Windhoek — The basic salaries of public office-bearers will be increased by 15 percent with effect from April 1, as opposed to the 31 percent recommended by the Public Office-Bearers Remuneration and Benefits Commission.
Last week Friday President Hifikepunye Pohamba said he exercised the powers vested in him by Section 8 of the Public Office-Bearers (POBS) Remuneration and Benefits Act of 2005 and decided on a 15 percent salary increase, given the role, duties and functions of public office-bearers, the financial means of the State, current principles and levels of remuneration obtained in Namibia, as well as the level of inflation, poverty and unemployment.
"I have always emphasised the fact that in Namibia, political office-bearers are there to first and foremost serve our nation. It is not a profession that one can join in order to become rich," stated President Pohamba.
In December last year the Public Office-Bearers Remuneration and Benefits Commission, chaired by Judge President Petrus Damaseb, recommended a 31 percent increase, which would have been a one-off payment, including a relatively modest 5.5 percent salary increase.
At 31 percent the proposed adjustment would have cost the state about N$45 million.
Following Namibian independence the government has consistently grappled with issues involving the pay structures for both civil servants and public office-bearers and as a result the Wage and Salary Commission (WASCOM) was established.
The commission made its first recommendations in 1995 that proposed interim adjustments, while other recommendations were conditional upon a concrete plan of action to downsize the civil service, and increase efficiency and productivity, as well as improvements in discipline and standards.
"However, due to prevailing conditions at the time and more specifically issues of sensitivity, Cabinet decided not to implement the WASCOM recommendations dealing with the remuneration of political office-bearers.
"In view of the afore-stated, no significant structural changes were made to salary and benefits of political office-bearers since 1995, except minor inflationary adjustments following the establishment of the Political Office-Bearers Commission," explained President Pohamba.
As result of these factors the salaries and benefits of POBs continued to lag behind over the years compared to those of civil servants and employees of state-owned enterprises. Pohamba cautioned any further delay in addressing the issue would further widen the salary and benefits gap between civil servants and political office-bearers.
The current levels of remuneration, the commission said, "are hopelessly inadequate." The commission maintained 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 argued that WASCOM catered for civil servants, while 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 current annual total gross compensation of public office-bearers range between N$458 205 and N$1 062 million, with the highest being that of the position of the Prime Minister and the lowest being that of members of regional councils.
The proposal was to increase the range to between N$489 589 and N$1 473 million. The benefits enjoyed by public office-bearers include allowances for housing, water and electricity, furniture, transport and many other non-cash benefits.