Keetmanshoop- //Karas regional councillors have within a space of six months used up almost all the subsistence and travel allowance budgeted for this financial year.
The S&T provision was supposed to cater for travelling allowances until the budget allocation next year, but an expenditure report seen by New Era, indicates that from April to September councillors used up 93 percent of the S&T budget and will now have to make do with the remaining seven percent for the ensuing six-month period.
Regional councillors got the second biggest chunk of the council’s travel budget with N$669 860 set aside for this purpose in the about N$3.5 million allocated to them for travel purposes.
Councillors from seven constituencies have already used N$625 336 for the year to date and are left with a mere N$44 524 to fund their travel expenses until next April.
Chief regional officer (CRO) of //Karas Regional Council Saul Kahuika confirmed the budget depletion, saying funds allocated to other divisions may have to be re-allocated to cover travel allowances. “The funds are allocated as per division and although the politicians’ vault is depleted, we can borrow from other vaults,” he said.
Of the N$3.5 million S&T budget allocated to the eight divisions within council, about N$2 million has already been spent, which is 60 percent of the total budget.
The other seven divisions from which politicians can borrow still have a combined N$1.4 million to fund their travel expenses. This includes the CRO’s office (N$146 091), finance (N$66 346), administration (N$732 429), planning rural services (N$139 336), planning development (N$131 010), human resources (N$132 266 and the directorate of general services (N$63 679).
If the current rate of spending is anything to go by, councillors will need N$580 800 from other divisions, about 40 percent of the other divisions’ travel budget. Kahuika said besides taking from other divisions, he has advised councillors to travel sparingly due to the council’s financial situation.
He said some councillors have on some occasion claimed S&T for trips that they never undertook, but council had to rectify the situation and asked the culprits to pay back the money.
“Yes I’m aware of such cases, and the council pays an advance for any approved trip, but when you have not travelled then you have to pay back, such cases are rare but they do happen,” he noted.
Contacted for comment //Karas Regional Council chairperson Jan Scholtz said councillors are very busy people, running up and down and attending to people’s needs and thus travelling is inevitable. He said while carrying out their duties in places far from home, they should feel as comfortable as possible, as if they were in their own homes.
“Councillors are called anytime and have to attend meetings. And you know the region is vast and sometimes we have to travel out of the region,” he explained.
Scholtz said the 93 percent depletion of the councillors’ allocated budget is possible due to the many activities undertaken by councillors, adding that some use their own vehicles and are thus paid accordingly.
He said for people to think councillors travel just to claim S&T is very wrong, as the rates paid are very low and have not increased for a number years. “The S&T is not even enough. It’s only people from outside that think we sometimes travel just for S&T,” he said.
He also denied that some councillors claim S&T for trips they have not undertaken, saying sometimes the money is paid out in advance and when such an event is cancelled arrangements are made to pay back the money.
Read full story on New Era Newspaper Namibia