19 December 2012

Namibia: Salary Adjustment for Public Office Holders

Windhoek — Recommendations have been made for a 31 percent adjustment to the salaries and benefits of parliamentarians, the members of the National Council, regional councillors, and chiefs of the uniformed services and others.

The proposed 31 percent adjustment is supposed to be a one-off payment, but it does include a 5.5 percent salary increase.

The Public Office-Bearers Remuneration and Benefits Commission that made the recommendations says the adjustments for the 239 public office-bearers would cost government about N$45 million.

President Hifikepunye Pohamba has to decide on whether or not government should implement the recommendations from the commission.

Chairperson of the commission, Judge President Petrus Damaseb and deputy chairperson Monica Kalondo announced the recommendations at a press briefing yesterday in Windhoek.

The recommendations come hot on the heels of an 8 percent salary increase for public servants following protracted negotiations and wildcat strikes across the country.

The civil servants' salary increase set back the Treasury by N$1.4 billion. Public service employees are still in the dark over when they will receive their backdated salary increments. Yesterday Damaseb and Kalondo were at pains to point out that "the public service comparison is not reasonable."

"Further delays [in adjusting salaries of public office-bearers] will exacerbate the situation and income leakage will get worse, as the delay only postpones the problem. At some stage we will have to face up to reality and increases will then be even more astronomical," the commissioners said in defence of the recommendation.

The current levels of remuneration, the commission says "are hopelessly inadequate." The commission maintains that because of the erosion effect of inflation on salaries of public office-bearers over the years, the new remuneration should be seen as a salary adjustment and not a salary increase.

In addition, it also argues that the Wages and Salary Commission (Wascom) catered for civil servants, but public office-bearers "were neglected for the past 22 years, resulting in serious leakages in income, the impact of which was merely lessened by ad hoc inflationary increases".

"The commission believes this is a reasonable measure of remuneration for public office-bearers in light of their duties and responsibilities and the prevailing cost of living ... The commission's view is that the economic and social conditions prevailing in the country are important criteria for measuring the level of remuneration payable to public office-bearers.

"The recommendations take those factors into account and the commission is satisfied that they do not justify paying public office holders' remuneration that do not address their reasonable needs. The least the public expects in return is that public office holders are accountable and perform their responsibilities with diligence to promote overall public welfare," the commission said in its report.

The commission also recommended that remuneration for the Secretary to Cabinet, Attorney General, Auditor General, Director General of the National Planning Commission, and the Chiefs of Uniformed Services, should be based on the need to attract specialised skills and expertise.

The review for this position adopted a more private sector focused philosophy, because they are regarded as professionals.

The current annual total gross compensation of public office-bearers ranges between N$458 205 and N$1 062 million, with the highest being that of the position of the Prime Minister, with members of regional councils sitting at the bottom of the pile.

The proposal is to increase the range to between N$489 589 and N$1 473 million. The benefits to public office-bearers include allowances for housing, water and electricity, furniture, transport and many other non-cash benefits.

The commission said it undertook a study to examine the extent to which the remuneration of public office-bearers had failed to keep up with inflation and found that public office-bearers were significantly worse off than their peers at independence.

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