Windhoek – The total personnel expenditure and benefits for Namibia’s 326 public office-bearers represent N$264.3 million, or 0.4 percent of the country’s N$62.6 billion national budget tabled last week.
Differently put, the public office-bearers’ wage bill represents a 0.9 percent chunk of the total public service wage budget for the new financial year, which is N$28.1 billion.
This was the presidency’s response to the storm created by incorrect media reports this week that politicians have hit the jackpot by having their earnings increased by six percent for the 2017/2018 financial year.
“The correct information is that there is no salary increase planned for 2017/18,” press secretary in the presidency Albertus Aochamub said yesterday.
In law, public office-bearers are cited as the president, founding president, former president, vice-president, first ladies, prime minister, deputy prime minister, ministers, deputy ministers, special advisors, members of the Public Service Commission, director-general of the National Central Intelligence Service, regional governors, members of regional councils,members of the National Assembly, members of the National Council, auditor-general and the attorney-general.
Aochamub said the six percent increase – which sent tongues wagging in the country especially after it was reported that it is for the current financial year – was approved two years earlier and came into effect on April 1, 2016 and was budgeted for.
Cabinet ministers’ wages for the year ahead stand at N$36.3 million or 0.13 percent of the total personnel expenditure in government.
The presidency, which includes the sitting president, vice-president, former and founding presidents and seven advisors, has a wage bill of N$13.6 million, representing 0.02 percent of the total national budget.
The total public service wage bill of N$28.1 billion represents 44.9 percent of the total national budget.
“Fair remuneration wages have to be benchmarked to the market because skills and talents are mobile and would be deployed where they are best rewarded. This is also applicable to both the public and private sectors,” said Aochamub, who also stated that many executives in parastatals and the private sector earned more than President Hage Geingob, whose remuneration package is reportedly N$1.7 million annually.
Information sourced from the Ministry of Public Enterprises shows that heads of several public enterprises earn more than Geingob.
They include heads of the Electricity Control Board (N$2.6 million annually), Motor Vehicle Accident Fund (N$2.4 million), Nampower (N$2.3 million), Telecom Namibia (N$1.8 million), New Era Publication Corporation (N$1.7 million), Namport and Environment Investment Fund (both at N$1.6 million), Nampost and University of Namibia (both at N$2.1 million), Development Bank of Namibia (N$2 million), and Namibia Student Financial Assistance Fund and Namibia University of Science and Technology (both at N$1.9 million).
Public enterprises minister Leon Jooste yesterday told New Era that producing salary figures of SOE bosses is to help put into context the remuneration of political office bearers.
“It does not necessarily imply that the SOE CEOs earn too much, especially when compared to private sector companies, but rather that the remuneration of political office bearers is marginal when one considers the associated responsibilities. The new remuneration guidelines will be submitted at the next deliberative Cabinet [meeting] and will clearly expose the lower remuneration levels of the SOE sector in comparison to the private sector,” he said.
In the private sector, the heads of First National Bank (FNB) Namibia and Bidvest Namibia are understood to earn N$3.5 million and N$3.1 million respectively, annually.
“The question should be asked whether it is fair remuneration for the President to be paid less than the heads of some state-owned enterprises based on complexity of decision-making,” Aochamub said.
Speaking to New Era yesterday, head of the Public Office-Bearers Commission (POBC) Oscar Muyatwa said all increments for political office-bearers are based on research conducted annually on variables such as inflation and consumer price indexes.
“Public officials are not immune to recession. Their purchasing power gets affected just like everyone else. They are part of society and are therefore not spared from the effects of economic challenges,” he said.
The fact that public office-bearers’ wages were gazetted last week Friday has led to questions of whether the bearers have, in fact, been receiving their increased wages without them being gazetted and whether this presented a legal scandal.
Muyatwa said the six percent increase was gazetted last year already. He explained that the gazetting last week was to confirm what, in real terms, the increment meant in terms of basic salaries and other perks for public office-bearers.
“The President has been transparent in this regard and had already gazetted the six percent increment last year. What he did last week was after the percent was broken down into columns, each indicated what from that portion goes to what variable,” he said.
New Era can confirm that during the 2012/2013 financial year, political office-bearers received 15 percent across-the-board upward adjustment on basic pay.
The same year, the bearers also received 15 percent across-the-board upward adjustment in housing allowance.
In the 2014/2015 financial year, bearers earning N$500 000 or above annually received a 6.5 percent increment on basic pay, while those earning below N$500 000 got a seven percent increase.
During the 2015/2016 financial year, officials received 15 percent increase in their water and electricity benefits. Salaries and other perks were not adjusted that year.
In the 2016/2017 financial year, which ends on March 31, 2017 public office-bearers received a six percent increase. No increase was approved for the financial year starting on April 1, 2017.