15 January 2013

Namibia: Officials Uncomfortable With Being Defined As Political Office Bearers

TWO high-ranking officials have added their voices to that of the cabinet secretary, saying they are not comfortable with being classified as non-public office bearers by the Public Office Bearers Remuneration and Benefits Commission (POBC).

The Namibian reported last month that Cabinet Secretary Frans Kapofi had the best of both worlds - being a public servant and also being regarded as a political office bearer. But he shot down allegations that he can benefit as a public servant or as a political office bearer, whichever suits him better.

It turns out that it is not only Kapofi who fits both descriptions.

The inspector general of the Namibian Police, Lieutenant General Sebastian Ndeitunga, and Auditor General Junias Kandjeke both said that they are political office bearers.

Beside Kandjeke and Ndeitunga, other high-ranking officials on the list are the director general of the National Planning Commission, Tom Alweendo, Attorney General Albert Kawana, and the chief of the Namibian Defence Force (NDF), Lieutenant General Epaphras Denga Ndaitwah.

The seven are appointed by the President.

The POBC suggested at the end of last year that the these positions be declared professional, because the government is unable to attract the necessary skills.

The commission is looking at the remuneration packages of political office bearers and is not supposed to make recommendations for civil servants.

Ndeitunga told The Namibian on Friday that there is confusion over where exactly he belongs, but that he regards himself as a public servant.

According to him, if he is categorised as a political office bearer he will lose the link with the force he heads.

Ndeitunga was optimistic that the appointing authorities are looking at how to define their positions.

Auditor General Kandjeke also said he is not a political officer bearer but a "State auditor".

He said to be a political office bearer, you have to align yourself politically, and that's not the case with him, adding that political affiliation would compromise his impartiality.

The POBC suggested a hefty increase for Attorney General Albert Kawana, whose annual package is recommended to increase from N$790 575 to slightly more than N$1,4 million. NPC Director General Alweendo's annual salary would increase from N$817 937 to about N$1,4 million.

Defence chief Lieutenant General Ndaitwah, Nampol chief Lieutenant General Ndeitunga and prisons Commissioner Evaristus Shikongo would all earn N$827 887 per year more if the POBC recommendations are approved by President Hifikepunye Pohamba, bringing their annual gross packages to nearly N$1,22 million.

Meanwhile, there has been mixed reactions to the possible increases for political office bearers.

A high-ranking official told The Namibian recently that they were underpaid.

"Some of us are responsible for important positions but we are paid less, even less than an undersecretary, parastatal CEO and so on. We are awake at night while they are sleeping," said the politician.

The POBC recommended an average increase of 31%, which would cost the taxpayer about N$45,8 million. President Pohamba now has to decide by how much to increase the packages of Namibia's 239 political office bearers.

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