By Eliaser Ndeyanale
THE National Assembly has missed the deadline to release a list of lawmakers’ assets, a constitutional requirement aimed at preventing Members of Parliament from advancing their interests at the expense of the public.
Last month the lower house failed to publish the assets register as promised by Speaker of the National Assembly Peter Katjavivi early this year.
In January this year Katjavivi said that the assets register for parliamentarians would be made public in June, the register indicates what assets lawmakers own and businesses they are involved in.
During the discussions on the Code of Conduct and Declaration of Members’ Interests forms Minister of Land Reform Utoni Nujoma accused the media of “abusing” the asset declarations and using it against MPs. He called on the National Assembly to apply strict rules when it comes to making the information public.
“We declare as requested, but we have seen that the process was being abused by journalists. Some of us are even targeted. You declare in confidence, but during political campaigns it is used to tarnish your image,” Nujoma charged. He wants parliament to strictly control access to the declarations made.
The move if followed has been hailed as excellent for transparency which of late has been seen as lacking. National Assembly did not produce an assets register for seven years while the National Council produces annually.
The Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) raised the issue of the register of members’ interests in the National Assembly. The situation remains worrisome says IPPR, since Namibia’s independence in 1990, the National Assembly has managed to produce its assets register only twice.
It is not clear at this point if all 104 parliamentarians have not disclosed their assets, as the director in Katjavivi’s office Gerson Tjihenuna did not respond to questions sent in this regard.
After the first disclosure in 2003, six years elapsed before another assets’ disclosure was produced. The 2009 register was particularly thin on detail with MPs from both sides of the house missing after they apparently failed to submit their declaration forms.
At that time 13 MPs did not submit disclosure forms, moreover, there had been instances in the past that were potential conflicts of interest but were seemingly ignored. It is common cause that the publication of MPs’ interests in advance will go a long way in avoiding potential conflict of interests.
MP code of conduct states that MPs are expected to declare movable assets worth over N$15 000 and real estate alienated in the past year.
On financial assets, MPs will be expected to declare bank accounts and deposits, investment funds, equivalent savings and investment forms.
Other net income generating assets that exceed a total annual equivalent of N$20 000 are also subject to declaration.
Lawmakers are also compelled to declare their debts and liabilities mortgages.
The declaration form also states that MPs must declare gifts, services or advantages free of charge or subject to subsidies as compared to the market value received from persons, organisations, companies, autonomous administrations, national companies or foreign public institutions, including scholarships, loans, warrantees, expense disbursements or the like of an individual worth over N$5 000
MPs will also be expected to declare their stake in trading companies, national companies, credit institutions, economic groups as well as membership in associations, foundations or other non-governmental organisations where they will state name of the firm, position held, and number of shares as well as total value of shares.
By signing the declaration register, MPs commit to being held responsible under the criminal laws and contempt of Parliament for any inaccuracy or the incomplete nature of the aforementioned information.
Confidente. Lifting the Lid. Copyright © 2015