By Charles Tjatindi
Home Affairs and Immigration spokesman, Kauku Hengari, says his appointment as the information and publicity official of the Rally for Democracy and Progress (RDP) does not present a conflict of interest with his current job.
Hengari, who is the Public Relations Officer in the ministry, and holds a similar position within the newly launched RDP, was responding to fears raised by the public that neutrality will be compromised if he is allowed to serve in both positions.
The RDP announced Hengari’s election as interim secretary for Information and Publicity over the weekend at the party’s launch.
“What conflict of interest are you talking about,” he asked.
“I do not see any conflict of interest. I will be dealing with national documents within the ministry, as opposed to politics within the RDP.”
Hengari noted that there are various other civil servants who also hold executive positions in other political parties, but the issue of conflict of interest has never been raised.
“Why don’t you interview Elia Ngurare? He is a civil servant, but also a Secretary General of the Swapo Party’s Youth League. Why are you only running to me? This is pure intimidation by your newspaper and not the concern of the public,” he noted.
In an interview with New Era, however, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Home Affairs and Immigration, Samuel Goagoseb, maintained that a conflict of interest might arise as a result of Hengari’s new position within the RDP.
Goagoseb confirmed that the ministry was aware of the situation and is closely looking at how best to tackle the issue. He noted that an Act of Parliament prohibits civil servants from involving themselves in activities that could compromise their positions as civil servants. He, however, admitted that the same Act does not clearly define what these activities could be.
“The Act is there, but it is not very clear. We realise that there is definitely a conflict of interest here, that is why we have to look at all possible Acts and policies applicable in order to come up with the most appropriate and suitable solution,” said Goagoseb.
Another important consideration that he and his ministry need to overcome, Goagoseb noted, is the constitutional provision, which provides the rights for political membership and affiliation.
“We know that the constitutional provision of every individual cannot be overwritten by any Act and therefore we really have to sit around the table and see what works best,” he said.
By virtue of his position, Hengari is required to sit in management meetings, although not being a management cadre himself. Had he been a management cadre, a disciplinary hearing as per the Public Service Act would have been instituted against him, noted Goagoseb. The Act prohibits members of management within the civil service from taking up portfolios in political parties.
“If he was on the management of the ministry, there are policies in place to deal with the scenario. That would have been better. But that is not the case.
He just sits in on the meetings from time to time, but is not part of the management at all,” said Goagoseb.
The Permanent Secretary noted that care would be taken to ensure that a decision reached would not compromise any party involved and will be for the benefit of all.
“We are closely looking at establishing the extent of conflict of interest involved and how neutrality is compromised in the eyes of the public,” said Goagoseb.
Once a decision in this regard is made, all relevant stakeholders will be informed, the Permanent Secretary concluded.
Hengari, however, remains adamant that he is being victimised because of his election to the RDP leadership.
“This is just because I am not a member of the Swapo Party. That is why the others are not being questioned,” he said.