Opposition wants impregnable whistleblower law

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WALVIS BAY, 19 April 2016 - DTA of Namibias national chairperson and Chief Whip Jennifer Van den Heever says Government should not test the patience of landless Namibians. (Photo by: Paulus Kiiyala Shiku) NAMPA

Selma Ikela

Windhoek-The official opposition DTA has asked that the Whistleblower Protection Bill be referred to the relevant standing committees to scrutinise it for possible shortcomings and to conduct public consultations on it.

DTA MP Jennifer van den Heever believes this would help the country arrive at a law and whistleblower protection office that has the confidence and trust of the public.
Van den Heever made the remarks during the Whistleblower Protection Bill debate in parliament this week.

She noted that a lot has been said about various problematic clauses in the Whistleblower Protection Bill and drew the attention of parliament to a media statement released by a coalition of local civil society organisations.

Van den Heever said some of the problem areas highlighted include the fact that the bill disproportionately seeks to punish whistleblowers, who may mistakenly make an incorrect or false disclosure.

She said the bill is said to be unconstitutional in that it also directly seeks to prevent members of the public from criticising government policy in the process of whistleblowing.

“Another major issue of concern is the overly political leaning and composition of all the bodies and offices, which the bill will create.

“Accordingly, I reiterate the call by (DTA MPs) Honourable [Elma] Dienda and [Nico] Smit that the composition of these bodies and the selection and interview procedure for the commissioner of the whistleblower office needs to be completely rethought.”

Van den Heever said she was echoing the sentiment of civil society organisations that argue a clause needs to be inserted into the bill to directly guarantee the independence of its offices and to prevent potential political or other interference.

“So, when an umbrella body of multiple civil society organisations expresses such strong reservations against a bill under discussion in this house, it is our duty and responsibility, as people’s representatives, to listen to their concerns and not disregard them.”

Republican Party member Clara /Gowases supported van den Heever’s suggestion that the bill be referred to the committee on constitutional and legal affairs to address the concerns raised.

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