KATIMA MULILO – Twenty-one workers from the maintenance section in the directorate of water supply and sanitation coordination of the agriculture ministry in Zambezi region say they have been sitting under the trees doing nothing for over a year while job cards pile up.
They say they have engaged their supervisors on numerous occasions to attend to their grievances to no avail.
Employees, who spoke on condition of anonymity for the fear of being victimised, stated they have been coming to work since September last year just to sign the attendance register, sit under the trees to socialise and go back home when it is 17h00.
They are reportedly being told by their supervisors that there is no money and transport for them to travel and attend to various job cards, which have been piling up for the past two years in the region.
“Staff members for maintenance who are directly working with the communities for supplying both human and livestock water are denied work in the field,” stated the maintenance workers in a grievance letter given to this reporter.
He added other employees from the same directorate are allowed to travel and claim a travelling allowance.
“As we are talking, extension workers are in the field, and they will be there for a month, while we are told we can’t travel because there is no money,” stated one of the workers.
“What are the duties of extension and administrate workers to be in the field, while the backbone of the directorate does not go camping to extract, install pipes and maintain or repair boreholes?” they asked.
The maintenance workers further added they regard it as robbery to government that they are receiving their salaries for doing nothing. “We are willing to work, and we are ready to work because our people are suffering. However, our superiors are frustrating and demoralising us,” they added.
“We have a crane truck that is working, and we are ready to use it and attend to our communities. However, we are told we cannot use it because it can only be fuelled once a month. But when people know they have challenges that need our intervention, they will arrange transport for us to go and work, while the majority of our community members are suffering,” said the workers.
“Why is it that only maintenance staff claim N$202 and others N$622 while in the same directorate?” they asked. Contacted for comment, the regional head of rural and water supply Betty Muyatwa dismissed the allegations by the maintenance workers they have not been doing fieldwork for the past year.
“Indeed, they are not doing fieldwork regularly, meaning every day or weekly. However, they are doing fieldwork. They either go and come back or go and camp. If they don’t go in the field it is either there is no transport or the vehicles are at the garage,” stated Muyatwa.
She further added she is always engaging the supervisors of the maintenance section regarding transport issues.
“During a recent meeting, I was told the transport budget was depleted. When I inquired how the funds were depleted, because we just got the funds for the third quarter, I was informed the funds are already committed to fixing four vehicles for the maintenance section so that the vehicles are fixed for the workers to start working,” explained Muyatwa.
She added the transport issue is affecting the entire directorate and accused the maintenance workers of being stubborn and refusing to accept being transported by other stakeholders, particularly constituency offices to go and attend to the job cards.
When it was put to her that the workers say they refuse to be transported by other stakeholders because they used to be abandoned in the field.
Muyatwa explained the issue was already resolved with the regional council, and they never received further complaints.
Regarding the travelling allowance, Muyatwa explained extension workers get their travel allowance from a funded project.
“All the activities the extension workers are doing this year are funded by the project, and 90% of their travelling allowance this year is funded by the project, and that project is in every region,” explained Muyatwa.
She also accused the maintenance workers of being the ones depleting the travelling allowance and maintained they have been travelling this financial year and promised to provide this reporter with evidence today.
“There is no section that utilises DSA [travel allowance] more than maintenance. I can go to the regional council and ask for a printout. I say so because when they go in the field, it is not two people; they can be more than seven, which means in one trip, they can claim up to N$15 000,” stated Muyatwa.
She, however, maintained even though government is facing financial constraints, DSA is available and the only major challenge, which is affecting the services in the region, is transport issues.