Prime Minister Saara Kuugongelwa- Amadhila told parliament that the civil service currently accommodates about 618 expatriate workers in different capacities.
She also reiterated that the Government will continue with engagement of expatriate workers who come to the country to fill the void created by scarce skills unavailability. The 2014/15 Public Service Commission report was tabled in the National Assembly on last week. Hired skills have been a trend of the Government since Independence, as Namibian is struggle to fill the gap for skills.
“The levels differ depending on the need of the Ministry or the specific government agency. However you must understand that expatriates or foreigners are employed due to lack of available skills in the local market to carry out certain functions. Thus most of them are highly qualified individuals in specific fields. There is nothing wrong with having expatriates, it is a practice used all over the world, as long as they are used in key positions where Namibia lacks such skills”, OPM spokesperson Saima Shaanika, told The Villager this week.
According to OPM, Expatriates or Foreigners are employed in already established structures of offices, Ministries and Agencies therefor there is no special budget or finds set aside for them as they get employed due to skills shortages in the country. ‘’They are employed to help transfer knowledge, skills and technology and to fill temporary shortages. Most of their employment contracts that they enter into have a clause specifying that each expatriate must have an understudy during the contract period’’ Shaanika said.
Individuals ate then expected to take over that function once the contract of the expatriate have ended. Currently Namibia hires medical skills from Cuba who is assisting with the shortages of medical doctors in the Ministry of Health and Social Services (MoHSS) while some have been deployed to Hospitals and Health centres in the rural areas. Zimbabwean experts have taken up technical positions mainly in the field of engineering in the Ministry of Works and Transport, while both,the University of Namibia and the Namibia University of Technology train engineers with the aim to ensure the availability of local skills in that field.
Last year The Villager wrote that Government spent about N$3.2 million in the past financial year to remunerate Cuban expatriate doctors in a bid to fill the staff shortages faced by public health institutions. Government may have spent more millions in remunerating other foreign nationals including Zimbabweans, Kenyans, Zambians and Congolese while taking longer to utilise local skills. Then Permanent Secretary of Health, Andrew Ndishishi had told The Villager that the Cuban doctors are now being employed in a personal capacity without negotiating through their government. Although previous, there was a governmentto-government agreement on the allocation of health professionals from the North American country.
Ministry of Health told The Villager that Namibia still has a shortage of doctors, and the government will continue to tap into agreements like those shared between Namibia and Cuba to not only provide people who provide essential services, but also facilitate knowledge transfer to our own doctors. The knowledge transfer between Namibia and Cuba stems from the pre-colonial times when that country assisted People’s Liberation Army of Namibia (PLAN) fighters to tackle the apartheid system.
After independence, Namibia continued to tap into the skills of Cuba in different spheres. The agreement which allowed Namibia to source doctors from Cuba and only pay them an allowance of not more than U$200 (N$2000) expired in the early 2000s. Currently, the government advertises for doctors, and they go through the normal recruiting processes.
Cuba produces approximately 57 000 doctors annually, this has caused an over that as a country that has always had good relations with Namibia, arrangements for skills lending were made. In the early 2000s, government had a bilateral agreement with the Cuban government which allowed them to bring Cuban doctors to work in State hospitals, where they had allowances instead of basic salaries. After the bilateral agreement lapsed, Namibian still kept an open channel for Cuban doctors, where they could apply for advertised posts in State hospitals.
Namibia currently houses 120 Cuban medical personnel, which costs the country a monthly salary of N$31 800 per month per specialist; N$25 440 is spent on each medical engineer with a degree; N$23 320 on specialised nurses; and N$21 200 on health personnel and technicians with diplomas