The Speaker of the National Assembly Professor Peter Katjavivi on Tuesday vowed that asset declaration forms that would pave the way for legislation compelling lawmakers to declare their assets would be on the floor of parliament before the current session ends in just over three weeks’ time.
Although the declaration form would be tabled in parliament for approval, Katjavivi said MPs would not be allowed to dictate the contents thereof.
“The forms will be on the floor of the house during the current session and I will not allow any delaying tactics,” avowed Katjavivi.
The last time lawmakers declared their assets to the National Assembly, as prescribed by the Powers, Privileges and Immunities of Parliament Act of 1996, was in 2009, a situation which has since left them vulnerable to accusations of acquiring assets dubiously or crafting laws in favour of their business interests or those of their cronies.
“Some MPs have committed that they are willing to declare their assets, I believe the process will be more rapid,” he said.
Leader of government business in the National Assembly, Prime Minister Saara Kuugongelwa-Amadhila on Tuesday said the matter is fully in the hands of the Office of the Speaker.
“It really is a matter for parliament, not executive, and it has always been handled by them. I have not been approached for any consultations, but I understand that they are seized with the matter,” said the Premier when asked whether she would seek to push for the process to be finalised in response to public outcry for lawmakers to declare their assets.
Critics have in the past critiqued the manner in which the National Assembly secretariat is handling the matter, with some questioning why lawmakers should be accorded the opportunity to scrutinise and approve the form before approving it.
“This just means that MPs are given the opportunity to be players and referees at the same time because they will choose to omit any clause or requirement that they feel will compromise them,” said parliamentary source.
When pressed for more clarity on this, Katjavivi said: “This is not the case, the process is within my area of responsibility and the staff is overseeing it.”
Lawmakers are under even more pressure to declare this time around seeing that President Hage Geingob voluntarily made public his riches.
Geingob and his wife, Monica, last month declared their personal assets and wealth saying their combined estimated net worth is between N$95 million and N$111 million.
Last month leader of the official opposition McHenry Venaani said if the declaration of assets and business interests of lawmakers is to yield the desired results, the state must devise ways to probe the proxies of lawmakers who in most cases are smokescreens of their political masters in the private sector.
Transparency and accountability has not only been a concern when it comes to lawmakers, the public has also over the years expressed deep concern regarding political parties that do not disclose how they spent money received through state funding.
There have been repeated calls for the Office of the Auditor General to audit the books of political parties who receive state funding to ensure that the parties do not misuse the taxpayers’ hard-earned money.
For the 2015/16 financial year, the 10 political parties represented in parliament will receive a combined N$116.8 million from the state purse, but they are not in any way compelled to report how they have spend the money provided from the state coffers.
Each seat in parliament is worth N$958 000.