EDITORIAL: Criminalise long suspensions

22 July 2021 | Opinion

Hundreds of government and public enterprise employees are currently on suspension with full pay.

Some of them have been on suspension for as long as two years, raking in taxpayer money without lifting a finger.

It’s not their fault. The inefficiencies in government and semi-government bureaucracy are responsible for this criminal robbery of the masses.

In April 2018, the Namibia Student Financial Assistance Fund (NSFAF) suspended its CEO Hilya Nghiwete – who remained suspended for 21 months and earned a cool N$3.5 million without lifting a finger.

In February 2020, she was fired without a hearing, a decision which was rescinded last week by the labour commissioner and for which Nghiwete must be paid N$2.7 million for loss of income.

There are many fundamental flaws to long suspensions such as Nghiwete’s. First, it is outright wasteful expenditure when so much money is being paid out to someone for staying at home.

Secondly, persons who are suspended for extended periods risk having their professional integrity eternally damaged, sometimes innocently.

Suspensions should last three months at most. Anything that goes beyond that is a criminal case, not a disciplinary one.

Long suspensions also compromise productivity and, therefore, the overall performance of public institutions. Even when a person is appointed to act in the place of their suspended colleague, it now means they have their own work to do and that of their grounded colleague.

The Public Service Commission and the ministry of public enterprises have a long way to go in rectifying this reckless culture.

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