N$8,8m paid to ‘ghost’ veterans – The Namibian

N$8,8m paid to 'ghost' veterans - The Namibian
N$8,8m paid to 'ghost' veterans - The Namibian

Africa-PressNamibia. THE government has paid more than N$8,8 million to 130 struggle veterans – despite records at the Ministry of Home Affairs, Immigration, Safety and Security showing they have died.

These details are contained in an auditor general’s draft report in 2018.Some of the damning findings were, however, excluded from the final report when it was tabled in parliament in 2019.Auditor general Junias Kandjeke confirmed the final report, saying it was tabled in parliament.“The final report was signed, tabled and published on our website. It will definitely differ from the draft report and contents of the management letter,” he said.The draft, seen by The Namibian, provides insight into how dead war veterans were allegedly continuously paid a monthly grant.It also details how payments of around N$26 million to veterans were allegedly wiped from the veterans’ computer administration system.According to the report, the audit analysis found that 2 926 (out of 64 949 veterans) are deceased, based on information from the home affairs ministry’s database, while they were still ‘alive/active’ on the veterans’ administration system.“From these 2 926 veterans, 130 veterans received payment to the value of N$8,8 million after the date of death,” the draft report read.This information was removed from the final report presented to parliament.The auditors advised the veterans department to comb through audit results provided and confirm the deceased status of the veterans.“Those who are confirmed deceased should have their status changed on the system for payment to be stopped and made to the valid registered dependants,” the report said.A response from the then veterans affairs ministry seemed to confirm the payments made to ghost veterans.“Veterans affairs, upon receiving the audit report, immediately suspended the entire list of 148 recipients presumed to be deceased. Some were already suspended,” the veteran affairs management is quoted as saying in the audit report.They admitted that 13 out of the presumed deceased veterans showed up for verification in October 2018 during a verification exercise.“In fact, three out of the 13 presumed deceased veterans have been cleared by the ministry and have been reinstated,” the report said.The audit mostly focused on information systems at the veterans department, which at the time resorted under the vice president’s office.The office currently falls under the Ministry of Defence and Veterans Affairs.Questions sent to minister of defence and veterans affairs Peter Vilho were not answered.Former veterans affairs deputy minister Hilma Nicanor, who is currently an adviser on veterans affairs, did not reply to detailed questions.Veterans have for years been given government perks, but suspicions are that senior government officials and their cronies are benefiting from this.The Namibian reported two years ago that the veterans ministry registered 30 000 war veterans since 2010.Of this number, only 15 156 veterans receive a monthly grant of N$2 200.It was reported that the ministry spent more than N$2 billion on projects since its inception in 2010, benefiting 11 169 veterans.OTHER FINDINGSThe 2018 audit report found damning evidence of irregularities, such as a lack of an information technology governance structure, inconsistent practices, errors due to a lack of knowledge, and a lack of accountability.Another finding omitted from the final report is the removal of payments to veterans worth up to N$26 million.“Three batches of monthly payment confirmations to the value of N$26 million had been deleted from the system. This could lead to the possibility of concealing unauthorised transactions and reconciliation differences,” the auditors found.They advised the veterans affairs department not to delete any information on processed transactions.The veterans ministry management in the report denied that the data was deleted, and admitted it could lead to fraud.They said this was more of a technical issue and provided evidence that everything was above board.The audit also found that up to 5 640 veterans did not register their identification numbers, despite the fact that up to around 4 770 veterans on the list were eligible for identification.The auditors recommended that the veterans ministry makes the provision of identification document fields on the system mandatory for veterans and dependants older than 16.“This is to ensure that all veterans captured on the system have identified numbers to identify themselves to prevent ghost and duplicate veterans,” the auditors said.The veterans affairs department was also found to have lacked policies to secure its database systems.Veterans affairs management replied that the “recommendation is noted and will be implemented accordingly”.This is not the first time the veterans affairs department is implicated in the failure to account for taxpayers’ money.Two years ago, an auditor general’s report found the veterans’ fund had no written financial policy for four years from 2013, the auditor general’s report submitted to parliament recently revealed.Apart from operating without a policy, the auditor general found that the fund was also operating without a cashbook during the years under review.During the four-year period, the auditor general’s report shows that the fund received close to N$4 billion.

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