicing and repairs and this is the money we are talking about,” he added.
He stated that should the situation improve they would continue to help those officers in need of transport but it depends on circumstances.
“We need to save the little we have. The force is affected in the sense of when you talk of mobility. We will not purchase vehicles in the next three years.”
“We fully understand the predicament of the country, that’s why we are cutting where we can cut without cutting service provision to the society,” stated the police chief.