Windhoek-DTA Member of Parliament and shadow treasurer of the official opposition Nico Smit has laughed off warnings issued to permanent secretary of the Ministry of Finance, Ericah Shafudah, as too lenient.
Smit wants to know how much of a loss does an accounting officer need to incur to attract a severe and fitting punishment.
“If negligence and recklessness in the performance of their duties results in the government losing N$ 1.7 billion and this only leads to a temporary 12 month ‘final’ warning, then the question becomes, what level of negligence is required to have someone removed from their position?” he asked.
Shafudah is on a final warning after she was found to be negligent in the manner in which she presided over the tender for the construction of the national fuel storage facility at Walvis Bay. The cost of construction ballooned from an initial amount below a billion Namibian dollars to N$3.8 billion in 2014 and now stands at N$5.5 billion.
“Permanent secretaries in other ministries now know that they could negligently or corruptly lose over N$1 billion of taxpayers’ money and only get a slap on the wrist,” he said. “This is the precedent that has been set.”
He said given that the administration is a vocal proponent of accountability, transparency and good governance as the basis for service delivery and poverty eradication, it is confounding and completely unacceptable that even when presented with blatant evidence of poor governance, negligence – and perhaps even fraud – that the same administration sees it fit to dish out mere “slaps on the wrists”.
He said taxpayers must ask: How much is enough? Do billions negligently lost warrant a slap on the wrist?
In the warning letter to Shafudah, Secretary to Cabinet George Simataa said he concluded that her failure to attend meetings of the technical committee, of which she was an integral member, had “contributed to the development of a situation detrimental and prejudicial to government”.
He said although Shafudah had been correct in insisting that the project costs should be denominated in Namibia dollars, she was partly to blame for the cost overrun, estimated by senior government officials to be more than N$1.7 billion.
“Your failure to attend technical committee meetings has enabled others to create an impression that government had in fact assumed the risk of currency fluctuations,” he said. He further cautioned Shafudah “that similar conduct in the future may result in formal disciplinary action being taken against you”.
The warning is valid for 12 months, Simataa wrote.