WINDHOEK – Plans to table the Code of Conduct and Declaration of Members’ Interests aimed at making it compulsory for lawmakers to declare their assets and interests, are at an advanced stage.
Secretary of the National Assembly, Jakes Jacobs told New Era last week that work to have the code of conduct tabled is nearing completion. “The process is nearing completion, if adopted in the house, it will make it enforceable. The moment it is adopted they have to abide by their own rules,” Jacobs said adding, “I do not have the power to table these things, therefore I have to get a member of the house to table it so that it can be adopted.”
Although lawmakers in other countries are subject to suspension or even losing their parliamentary seats for failing to declare their assets and interests, Namibian lawmakers will not have to worry about the prospect of being removed from the National Assembly if they fail to declare their assets, according to the National Assembly’s Third Amended Code of Conduct and Declaration of Members’ Interests which is in New Erapossession.
Lawmakers have since 2009 failed to declare their assets and interests to the National Assembly. Cabinet ministers have over the years been reluctant to declare their assets to parliament, claiming that they already declare to their appointing authority, President Hifikepunye Pohamba. Civil society have, however, argued that declarations made to the presidency are not for the public eye, hence the need for lawmakers to declare their interests to parliament which is open for scrutiny by the electorate.
According to the proposed document which is yet to be endorsed for tabling, any member who contravenes the code of conduct or negligently, recklessly or intentionally provides the Registrar with incorrect or misleading information when disclosing interests will be subject to an investigation by the Powers, Privileges and Immunities Committee.
If found guilty, punishment include a fine not exceeding the value of a month’s salary or twice the value of the unethically-derived benefit, whichever is greater; a reduction of salary or allowances for a period not exceeding 15 days or the suspension of the members’ privileges or right to a seat in the House or Committees for a period not exceeding 15 days.
With the National Assembly resuming tomorrow, the proposed Code of Conduct if tabled and adopted before this session ends, is most likely to come into effect only during the sixth parliament which commences in March next year.
According to the document, lawmakers must declare interests such as sponsorships, travel discounts, land and property, pensions, gifts and hospitality, consultancies, remunerated employment outside of parliament, shares and other interests in companies and other corporate entities as well as directorships, partnerships, and board memberships and any remuneration received.
“Details of all financial interests of members’ spouse, dependent children and other dependents of members of parliament, to the extent that it benefits the member whether directly or indirectly and the member is aware of their interests,” reads the document.
Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) Director, Paulus Noa said the absence of an asset declaration register for lawmakers negatively affects the operations of the ACC and called for a law which compels lawmakers to declare their assets on a regular basis.
“ACC has been advocating for a law on asset declaration with regard to public officers at management level and members of parliament,” said Noa when he expressed dissatisfaction over the absence of an asset declaration register for lawmakers.
As far as Noa is concerned, as long as there is no law compelling lawmakers to declare their assets, they will not find it necessary to do so.
“Currently the declaration of assets in parliament is merely a house rule, this cannot work because it does not serve as a deterring sanction,” Noa asserted.
Noa is worried when it comes to his institution having to investigate a member of parliament, saying, “When a need arises to investigate an MP, it becomes difficult if there are no records of their assets. Therefore, if there is a law compelling them to register and they do not declare their assets, it will be easy to conduct investigations when the need arises.”
Courtesy the New Era