…Will other ministers follow suit?
• Net asset value worth N$7.8 million
• Five cars, two properties under his name
• Household goods worth N$1.1 million
• No private business interests
• No offshore accounts
The nation eagerly waits to see if Cabinet ministers will follow in the footsteps of Finance Minister Calle Schlettwein, who yesterday publicly declared that his total net asset value is N$7.8 million. Schlettwein is the first Cabinet minister to publicly declare his assets saying the practice is pivotal in order to prevent misuse of public resources as well as to protect public office bearers from being falsely accused of dubiously benefiting from the State. The minister is no pauper, especially with multi-million-dollar worth of assets seen as a fortune by the vast majority of the population but probably the equivalent of loose change for many working in Namibian politics. He made his finances public yesterday at the ministerial headquarters. A quick glance at Schlettwein’s declaration shows that he owns two properties – a house in Windhoek and a flat in Swakopmund valued at a combined N$4.4 million. Schlettwein only has one bank loan, a home loan of N$119 964 at First National Bank. The country’s purse handler also has five vehicles under his name valued at a combined N$585 080. The vehicles include four Mercedes Benz and a Jeep. His household goods have an insured value of N$1.18 million. Schlettwein said he holds no offshore accounts and said he has no business interests in the private sector.
Asked why he has not ventured into any private business ventures, like most of his Cabinet colleagues, Schlettwein said: “My take is that I am a servant of the people so I must dedicate my time to the public. “I have nothing to hide, this practice will protect me from any speculative talks about my assets and I can say that declaring my assets was an implicit obligation,” he said. Schlettwein asserted that the declaration of assets by public office bearers is needed to ensure that resources are not misused. Schlettwein shifted attention from his wealth to corruption. Currently, thousands of Namibians continue to languish far below the poverty line without access to basic services such as quality healthcare, education, housing and water provision. The 62-year-old said he decided to go public with his wealth because “transparency and accountability is pivotal to good governance and to develop the nation”. “Corruption makes development very expensive because the more corrupt you are the more the poor suffer. It makes the whole process unnecessarily expensive,” he remarked.
Schlettwein, who now earns over N$75 000 a month, said he started his work career with a N$680 monthly salary in 1980 when he was employed a researcher by the then Department of Water Affairs. The house, which he acquired in 1984 for N$75 000, is now worth N$3.5 million. As for the Swakopmund flat, Schlettwein said buying the flat was made possible by the gratuity he received as a retired civil servant. “As a retired civil servant, in addition to my monthly pension, I now also receive a salary as a political office bearer. The pension benefits included a one-off gratuity of N$1.5 million plus a monthly pension, which after tax, netted out at about N$12 000,” he said, adding that the pension benefits were based on 30 years of active service plus 10 additional years as a result of four completed five-year contracts as permanent secretary. Schlettwein has four accounts with FNB Namibia.
He said no benefits or assets receivable relating to members of parliament and other office bearers, pension fund and the GIPF have been included in the declaration because “these are standard for someone in my position”. Schlettwein also has an impressive academic background with an array of degrees in his pocket. The minister holds a Master of Science Degree from the University of Stellenbosch. Namibian lawmakers last declared their assets to the National Assembly in 2009, a situation which has since left them vulnerable to accusations of acquiring assets dubiously or crafting laws in favour of their business interests or that of their cronies. The finance minister’s declaration comes more than a year after President Hage Geingob urged his executive to publicly declare their assets. “The declaration of assets is an indicator of transparency and accountability, and if you do things legitimately then what do you have to hide? Accountability and transparency help to develop trust,” stated Geingob when he announced his executive team in March 2015.
Geingob did not suggest a timeframe during which new MPs should declare their assets. “We will see to it that the declaration of assets is done timeously, and it is not just a matter of filing it but we will interrogate the process and enquire how they got it [assets] as well as help where we can,” he said at the time.
Schlettwein said he tasked Arne Stier from Vente Associates to verify his asset declarations.