By: Andrew Kathindi
The director of community courts in the ministry of justice, Amalia Nathaniel, says community courts have not been able to provide financial statements as staff are not paid extra.
Kandjeke has not been able to provide an audit opinion on the community courts for the last ten years as the accounting officer for the traditional courts has not provided any financial statements or monthly bank reconciliation statements in that period.
Nathaniel told the Villager that according to the community courts act 10 of 2003, keeping the accounts was not the mandate of the community courts staff but the ministry of urban and rural development.
The Act states that the “secretary of the traditional authority concerned shall, subject to the directions and control of such traditional authority, and per generally accepted accounting principles, keep such accounting and related records as are necessary to represent the financial affairs of the community court fairly.”
Nathaniel said that this means that the government should have provided someone from MURD, as no one within the community courts wanted to do.
“The problem we had is that they never wanted to take up the responsibility of the books because they said they are not paid to do that. The Act says that accounting must be done, but they were not taught how to do it and were not provided to be paid for. We don’t know how to do it because it’s not our mandate.”
Community courts receive N$5 million annually from the ministry of justice’s budget, of which N$120 000 is dispersed to the 32 community courts countrywide.
Nathaniel further said that she does agree with Auditor General’s audit report as her office has previously asked him to have audit them, but it was never done.
“For him to say that we have provided financial statements is not correct because I have previously asked him to audit our books. We also asked internal auditors within the ministry. They came to look at the internal process, but the auditor general never came.”
She also revealed that since inception, seven out of the 36 community courts had embezzled state funds.
One of the cases involved the Bakgalagadi community courts, and two clerks of the courts went to prison.
“I asked the anti-corruption commission (ACC) to investigate, and we found that money was misappropriated. To date, we have recovered N$139 000 that was misappropriated from community court coffers.”
She says the ministry is updating the Act to allow community courts to account for their books. She said the process of amending this Act was started with previous minister Sacky Shanghala.
“The bill is already in place. The Act is with the law reform. If the law is amended and they teach us to the financial statements, we will then be able to account for the books.”
She, however, said that she expects the process of amending the Act to be lengthy as it is a comprehensive bill.
One of the matters being looked at in the amendment is the process of appealing. Currently, community court orders are appealed at the magistrate court, however, according to the Act, they are on the same level, and the appeal should instead be done at the High Court.
The bill is also looking into different funding schemes for the different community courts, with community courts that are busier getting a bigger slice of the budget.
Nathaniel said that northern courts adjudicate the most cases per month, with Ondangwa adjudicating 42 cases per month, the highest in the country.