MPs want accountability for ‘misused’ drought-relief funds

Nico Smith

Lawmakers are pushing for explanations regarding diverted and untraceable funds from the National Disaster Emergency Fund, following allegations that resources were used from the fund for purposes other than drought relief.

After the most recent report from the auditor general on the National Disaster Fund, it was revealed that N$30 million was redirected from drought-relief funds for renovations at the Old State House during 2014 and 2016.

Additionally, another N$260 million remains unaccounted for in drought-relief funds during the period of 2014 to 2017.
This revelation coincides with complaints from some villagers and regional councillors who say the government’s drought-relief provisions are insufficient.

Popular Democratic Movement (PDM) parliamentarian Nico Smit questioned the ‘inappropriate’ use of money from the National Disaster Emergency Fund during a parliament session on Tuesday.

“What was the importance and urgency in using funds from the National Disaster Emergency Fund? How has this inappropriate use of fu
nds affected the operations and aims of the national emergency fund?”

Prime minister Saara Kuugongelwa-Amadhila, whose office manages this fund, is expected to provide feedback to these questions next Thursday.

Smit asked Kuugongelwa-Amadhila to provide a detailed explanation of how the funds were used.

PDM parliamentarian Maximalliant Katjimune said this incident exposes another “rot” in government systems.
“To divert funds intended to cushion people against starvation and poverty and use those funds to renovate the old State House is shameless,” he said.

Katjimune said in more mature democracies, such as that of the United Kingdom, the prime minister would typically step down in the face of a scandal of this nature.

“We therefore call for serious accountability and heads to roll,” he said.
He said members of parliament have consistently expressed the view that the drought-relief intervention is inadequate and fails to meet the basic nutritional needs of the human body.

“The government is fully aware that we live in a drought-stricken nation, so it is totally dumbfounding that our calls to increase this funding have fallen on deaf ears,” Katjimune said.

He emphasised the need to enhance the authority of the parliament, particularly in relation to the oversight functions of committees, by providing them with more effective tools to address issues of this nature.

“There are currently no punitive measures in place to hold the executive accountable if it fails to account to parliament, and this is what we should focus on,” Katjimune said.

Earlier this month, The Namibian reported that certain villagers and regional councillors in the country contend that the government’s drought-relief intervention consists of merely one 12,5kg bag of maize meal, a bottle of cooking oil, and two packs of soup per household per month.

Currently, N$643 million is earmarked for drought relief in the 2023/24 financial year.
Nafimane Hamukoshi, a trustee at the Economic and Social Justice Trust, says corrective measures must be put in place to ensure future funds are used for their intended purpose.

Hamukoshi says the current relief measures seem inadequate based on community feedback.

“There is evidence from around the world suggesting that cash grants could be a more efficient approach, allowing recipients to purchase items most crucial to them,” she says.

However, she says implementing such a system would require proper checks and balances to ensure transparency and prevent the misuse of funds.

“Involving affected communities in these discussions is essential to tailor relief programmes that genuinely meet the diverse needs of those facing challenging circumstances,” Hamukoshi says.

Meanwhile, the executive director in the Office of the Prime Minister, I-Ben Nashandi, on Monday said the N$30 million allocated for the refurbishment was expressly earmarked for the renovation of the old State House.

Nashandi also refuted the claim regarding N$260 million flagged as unaccounted for in the auditor general’s report.
The Office of the Prime Minister intends to furnish a comprehensive response to the report’s findings soon.

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