Wildlife officers sue government

Chief Justice Dibotelo
Chief Justice Dibotelo

The Department of Wildlife officers have taken the government to court for outstanding subsistence allowances of over P4 million.

The 111 officers around the Maun, Kasane, Serowe, Molepolole, Gantsi and Tsabong areas brought the matter before court following government’s failure to pay them within the 30 days stated in their Statutory Notice.

The matter that came before court yesterday was pushed further to December 18, 2015 with the hope that the parties would amicably resolve the matter. Chief Justice, Maruping Dibotelo said the matter should have not reached the court in the first place, but should have been dealt with administratively.

“The matter will be postponed with the hope that the parties can meet and resolve it amicably and come to court with a different approach,” he said. The employees represented by Tiroyaone Ezekiel demand the money after numerous agreements were made, which they said the government, under the Ministry of Environment, Wildlife and Tourism, failed to act upon.

According to the court papers, the officers had agreed with their employer that they would no longer be paid commuted subsistence allowance when they go on trips, but would be paid subsistence allowance. The change in the payment of the said allowance came with conditions that the subsistence allowance would be paid only if the officers were supplied with camping equipment and if not be entitled to commuted subsistence allowance.

The documents state that after the agreement was made, sometime in January 12, 2010 a directive was issued through a circular savingram to the effect that:

“Camping equipment should be given to field workers and drivers assigned outside their duty stations for longer period that where such is not provided, employees will be entitled to subsistence allowance as opposed to commuted subsistence allowance”.  Furthermore, according to the documents, another savingram followed on January 2014, which sought clarity on camping equipment and what was being done to provide such.

The officers alleged that since then they were never provided with such equipment and were only paid commuted subsistence allowance despite the knowledge of the two savingrams.

“In the premises the claimants are entitled to subsistence allowance arrears from January 12, 2010 to date at a daily rate relative to yearly increments which amounts are still owing, due and payable, the amounts owed are for different trips on different dates for different periods for the officers,” read the papers.

The officers through their lawyer alleged that they are owed a total of P4,509,439.45. They argued that they have not been paid the correct allowance in that they have been paid commuted subsistence allowance as opposed to subsistence allowance.

Despite the government admitting to owing the officers outstanding allowances, poor record keeping has allegedly kept them from accounting for the officers who have been on trips and paying them.

According to the court papers, Wildlife and National Parks through two savingrams dated April 30, 2014 and May 11, 2015 indicated that efforts were made for the officers to be paid their outstanding allowances.

The most recent letter dated May 11, 2015 written by the director to all regional wildlife officers reads as:

“Request for the release of principal/senior administration officers; As you are aware we have a pending issue regarding payment of subsistence allowance in lieu of adequate camping equipment in the department.  We have received a bulk of documentation from you, which serves as evidence that indeed the concerned officers who request the said payment went on authorised trips.

There is a need to consolidate the information as well as calculate the amount payable to them.

On the basis of the above we request your office to release the officers from May 18 and 29, 2015 to assist”.

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