TUN threatens to drag education ministry to court

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Obrein Simasiku

Omuthiya-The Teachers’ Union of Namibia (TUN) has threatened to drag the Ministry of Education, Arts and Culture to court if it fails to withdraw what it termed the unlawful letter issued to some teachers in Oshikoto Region demanding repayments for overpaid allowances.

The contentious overpayments were for remoteness allowances.
The Directorate of Education issued a letter to teachers last week informing them that amounts ranging from N$750 to N$1,750 would be deducted from their salaries for a period of 12 to 24 months effective from this month.
It stated the excess remoteness allowances were paid to teachers between April 1, 2015 and December 31, 2016, to the tune of N$21,000 hence the government has to recoup the money.

However, this did not settle well with teachers who requested an audience with, and a detailed explanation from, the ministry’s head, prompting TUN to enter the fray. “While TUN appreciates the fact that what is due to the state should be recovered, the adherence to the procedures outlined in the national laws should be of paramount importance at all times. It is clear common reality that your instruction is not in line with Section 11 (1) (b); (5) and (6) respectively of the State Finance Act of 1991 (Act No. 31 of 1991),” reads the letter issued by TUN on Monday to regional education director Lamek Kafidi and the ministry’s permanent secretary.

“Your failure not to follow these procedures, prejudices the rights of the affected staff members as outlined in Section 11 of the State Finance Act, hence our appeal to withdraw your unlawful instructing letters to the affected teachers forthwith. Note that failure to heed our demand herein within five working days from the date of the letter, we will approach the high court on an urgent basis to compel you to discontinue your unlawful conduct,” concluded the letter.

When contacted for comment yesterday Kafidi said he was in a meeting.
Meanwhile, last week he said they were just doing what is right because they are following what the law stipulates, while acknowledging the department erroneously paid the funds.

The affected teachers at Okashana Primary based their arguments on the letter seen by New Era, dated September, 3, 2012, from Kafidi which informed them about the implementation of the recruitment and retention of qualified teachers in remote areas.  

The letter stated that their allowance, as approved by the Office of the Prime Minister as per the recommendation of the Public Service Commission, has been changed from category three of N$750 (an amount they received since 2011) to category three of N$1,750 in 2012, which they received until January this year.

In the letter written to Kafidi by teachers last week they assert they did not receive any communication when the amount was reduced and they only received letters of demand.

They want the Office of the Prime Minister to intervene, although they made it categorically clear that they are not opposed to deductions, but they want a clear explanation as to what transpired and how they were overpaid.

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