Civil servants’ housing scheme under scrutiny

17 Dec 2018 11:00am
By Edward Mumbuu Jnr
WINDHOEK, 17 DEC (NAMPA) – The housing scheme of Government employees, which subsidises houses by up to two-thirds of a set maximum purchase price, is under review as part of efforts to tighten the noose on unnecessary public expenditure.
This was confirmed by Prime Minister (PM), Saara Kuugongelwa-Amadhila in an interview with Nampa on Friday.
She was responding to claims from impeccable sources within Government that it is contemplating discontinuing the scheme as part of fiscal consolidation efforts.
“It is either to reduce the housing subsidy or completely cancel it. The other option is to leave it as is for the current employees while those who newly join the public service will enjoy a reduced housing subsidy,” one of the sources who preferred anonymity said.
Kuugongelwa-Amadhila acknowledged that there are discussions around the housing benefit for civil servants, “but not precisely as you are putting it”.
“This is quite a very important issue and a sensitive one indeed. I know of some queries or suggestions that were advanced to the Office of the Prime Minister concerning the housing benefit of public servants,” the PM said.
According to her, the queries to her office relate more to whether the current practice was in full compliance with the adopted policies.
“I can dismiss any assertions that the Office of the Prime Minister or Government are contemplating to do any such thing (discontinue the benefit),” she stated briefly.
Kuugongelwa-Amadhila went on to say: “I must hasten to add that the Namibian Labour Law does not leave a discretion to any employer to unilaterally amend the benefits of employment of employees.”
When pressed further if in fact they were looking at scrapping the benefit or not, she replied: “Because this issue is regulated and is so important, we decided to look at it carefully to make sure that we deal with it in a manner that is not going to unilaterally take away things that are given in accordance with law to people because the law also applies to the State.”
Once the said discussions conclude, the premier promised to provide a written response to clarify Government’s position.
She urged civil servants “not to panic”.
At present, Government subsidises housing for its employees by 66 per cent for a house of the maximum value of N.dollars 792 000. This means, if an employee buys a house for N.dollars 792 000, Government will pay N.dollars 522 720, while the employee pays the remaining N.dollars 269 280 over the purchase period.
This has been costly to Government and now appears unsustainable, especially under the prevailing precarious financial situation Government finds itself in, another senior source noted.
There are more than 100 000 civil servants on Government’s payroll, making it the biggest employer in Namibia.
The revelations come two months after the second national land indaba, where the issue of urban housing featured prominently.
It also comes at a time Namibia is faced with a land crisis, one which has made it nearly impossible for most Namibians to access land or decent housing.