ACC tells Kandjii-Murangi to pay back N$46 000 S&T

Itah Kandjii-Murangi

Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) director general Paulus Noa has directed higher education minister Itah Kandjii-Murangi and her personal assistant (PA) to repay a collective N$69 000 of N$952 000 in travel allowances paid to them in 2022.

The two have been given until 30 April this year to pay back taxpayers’ money.

These details are contained in an ACC investigation report, dated 25 January 2024, which found that Kandjii-Murangi had received subsistence and travel allowances (S&T) from institutions under her control such as the Namibia Training Authority (NTA) and the Namibia University of Science and Technology (Nust).

The report also warned all ministries against allowing themselves to be used as cash cows for S&T allowances by executive directors and politicians.

Kandjii-Murangi has been under fire since last year for allegedly using state-owned entities to pay for her travel allowances.

Although the ACC concluded that there is no evidence suggesting that Kandjii-Murangi knowingly claimed S&T from the ministry while the trips or events were fully sponsored, Noa still insisted that the minister should reimburse the government.

“The minister and the personal assistant are advised, if they have not yet fully refunded the total amount due to the ministry, to pay the full amount on or before 30 April 2024,” the ACC said in the report.

Noa said the ACC obtained a statement in December last year from acting chief accountant of the Ministry of Higher Education, Technology and Innovation Delinsia Garises, who informed the ACC that Kandjii-Murangi owes the ministry N$46 100, while her personal assistant Lungenesia Uaseupuani owes the ministry N$23 400.

“This is an accumulated amount from different trips after travel claims were calculated and reconciled against the days and hours spent on the trips,” Noa said in the report.

Uaseupuani told The Namibian yesterday she is not aware that the ACC has directed that she should pay back N$23 400.

“I don’t know what you are talking about. I am hearing it for the first time from you,” she said.

Kandjii-Murangi told The Namibian yesterday that she was on leave and did not know she had to make a payment of N$46 100 to the ministry.

POCKET MONEY

The report said Kandjii-Murangi claimed a total of N$952 000 between May and August 2022.
This includes:
ν N$338 000 paid from the Namibia Training Authority (NTA) to the minister and her PA to attend the five-day Education World Forum 2022, held in London and Manchester in May 2022.

ν NTA also paid N$140 700 for Kandjii-Murangi to travel to Malawi to attend a joint Southern Africa Development Community meeting of ministers of education and training, science, technology and innovation, from 14 to 19 June 2022.

ν N$140 600 was paid by the Namibia University of Science and Technology (Nust) to the higher education minister to attend a summit in South Korea in July 2022. Noa said that money was fully paid back by the higher education ministry.

ν In the same month, Kandjii-Murangi received money from Nust, she also requested N$310 400 from the University of Namibia (Unam) for her trip to Jamaica and Cuba. The ministry paid back that amount, Noa said.

ν Kandjii-Murangi and Uaseupuani were also paid a collective N$22 800 by Unesco Namibia for their hotel in New York. Noa said Kandjii-Murangi paid back a portion of the money.

The ACC said they have evidence proving that the minister had refunded the money paid to her and her personal assistant by the Namibia National Commission for Unesco for one night’s hotel accommodation in New York.

“Refund was also made for the local trip the minister undertook to Khorixas, which was as well paid for by Namibia National Commission for Unesco,” he said.

CASH-COW

The report also found that executive director in the higher education ministry Alfred van Kent had improperly committed the ministry to financial debts by requesting public enterprises linked to the ministry to pay for the travel costs of the minister.

The ACC warned Van Kent against this practice, saying it is “prone to corruption”.

Noa said “public enterprises are, in the same vein, strongly warned against allowing themselves to be turned into cash cows for S&T allowances by executive directors and political principals,” Noa said.

The ACC said Van Kent told ACC that on some occasions the ministry borrowed money from public enterprises for the minister’s trips, because the ministry had no money in the S&T sub-division.

“In order to ensure that the minister attended to these official and approved assignments, he had to look at other functional units, including approaching the public enterprises under the ministry to fund the trips on condition that the money will be refunded,” Noa said.

He said neither the minister nor the executive director informed the ACC about the relevance and importance of the conferences or meetings attended by the minister.

However, copies of letters of approval by president Hage Geingob for the minister to travel were provided to ACC, Noa said.
He cautioned Van Kent to ensure efficient management of the budget of the ministry.

Noa said an approval by Geingob for a minister to undertake an official trip is not a blank cheque that the minister must travel at all costs.

“The approval is subject to the availability of funds in the ministry’s budget,” he said.

“Van Kent is seriously warned against the potentially corrupt habit of committing the ministry to financial debts through requests for travel payments from public enterprises, especially when conferences and meetings to be attended have no bearing to benefit such public institutions.

“The practice is not only ethically wrong but also creates a fertile ground for corruption. Corruption manifests itself in various ways,” Noa warned.

He said those institutions that agree to pay the travel costs of the minister may be favoured for the lion’s share of funding from the line ministry and those institutions that decline the requests may be victimised.

He warned other executive directors who might have also engaged in similar “unethical practices” that should this continue unabated, the ACC will not hesitate to invoke relevant provisions under the Anti-Corruption Act.

“Corruption thrives whenever ground is laid for institutions promoting it,” Noa said.

He said letters of approval granted to ministers from the Office of President must clearly spell out that approval to undertake an official trip is granted on condition that the responsible ministry has S&T funds in its budget to finance the travel costs.

The debate around Kandjii-Murangi’s conduct has been ongoing since last year, including accusations by Affirmative Repositioning (AR) leader Job Amupanda, who posted a series of accusations on social media claiming that Kandjii-Murangi had been pocketing S&T allowances from public enterprises under her ministry.

Van Kent did not respond to questions sent to him yesterday. However, the spokesperson of the higher education ministry Selma Ngola, said she was informed by Van Kent yesterday that the ministry has made an arrangement for the minister and her PA to pay back N$69 000.

Noa could not be reached for comment.

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