The office of the President has spent N$48 million on travel and subsistence expenses (S&T) in the last two financial years, The Villager can reveal.
The figures are according to the auditor-general Junius Kandjeke’s latest audit report on the head of state’s expenses.
The figures also come in the wake of press secretary Alfredo Hengari launching a scathing barrage on the media for questioning President Hage Geingob’s busy itinerary.
The President’s office spent N$37 million on S&T in the 2019/2020 financial year and N$11 million during the 2020/2021 financial year, the latter of which was reduced significantly due to the advent of the Covid-19 pandemic.
In addition to this, the head of state’s office also spent N$36 million on transport, being N$22 million in 2019/2020 and N$13 million in 2020/2021.
In defence of the President’s frequent travelling, state house said that invitations for Geingob to participate in state visits or summits outside national borders are considered carefully in terms of the national interest and what Namibians stand to gain.
“The Geingob Presidency has, since 2015, prioritised economic diplomacy as a crucial thrust in the interactions of Namibia with the outside world. Therefore, certain missions are focused on deepening commercial interests, including investment promotion and opening doors in new markets for Namibian products and services. This is particularly important for our small and medium enterprises (SMEs), which are in need of bilateral agreements to enter certain markets,” Hengari said in a lengthy soliloquy last week.
He further said that as a result of Geingob’s travel’s, a package of €250 000 was pledged from the Dutch to assist Namport with the relevant port master plan studies, among others.
“Through the Joint Communique of intent with the Ministry of
Education and Research in Germany, the Government unlocked a 40 million euro grant from the German Government to build green hydrogen pilot projects, to fund the national synthetic fuels strategy and the launch a green hydrogen scholarship program in Namibia.”
Hengari also says that as a result of Geingob’s recent frequent trips to Qatar, the Qatar Investment Authority visited Namibia in May 2022 and expressed an interest to invest in transport & logistics-related infrastructure, tourism enterprises and the agricultural sector.
“Through the Qatar Investment Authority-backed Kasada Capital Management, Qatar has recently acquired Hotel Safari through a $2.6 billion facility granted by the IFC.”
Hengari argued that Namibia is committed to doing more with less and to optimise its diplomatic footprint across the five continents by placing greater emphasis on peace, security and economic interests.
“In that vein, consistent with the national interest, President Geingob will continue to lead the pace at which Namibia engages with other nations and institutions.”
Meanwhile, Kandjeke also discovered that payments amounting to N$730 253 were made without following proper procurement procedures.
“Also, there was no indication of which method was followed to procure goods or services. Furthermore, no supporting documents such as completed requisitions for quotations, signed purchase orders and delivery notes or report for work done were provided for audit purposes.”
The auditor-general also found irregularities regarding the San Development Account, which calls under the Vice-President’s office through the Presidency.
According to the auditors, in 2019/2020, it was found that from the N$618 981 issued out for payment, an amount of N$113 358 meant for 58 beneficiaries was not paid out. The auditor-general says this money was supposed to be deposited back into the San Development Bank account, but the auditors were not provided with proof of the deposit.
Regarding the San Development Bank account, the auditors also flagged an incident in which a staff member, in July 2019, withdrew N$ 259 786 for the payment of students and casual workers in the Kunene region for the period November 2018 – February 2019 as per the general expense form.
“The original names on the pay sheet were replaced with new names, however, no prior authorisation was provided as to how the students became beneficiaries at the time of the payment and why the previous beneficiaries were repalced.”
The President’s Office’s response to the auditors was that the new names replaced students that had dropped out of school, however, the auditors say they were not provided with proof of authorisation the the accounting officer within the Presidency to distribute the fund to the learners that replaced the ones that dropped out of school.