Additional benches planned for new MPs in parly

13 Jan 2015 12:10pm
WINDHOEK, 12 JAN (NAMPA) – Parliament says it is in the process of putting in place additional benches for the 104 Members of Parliament (MPs) who will take up their seats during the Sixth Parliament later this year.
The sixth National Assembly (NA) will be the first of its kind since independence.
The project for a new parliament building is still in its feasibility stage, thus the sixth parliament which will be sworn in on 21 March will continue to work from the old building, Parliament Liaison Officer, David Nahongandja, told Nampa on Monday.
The Namibian newspaper reported last year that a feasibility study that was commissioned by the NA has estimated that government will have to fork out N.dollars 700 million for the construction of a new parliament building.
This, according to the newspaper was confirmed by the secretary to the NA, Jakes Jacobs, who said the new parliament will be located behind the current one.
“What is happening now is only the arrangement of seats that we are putting in place. Right now parliament is trying its utmost best to see how it will accommodate MPs on the floor of the house by putting in additional benches,” he said.
The space on the floor of the house is not sufficient, he stated, however work to put in additional benches is already in progress to accommodate the MPs whose seats have increased to 104.
Parliament, Nahongandja further explained, is also preparing to see how it will accommodate backbenchers who will not be in the executive with office space.
According to him, backbenchers are entitled to a fully furnished office on the premises of parliament in order to carry out their duties, however there is no office space for the additional members of parliament who will join the legislature this year.
A backbencher is a MP or a legislator who holds no governmental office and is not a frontbench spokesperson.
“Whether we will find them rental offices outside or subdivide them into the small offices here is still under discussion. For some time now, parliament has been having space problems that not even staff members have enough space,” he noted.
Meanwhile, Nahongandja expressed that the house of legislature Parliament is looking forward to an exciting time in the life of this parliament.
“This is a parliament that comes 25 years after independence where people are more experience and better understand issues that affects the nation,” he stressed.
This, he said, is to be expected as the list of those MPs coming to the new NA this year consists of those who have served in high positions for government and private institutions, Permanent Secretaries (PS), those who have run successful business and young people who are qualified.
In terms of serving the standing committee efficiently, Nahongandja said he is satisfied that the number of backbenchers has increased to 60 per cent from 40 as most of the work is done at that stage.
“This will bring in efficiency in the work of the committee’s, reduce their work load and make parliament more effective as members will now not be allowed to serve in more than three committees,” he said.
He indicated that in the past parliament had members that would serve in nine committees adding that when each of this committee’s sits for a meeting in a week, members are forced to attend nine meetings in a week.
MPs will now be restricted to only serve on two committee’s as this he said will give them time to focus on their contributions in parliament as well as do research on that particular topic without feeling overstretched.