Windhoek-Some staff members of the Ministry of Environment and Tourism have expressed dismay over claims that a few individuals in the ministry travel solely to benefit from subsistence and travel allowance (S&T) payments.
Some staff members at head office complained that the ministry is currently running a cleanup campaign in Omuthiya, but they were told there is a “zero budget”, while a few people continue to travel widely, both locally and internationally.
Further, they allege there is a group that has now been named the “S&T group or the favoured group”, that apparently pockets substantial S&T for each trip.
“We are told we can’t go, only people from the regions can go. But since the beginning of this year we see certain people travelling, but we are not travelling. We want to work, but we are told there is no money while other people are moving up and down.
“Now where are they getting the resources? We want to work but we are not given the opportunities. I don’t know, maybe they don’t want us to be seen that we are here,” moaned a staffer in the environmental affairs department.
In response, Environmental Commissioner Theofilus Nghitila cautioned staff not to cry foul over travelling when their line of duty does not require them to. He said the ministry has a bilateral agreements sub-division that largely deals with conventions at international level.
“As we speak, one of our deputy directors, Peter Muteuli, has been in Bonn for the past three weeks. These are the ‘travelling team’ perhaps referred to. This is their work. If your job description is to implement a convention on climate change and engage with international stakeholders, this travel is obviously unavoidable and most of these travels are fully paid for,” he remarked.
He told staff if they were office-bound, then their chances of travelling is limited, because it’s not part of their job description. According to Nghitila, staff members who travel – especially overseas – bring about a lot of positive projects that are being implemented in the ministry.
He said his office is open for every staff member who might have a grievance, but they should follow the established channels. Everyone is entitled to express their views without fear and favour, he said.
Regarding to the Omuthiya cleanup campaign, Nghitila stated that people expressed interest to join the campaign, but the budget is limited. He urged staff members to be innovative and to do away with the “typical civil servant attitude”.
Staff members also complained the ministry did not pay them their overtime since last year. In this regard, the deputy permanent secretary for administration, planning and tourism Seimy Shidute said as management, they were very much aware of the financial situation facing staff, because of the nature of their work.
During the current financial year, she revealed, the Ministry of Environment and Tourism received an additional allocation of N$30 million from Treasury to pay the outstanding overtime and S&T. Therefore, as the financial year has just began, she urged staff to be patient as their dues will be coming their way soon.
Workers also wanted to know why the ministry is always contracting companies for maintenance, such as fixing national park fencing, while the staff can do the same job. They want to be equipped, so the ministry can only buy the fencing materials, instead of contracting outsiders to do the work.
They argue that if the fences of the national parks – especially around Etosha – were in good shape then predators, such as lions that are currently terrorising farmers, could not escape.
“I always travel to the north every second week, but the fence of Namutoni to Omuthiya of our national park does not look proper. We need to start constructing some of these key areas to avoid human wildlife conflicts.
“I once came across two traffic officials with a speed trap camera. And just 500 m away, there were two lions. I had to drive back and inform them that it’s back. They either move back or report these lions to the Namutoni offices,’ an employee narrated.
Deputy permanent secretary for natural resource management Rovisa Mupetami said the ministry often sources people from outside when they have multiple captures.
“It’s true we need to capacitate people. Capacity building is brilliant should we need them for game capture and translocation of animals. There has been good cooperation over the years. I think when we were translocating animals to Cuba, you couldn’t even tell whether it was a park staff member or was it an outsider,” she noted.