Cut Deputy Minister perks

27 April 2018
Why are we spending money to provide VIP security for deputy ministers and presidential advisors at a time when government has frozen the hiring of desperately needed new nurses and police recruits? 
It seems to us that government is making skewed financial decisions with the few national pennies we have left.
We believe that deputy ministers add limited value to governance in Namibia; for the most part, they are not essential to providing immediate, necessary services for the people of Namibia.  Opening schools or new factories or reading speeches from the minister is not an essential service. 
The fact that nearly 30 deputy ministers have rolling shifts of VIP police security, drivers, cars and other perks (in addition to their salaries and other understandable benefits) is costly; that cost can be reduced. 
Recognizing the need for drivers and a car for government officials when on out-of-town business, we query why the VIP details and daily drivers at least for deputy ministers and advisors cannot be eliminated, freeing up officers and drivers for other duties and cutting costs at the same time. 
How the government spends limited resources identifies national priorities.   Things that get ‘cut out’ are those that are deemed non-essential.  We think that VIP protection for deputy ministers is non-essential. 
When we read about a freeze on hiring nurses for state hospitals and clinics we were stunned.  What this nation’s decision-makers prioritize is a mismatch to what the people need.  More nurses and police officers are essential; that fact should be clear to all.
Those making such decisions about nurses use private hospitals, so perhaps they are not up-to-date with what goes on in public health facilities.
Aside from the dismayed troupes of unemployed graduate nurses, the needs of the nation’s hospital patients should count for something.  Every day there are painful and negative letters in the media, online complaints and many of us have personally witnessed the inconsistent and often sub-standard conditions of care and patient intake in our state hospitals and clinics.  Much of the problem is because we lack trained, qualified nurses.
Didn’t Namibia put out a call around Africa and in other places to recruit foreigners because there was a “critical shortage” of nurses?  How is it possible now that new nurse hires are frozen due to lack of funds when graduate nurses are ready to begin building their careers? 
The current nurses scream regularly about the excessive overtime and poor working conditions they endure.  The nightmare tales of overworked, frustrated or de-motivated nurses ignoring, downplaying or missing the pain and suffering of those seeking medical care are epic. 
Not having enough nurses to properly tend to the patients 24/7 each day of the year in state hospitals is a national crisis.  And yet, we prioritize budget outlays for VIP police services for dozens of deputy ministers and advisors who can do their jobs safely without it.  Something is out of balance.
We can apply the same incredulousness to the lack of funds available for the recruitment of more police officers.  When money is tight, crime goes up.  As soon as this economic crisis began to bite, more money should have been allocated to the police, not less.
Crime is on the rise and yet, we have a freeze on hiring new police officers and are perennially unable to provide proper transportation for police stations. 
Our police are largely unable to investigate crimes or immediately respond to urgent calls for help because they don’t have vehicles to take them to the scene. How many of us have to drive police officers to our homes, farms and businesses to report a crime because they cannot get there otherwise?
Decision-makers who cut the police budget, don’t have to worry about local police stations coming to their aid, because they are of the elite and have access to private protective services or they have special police protection paid for by the state. 
Could this be the reason why there is little concern about cutting the police budget to the extent that new officers cannot be recruited and functioning, serviced vehicles are unavailable in sufficient quantities?
We have read about members of the VIP police services complaining about ill treatment from those they serve, lack of overtime payment, and being used by the people they are charged to protect to pick up children from school or to carry heavy packages.  Is this an essential service in a time of economic crisis?
We challenge the deputy ministers and the A-team advisors to own this national economic crisis by refusing their VIP protection details and only use drivers for out-of-town missions.  At the same time, we look to them to lead the effort to permanently change the regulations to end these particular perks.
Nearly 30 deputies means at least 50-60 officers and possibly the same number of drivers (to cover different shifts) particularly if you include the A-team. 
This is Namibia - Elites:  there is no terrorist threat or civil war here.  We are a peaceful country, remember?  You are not in danger and earn enough to buy your own cars and most of you can drive yourselves.  Give the budget a break.
We need to change our mind-sets on many things when the budget axe needs to cut even deeper.  All of us need to let go of sacred cows and re-evaluate what we really must have to live. 


The Windhoek Observer is an English-language weekly newspaper, published in Namibia by Paragon Investment Holding. It is the country's oldest and largest circulating weekly.

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