Speaker Warns on Hasty BEE Deals

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By Frederick Philander WINDHOEK “The march is irreversibly on for increased economic productivity and social development as key sectors among the top developmental priorities taking place in Southern Africa.” This was said by the Speaker of the National Assembly last week when he hosted a gala evening for the delegates who attended a week-long conference on public finance control in the capital. “This is further evidenced by the fact of seeing new initiatives and performance linkages in the region. This is necessary to fast-track growth, transformation, empowerment and infrastructure concerns of Africa’s industrialization and ICT trajectories,” Theo-Ben Gurirab said. There remain critical areas of reflection, review, resource mobilization, capacity enhancement and exchange of best practices that address rural poverty, gender imbalance, empowerment of youth and assistance to people with disabilities. “To this end, we need transparent and accountable national institutions that respect the rights of the people, fight against corruption and replace incompetence with efficiency. It is imaginative leadership and hard work that breed lasting success and prosperity for all,” he said. He further reiterated that parliament is the people’s common house and the heartbeat of participatory democracy and must therefore have a strong role in budgetary processes. “Oversight and auditing are two words that actually mean the same thing essentially. They stress the importance of transparency and accountability that are our shared responsibility. When the masters (electorate) call, the servants (public officials) must answer, lest the wrath of voters’ outrage may result in a disgraceful eviction from high places or civil service conveniences,” he warned. “We Namibians, in particular, must not betray Vision 2030. We must avoid being found with corruption and obfuscation in our back pockets. Executive, Parliament and Judiciary share key duties and responsibilities to uphold the Constitution and promote public interest, albeit from differentiated battlefields. Public Accounts Committees, with the backstopping offices of the Auditor-General and Ombudsman, as well as the Office of the Prosecutor-General, through law enforcement authorities,” the Speaker said. He went on: “I want to say something about BEE uneasy deals in Namibia and intimate caution to everybody involved. Such hasty deals now being forged in Namibia would need to be reviewed in the future and looked at anew within the framework of the government’s policy and relevant law when it is going to be put in place. It’s not a question of whose money is being shared or the nature of partnerships, but rather because of genuine concern to ensure transparency, the rule of law and promotion of a new and coherent socio-economic paradigm in Namibia.” It is better to avoid wrong things and allow government to formulate BEE policy and for parliament to adopt suitable legislation. “Quick fixes will not become faits accompli. A monkey cannot scare away a rattle snake. There is also the question of good corporate governance. Let’s think and act together. A sword is a shield not to kill but to preserve life and promote cooperation for a better future,” Gurirab asserted. In the Speaker’s opinion, African parliaments are being marginalized, apparently by governments and ruling parties for the most part. “The issue of parliament’s input in the budget process is unresolved. Call it mutual distrust, jealousy, power struggle or rival personality factors, the topic is discussed everywhere. There is no unanimity. It is clear that different countries handle the issues in different ways. The question boils down to whose domain and tutelage is the national budget anyway? Some argue that the solution is to allow parliaments to appropriate their own funds,” Gurirab intimated.