Nashandi refutes reports of diverted drought-relief funds

The executive director in the Office of the Prime Minister, I-Ben Nashandi, has countered an audit report alleging that over N$30 million from the National Disaster Fund was allocated to renovations at the old State House.

Nashandi yesterday said the funds used for the refurbishment were designated specifically to the renovation of the old State House.

He said although the funds were initially deposited into the National Disaster Emergency Fund, they were later disbursed for renovation purposes as intended, without any diversion of drought-relief funds.

“The funds used for renovation were not diverted from drought or any emergency programme. These were funds appropriated for renovation, but deposited into the National Disaster Emergency Fund, from where they were expensed for renovation,” Nashandi said.

As per the auditor general’s report spanning from 2014 to 2017, the renovation expenses for the old State House, presently housing the Office of the Vice President, were covered by two transactions in 2014 and 2016.

The auditor general identified this diversion as a violation of the fund’s intended purposes.

“The auditors noted that the fund received money from the Office of the Prime Minister for security installation and renovation for the OPM head office, as well as renovation of the old State House, amounting to N$4,4 million (2014) and N$27,9 million (2016), which does not meet the objective of the fund…,” the report released in October stated.

The National Disaster Fund was established to serve as a contingency fund and for the development and promotion of disaster risk management in Namibia.

The auditor general’s report emphasised that, according to Disaster Risk Management Regulation 9, accessing contingency funds from the fund should only be contemplated as a last-resort measure.

At the time of the said renovations, the old State House was managed through the Office of the Prime Minister.

The ongoing renovations to the building now fall under the Ministry of Works and Transport.

Popular Democratic Movement (PDM) leader McHenry Venaani expressed frustration over the diversion of drought-relief funds to repair the building.

“I am greatly perturbed that the government is doing this, knowing the dire need of our population of close to 600 000 citizens who are confronted by hunger. Food and fuel prices are escalating, yet greed and mispriority is the order of the day,” Venaani said.

He cautioned against spending that disproportionately impacts the less fortunate, advocating the implementation of practical measures to ensure governmental functionality while prioritising assistance for the marginalised.

“The scientific rubbish to build and divert poverty funds for the renovation of old rich tenants is utterly despicable and the paralysis of leadership,” Venaani said.

PDM parliamentarian Elma Dienda recently advocated enhanced transparency in the allocation and utilisation of the N$643 million earmarked for drought relief in the 2023/24 midterm budget.

Dienda emphasised the importance of receiving clear and impartial guidelines from the OPM to prevent any misuse of funds for political purposes.

“We urgently request clear, unbiased usage guidelines from the prime minister’s office to prevent the misuse of these funds for political gain, ensuring integrity in relief efforts and respect for taxpayer contributions,” Dienda said.

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