GOVERNMENT bodies have about N$1,6 billion stashed away from official auditing eyes in accounts at commercial banks.
"It is a huge problem," Deputy Finance Minister Calle Schlettwein told The Namibian on Wednesday.
This is tax payers' money which lies in private accounts and escapes Government's accounting procedures. The Ministry struggles to access these accounts as the account holders enjoy client confidentiality at the banks, he said.
Schlettwein told The Namibian that at the end of last March, Government offices, agencies and ministries had just over N$1,6 billion in commercial bank accounts.
By end of March 2012, there were 232 of these accounts, Schlettwein told Parliament in his motivational budget speech on Tuesday.
These funds are "sometimes unutilised for multiple financial years" and are a cost to the State, he said. "The State must borrow to fund the budget, when some of these funds are 'parked' in such accounts," Schlettwein said.
Government will have to pay about N$2,1 billion in interest this year on its debt of N$28,3 billion.
Schlettwein said while some of these accounts are legitimate, like those of Namibian missions in foreign countries, "there is a big fear that many are misused".
"Some ministries place the money they haven't spent in a particular financial year into these accounts and use it as a de facto roll-over," he said.
Schlettwein said the practice of private accounts itself is problematic. "It is public money in private accounts," he said. The use of public money should be "totally transparent", he said.
Schlettwein said the Ministry of Finance will look at these accounts "one by one", give guidelines to the ministries and get the Auditor General to monitor private accounts. An internal audit is also a possibility, he said.
Schlettwein told Parliament that the Ministry is "considering reducing funds in private accounts to a minimum".