Friday 18 June 2021
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Secretive military spending questioned

Spending tax dollars on extra equipment, often never used apart from ceremonial purposes, the Namibian military has become notorious when it comes to failing to publicly explain its spending habits.
A local public policy watchdog has sounded the alarm over secretive military’s spending, however, the concern is not so much on the budget allocations, but rather the secrecy that shrouds military spending in the country.
The Institute for Public Policy and Research(IPPR) has argued that the Public Procurement Act appears to allow for significant, if not blanket, exemption of security related procurement, whether such procurement is of a sensitive national security nature or not.
Given that the military and security sector receives such a significant portion of state funds on an annual basis, IPPR notes that, the exempting of procurement in the sector creates a massive dark spot on an otherwise quite transparent and accountable public procurement landscape.
“The Public Procurement Act of 2015 comes across as a very deliberate attempt to tick all the right boxes relating to United Nations Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC) and its components appear to be in line, both in principle and provision, with Article 9 of Chapter 2 of the global framework.
This shows willingness on the part of relevant and significant political and administrative actors to be in compliance with universally accepted best practices,” said IPPR researcher Frederico Links in a briefing paper titled Promoting Integrity: The New Public Procurement Framework.
Government has secretly spent over N$45 billion on the defence sector since 2010, despite the country being at being peace and close to 1 million citizens suffering from undernourishment.
The 2015 State of Food Insecurity Report released last year by the United Nations (UN) states that at least 966 000 of the 2.3 million Namibians were undernourished in 2014, compared to 621 000 in 2002.
Chief among the culprits is the secretive corporation, August 26 Holdings that was formed by government in 1998.
August 26 has never produced an annual report, is not publicly audited by the auditor general and has never appeared before a parliamentary committee to account for its activities.
On a wider spectrum, SADC in general has been accused of failing to take care of the peace dividend in the region, with experts opining that the money channeled to the army can be used to tackle developmental issues while peace is prevailing in the region-which is undoubtedly the most peaceful on the continent.
The defence ministry has been one of the three ministries – together with education and health – that have been receiving the biggest chunk of the national budget during the past decade.
Despite stern criticism and calls for a slashed defense budget, mainly because of the prevailing peaceful environment in the country, Government has reiterated that peace in the country can disappear within a blink of an eye, hence it needs to be on guard and well-equipped at all times.
Namibia‘s spending spree on its defence sector should not be looked at in isolation however.
Statistics provided by the Swedish-based SIPRI Military Expenditure database which includes data for 171 countries between 2010 and 2014 expenditure on the defense sector in Africa, said spending has increased from US$34.6 billion(N$540 billion) in 2010 to US$46.5 billion(N$724 billion) in 2014.
The increased spending on the defence sector on the continent comes at a time when armed conflicts have subsided, but still instead of channeling money to development programmes aimed at pulling millions of poverty-stricken Africans out of the trenches of poverty, more money is channeled to the defence sector.
Responding to questions from this publication earlier this year when probed on the secretive nature of his ministry, defence minister Penda ya Ndakolo said by nature, defence ministries and armed forces all over the world are predisposed towards some degree of secrecy given the nature of their roles and functions.
“A defence ministry and by implication a defence force of any country is there to prepare for the defence of the country against would be aggressors, which could mean  fighting a war in defence of the country.
As a result, preparation plans for the defence of the country cannot be shared with everyone all the time because by doing so you might be exposing your strengths and weakness to potential enemies,” he said.
He was however quick to point out that despite the need for secrecy, it does not mean the Ministry and the Namibian Defence Force should fail to account and be transparent to the Namibian people, the tax payers who provide funding for the defence programmes and operations.
The minister said his ministry has not been reprimanded by either Cabinet or Parliament for failing to account, and if some members of the public have specific issues to raise concerning our performance and accountability, ‘we are prepared to listen to them and improve where we have to.’

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