Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Is Namibian President A Globetrotter?

President Hage Geingob this year traveled to 16 countries and spent 64 days abroad.
As according to Namibian Investigative Unit's Article: President Hage Geingob this year visited to 16 countries, spent 64 days abroad and qualified for an estimated N$850 000 in travel allowances. This is despite a ban the Presidency placed on international trips by public officials on 1 February this year as part of cutting down costs. The ban, however, was a short-lived public stunt as business continued as usual because soon after, Geingob flew out to China. The Presidency refused to answer questions about the cost and possible allowances for the head of state's international trips. They have also been secretive and evasive on the cost and motivation for the extensive travelling undertaken so far despite concerns that some government officials are using the presidential trips as a cash cow. In three years, Geingob travelled to 47 countries – 19 in 2015, 12 in 2016 and 16 countries in 2018. State House statements reviewed by The Namibian show that in 2018 Geingob visited China, Ethiopia, Nigeria, Mauritania, Canada, the United States of America, Indonesia, Guinea, Ghana, Kenya, Switzerland, Angola, Malawi, South Africa, the United Kingdom and Botswana.

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The president kicked off his foreign trips this year with a visit to Ethiopia from 26 to 29 January for the African Union meeting held under the theme 'Winning the fight against corruption'. Geingob and his delegation used commercial flights to Ethiopia to save costs. Calculations, however, show that for his three-day stay in Ethiopia he qualified for N$48 130 in travel allowances. The Namibian calculated some of the costs whose formulae and other essential guides were obtained from the government documents. A month after announcing the travel ban, the president flew to Beijing, China on 27 March and returned home on 3 April 2018. The week-long state visit to Beijing was for, among others, to ask the Asian superpower for loans to fund Namibian projects such as the Hosea Kutako International Airport upgrade. Geingob qualified for N$88 323 in allowances for the week he spent in China. Geingob then attended the burial of the late ANC liberation stalwart Winnie Madikizela-Mandela on 14 April 2018 in Johannesburg, South Africa. He was on the move again three days later when he visited the United Kingdom from 17 to 20 April 2018 for the Commonwealth summit in London to discuss issues such as terrorism and organised crime. Geingob attended a two-day Southern African Development Community leadership summit in Luanda, Angola, from 23 April to 24 April.

 The president did not travel out of the country in May, but he was off again on 29 June to the Southern African Customs Union summit in Botswana. Geingob then travelled to the Mauritanian capital of Nouakchott on 30 June where he attended the African Union summit from 1 to 2 July 2018. From Mauritania, Geingob travelled to Abuja, Nigeria, on 3 July 2018 where he visited Nigerian president Muhammadu Buhari. From there, he attended the funeral of former executive secretary for the United Nations' economic commission for Africa Adebayo Adedeji. The president returned to Namibia on 7 July 2018, a day after Adedeji's burial. He went to Johannesburg for the Brics summit from 26 to 27 July. The government announced in September this year that Cabinet directed the works ministry to look at borrowing from the Brics New Development Bank to finance regional infrastructure projects. Geingob was again on the move the following month, visiting Asia for a week. He flew to Indonesia on 27 August 2018 for the Indonesia-Namibia Business Forum held in Jakarta until 1 September. From there, Geingob went to China again. This time to participate in the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation from 3 to 4 September.

He qualified for N$138 000 in allowances for his two trips to China this year. The president returned to Namibia on 5 September, but he was in the air again a week later, travelling to Accra, Ghana, on 12 September to attend the funeral of the late United Nations secretary general, Kofi Annan, who died on 18 August and was buried on 13 September. He returned to Windhoek the same day. The president went on another trip five days later. This time he was abroad for 12 days. His first stop was at the West African country Guinea on 18 September 2018 for a three-day visit at the invitation of that country's president, Alpha Conde. State House said in a media statement that the visit focused on strengthening relations in trade and investment between the two countries. The president and his delegation then travelled to Ottawa, Canada, on 21 September where he held talks with the country's prime minister, Justin Trudeau. From there, Geingob travelled to New York in the United States for the annual United Nations General Assembly summit from 22 September to 28 September, qualifying for N$101 678 in travel allowances. He returned to Namibia on 29 September. Geingob was on the plane two weeks later, visiting Nairobi, Kenya, on 17 October for a four-day trip “to strengthen cooperation between the two countries in trade, investment and business exchanges”. He was also a special guest at that country's national heroes' day celebrations.

He wrapped up his Kenyan trip on 21 October 2018 and proceeded to Geneva, Switzerland for the United Nations investment conference from 22 to 25 October. Geingob qualified for N$36 700 (Kenya) and N$67 800 (Switzerland) in allowances from that trip. He travelled again a week after his Switzerland visit. He participated in the first extraordinary summit of the African Union committee of 10 heads of state held in Lilongwe, Malawi, on 3 November. The summit was aimed at championing for education, science and technology in Africa. Two weeks later, Geingob travelled to Ethiopia – his second trip to the east-African country this year – from 17-18 November 2018. The trip was for the African Union extraordinary summit in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

FULLY PAID LIFESTYLE 


There have been several calls from the public to reduce what is viewed as too generous travelling allowances, especially to senior officials such as the president, whose entire cost of living is paid for by the taxpayer. The president earns around N$1,7 million untaxed per year. Popular Democratic Movement (PDM) parliamentarian Vipua Muharukua said the money paid on allowances for Geingob could have been used to build toilets for the elderly and disabled. “This is a lot of money to use just for travelling,” Muharukua stressed. He said parliament reduced its travels. “I am not saying the president must not travel, of course, he has to attend SADC and the AU general assembly, but his travelling must be limited. What are the direct results on Namibian's livelihood when the president travels?” he asked.

Presidential spokesperson Alfredo Hengari declined to comment on questions sent to Geingob. The president qualified for around N$700 000 in travel allowances in 2016. He qualified for N$2,4 million in 2015 but has downplayed concerns that the trips were enriching him. Speaking at a press conference in 2015, to outline his achievements since assuming power in March of that year, Geingob said he does not travel for subsistence and travel allowances. He did not say whether he would claim his travel allowances or not, but instead said he “helps other people”. “I don't live on per diems. I even help others when we are travelling. I pay for them. I feed them. So I don't go there (abroad) to get per diems,” he said.
 
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