Regional Development Trust Fund should be withdrawn: Tobias

19 Feb 2014 12:10pm
WINDHOEK, 19 FEB (NAMPA) - The National Council’s Standing Committee on Regional Development has recommended that the Trust Fund for Regional Development and Equity Provision Act 22 of 2000 be repealed, as it’s not helping the implementation of its objectives.
The committee is instead looking into establishing a Constituency Development Fund (CDF), which will be aimed at financially assisting in the development of regions and local authorities.
The chairperson of the Standing Committee, Lebbius Tobias, made this call when he tabled a report on the establishment of such a fund during the National Council (NC)’s session on Tuesday.
“The committee is of the opinion that the CDF can redress the imbalances in development within the country, and provide regional councillors with a better approach to deliver efficient and needed services to the electorate in their respective constituencies,” the Constituency Councillor for Tsumeb said.
Motivating the report, Tobias explained that after meetings held with the Regional Development Trust Fund to enquire about its mandate this year, the committee discovered many discrepancies in the management of the fund.
The committee examined reports by the Auditor-General on the accounts of the Trust Fund for Regional Development and Equity for the financial years 2002 to 2007, and established that the fund could not account for more than N.dollars 60 million.
“In 2002, an amount of N.dollars 990 81 could not be confirmed,” he stated, adding that cheques to the value of around N.dollars 2,9 million also could not be accounted for.
Information on a bank account containing around N.dollars 20,4 million could not be provided, while supporting vouchers for certain expenditure transactions in the year 2002/2003 were not submitted.
Amongst other things, a transfer of N.dollars 20 million made during the financial year 2003 to 2004 also had no supporting documents which could be used to verify the transaction, while N.dollars 5 million and N.dollars 10 million, respectively, are reflected as assets in the balance-sheets of the 2002 and 2003 financial years, while these amounts actually consisted of expenditure.
Tobias further indicated that during the 2004 financial year, payments to the value of N.dollars 2,1 million and N.dollars 2,6 million respectively, were made without supporting documents.
In total, some N.dollars 64 million could not be accounted for.
The fund is being managed by a Board consisting of 10 members, who are mostly Permanent Secretaries from the Ministries of Regional and Local Government, Housing and Rural Development and Finance; the Office of the Prime Minister, and the National Planning Commission.
The Board is supported by a secretariat, although there is no provision in the Act for the recruitment of a secretariat.
The secretariat consists of eight staff members, namely a trust fund manager, administrative assistant, works inspector, regional development planner, chief accountant, accountant, receptionist and a cleaner.
“The committee discovered that none of the staff members have a written job description. The secretariat is not a creation of any statute, but rather a product of a Board resolution.
As such, the Board can resolve to dismiss the secretariat at its will, leaving those employed by it vulnerable,” he stated.
Tobias further stated that the Trust Fund’s Board has not done much to secure donations as required by section 7 (1) (a) of the Act since its inception in 2002, but rather relies heavily on a transfer of funds from the Ministry of Regional and Local Government, Housing and Rural Development.
The Trust Fund for Regional Development and Equity’s whole operation - including salaries, training of staff and medical aid benefits is funded via transfers from the ministry, using money meant for regional development.
The Tsumeb Constituency Councillor also indicated that fingers are ‘always’ pointed to councillors for allegedly under-developing their constituencies, when in fact they do not have the funds as there are being misused by the Trust Fund meant to develop the regions.
“Therefore, based on shortcomings picked up by the committee, we recommend that the Trust Fund Act 22 of 2000 be repealed. The National Council’s Legal Division should draft a Bill on the CDF to replace the Trust Fund,” he advised strongly.
The committee also reviewed the Regional Councils’ Act 22 of 1992, as well as the Decentralisation Enabling Act 33 of 2000.
It learned that the Regional Councils’ Act does not provide for the legal framework of the existing Regional Coordinating Committees, which are vital structures in addressing the developmental needs of the people in the regions.
Tobias noted that the Decentralising Enabling Act provides guidance on procedures to be followed by decentralising line ministries, but does not mention the functions to be decentralised, by which ministries and when.
“There is also no formula in the Regional Councils’ Act for the allocation of funds to the constituencies in all 14 regions. Thus, the establishment of a CDF can assist in the development of regions,” he noted.