Inside Namibia’s most severe budget cuts yet

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Desie Heita
Windhoek

The Namibian police are hinting that they may have no choice but to park a significant number of the service vehicles across the country, after its budget for fuel alone was slashed by 82 percent.

The Electoral Commission of Namibia says its entire allocation this year is only equal to what one of its department previously received, and they may not be able to carry out any by-elections, or any other party elections in a year that is poised for the ruling Swapo Party congress and elections.

All these are the result of severe cuts in budget allocations to ministries and state agencies, the steepest ever by the Namibian Treasury since 1990. Finance minister Calle Schlettwein, has repeatedly pointed out that the budgets cuts are aimed at ensuring sustainability. “Sustainable development means development without depleting ones resources. This concept crucial, for it ensures the future for our children,” Schlettwein had previously said

He has also pointed at the rating agency, Fitch, for upgrading Namibia national rating, the last one in respect of South Africa, to AAA, as “an indication that our fiscal stance and consolidation is paying off.”

Nevertheless, the budget cuts implications are seemingly very serious and for the past three weeks a number of senior politicians and public office bearers have been intimating that the nation should not be surprised if it were to wake up to a country without a number of usual services.

The basic education ministry says it only received enough money to pay salaries, with very little of its funds going to the maintenance or construction of new schools at a time when pictures of dilapidated schools dominate news pages.

The transport ministry, already being chased by creditors, is also finding itself in a bind, as it was only given enough to pay off a portion of what it owes its contractors for work done in 2016. And the list goes on…

President Hage Geingob acknowledged this situation in his State of the Nation Address on Wednesday and noted that because of the unexpected global headwinds that affected the country’s fiscal position in 2016, Namibia had to “effect the deepest cuts to the budget since Independence”.

This was “to ensure fiscal sustainability and put the economy on a sustainable long-term growth trajectory. Today, the fiscal position has stabilised. We expect modest growth for 2017, while the longer-term growth outlook has improved considerably,” Geingob said.

According to Police Inspector Lieutenant-General Sebastian Ndeitunga, the Namibian police received only N$20 million for fuel, while in the past the allocation was N$110 million per year.

“This means that, if we are not able to improvise, the Namibian police vehicles may be parked soon,” Ndeitunga said when commissioning newly promoted officers in Windhoek this week.

Part of the measures to cope with the reduced allocation for fuel is for police officers to coordinate investigations that cross regional boundaries, so there are no vehicles unnecessarily ferrying investigating officers across regional borders.

Further, Ndeitunga, who is also Interpol’s vice president for Africa, called for “control of the movement of all police vehicles, meaning the movement of all police vehicles allocated to administrative duties must only be realised during the official working hours”.

Police budget cuts also extend to the welfare of police officers across the country, many of whom have for long mourned the lack of accommodation in the regions they are stationed… and the situation is not about to improve.

“This has made it difficult for us to continue with the pace at which we have been trying to address the housing and office accommodation for the members to acquire goods and services for the Namibian police force and take policing services to where they are most needed,” Ndeitunga said.

“Presently, many capital projects, whose documentation has been completed, cannot be implemented,” he said. These include the construction of police regional headquarters in Kavango West, Khomas and Kunene regions and new police stations across the country at places, such as Babylon in Windhoek, Epako in Gobabis, Noordoewer, Ongha, Nkurenkuru, Greenwell Matongo in Katima Mulilo and Kuisebmund in Walvis Bay.

The Ministry of Transport says it has outstanding invoices amounting to N$121 million, N$68,2 million of which is for work done on the railway infrastructure and nearly N$53 million for transport infrastructure work. The transport ministry owed N$703 million for the previous year, but the finance ministry only allocated N$582 million for the payment.

“We are grateful for the assistance we received from the Finance Ministry in making budgetary provision to settle the outstanding invoices during 2017/18. However, this still leaves a shortfall of N$121 million,” said Works and Transport Minister Alpheus !Naruseb, whose ministry was allocated more than N$3,7 billion for the current year.

The Environment Ministry, which has been allocated an amount of N$490 million for the 2017/2018 financial year, but of which only N$43,2 million was set aside for developmental purposes, also said its crucial departments are under-funded.
A lion’s share of the budget allocation, or N$447,364 million, has been allocated for its operational budget.

“The budget at the Department of Environmental Affairs is wholly inadequate for such a large mandate and scope of work,” said the tourism ministry in its budget motivation in the Medium Term Expenditure Framework for the next three financial years.

“With inadequate funding it is becoming difficult and impossible to implement biodiversity and climate change, land degradation strategies and action plans,” said the ministry.

The Tourism Ministry also complains of high staff turnover due to poor remuneration, resulting in human resources capacity constraints and in consequence, the department was not able to retain skilled and experienced staff.

“A number of externally-funded projects are set to come to an end in late 2016. Unless adequate financial resources are provided the mainstreaming of key activities into the department will be difficult,” the ministry noted in its submission.

It further pointed out that there was an increase in incidents of poaching, because of the limited budget allocation for fencing, and that the inadequate funding is hindering the completion of houses for staff members. The houses were left incomplete when the Millennium Challenge Account for Namibia closed its programme for Namibia, leaving the financial obligations in the hands of the ministry.

The Electoral Commission of Namibia is also not entirely satisfied with its budget allocation, which was cut from N$106 million to N$66 million in the current financial year.

“That means the total budget has been cut with N$40 million. At the same time the entire capital project budget was cut to zero for the next three-year MTEF period,” Speaker Peter Katjavivi told parliament this week.

From the N$66 million an amount of N$44.6 million has been put aside for the personnel expenditure, for both permanent and temporary staff.

“However, the non-personnel expenditures have been reduced to N$22 million. Usually, such an amount of N$22 million under normal circumstances is merely for one division in the ECN and not for the whole agency.

“It means that the N$22 million shall be distributed amongst all divisions of the ECN. Put differently, the entire operations of the ECN will be greatly challenged during the 2017/18 financial year due to the drastic budget cuts,” Katjavivi said.

During his State of the Nation Address President Geingob reminded that the government used the economic downturn as an opportunity to re-prioritise and realign spending to national developmental priorities.

“Most budget cuts have been effected in non-priority votes, such as daily subsistence allowances and overtime, which have been cut by more than 50 percent compared to previous outlays,” he observed.

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Caption (Pic: Shifeta.jpg):

“With inadequate funding it is becoming difficult and impossible to implement biodiversity and climate change, land degradation strategies and action plans.” Environment Minister Shifeta

Caption (pic: Police Regions.jpg):
Photos: Nampa & File

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Caption (Picture: Katjavivi.jpg):

“Usually, N$22 million under normal circumstances is merely for one division in the ECN and not for the whole agency. It means that the N$22 million shall be distributed amongst all divisions of the ECN. Put differently, the entire operations of the ECN will be greatly challenged during the 2017/18 financial year due to the drastic budget cuts.” Speaker Peter Katjavivi.

Caption (Pic: Ndeitunga.jpg):

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