Query: Every Namibian politician is using flimsy reasons to claim S&T, starting with the Speaker of the National Assembly, who is always on a plane to attend “important international” meetings, and members of the National Assembly who go to visit every town and settlement in Namibia “for consultations with the people”. And now, the Ombudsman has also jumped on the bandwagon. God help Namibia. Amen!
Response: Parliaments around the world act as institutions that represent the people, who through voting, have mandated it to act and decide on their behalf. The National Assembly as part of the legislative authority of the Parliament of Namibia is no exception. In any democracy, public participation in the lawmaking process is of paramount importance, as this is the only way the public can make direct input in legislation before decisions are taken by the House.
Thus, the parliamentary core function of oversight, which is exclusively vested with the Parliamentary Standing Committees, cannot be overemphasised. In fact, it is provided for in the Namibian Constitution, Articles 44, 52 and 63.
The committees exercise the supervisory role (oversight) over government, by checking whether government is able to deliver services to citizens and hold government to account for its actions or lack thereof. This is performed through holding scrutiny and inquiry meetings, usually in the morning when the House is in session and conducting public hearings during recess. The committees gather public opinions on topics and issues referred to them by the House, or investigate government projects in the regions to garner better understanding.
For example, during the May 2017 recess, the Namibia Time Bill, the Genocide Remembrance Day Motion, and the GRN Payment System Motion were some of the issues taken by the committees to the regions to seek public opinion and input and provide members of the public with an opportunity to participate in lawmaking.
Regarding the Speaker’s international trips, the Parliament of Namibia does not work in isolation, as it is part of the greater global parliamentary community. This parliament is a member of regional, continental and global parliamentary bodies, such as the Southern Africa Development Community – Parliamentary Forum (SADC-PF); Pan-African Parliament (PAP), Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU), etc. This is why the Speaker and some Members of Parliament attend annual sessions of these parliamentary bodies where they represent and serve the Namibian citizenry at a global level.
The S&T referred to by the author(s) of the SMS is nothing but a condition of service budgeted for and permitted in public service when one performs official duties beyond their duty station. Democracy is an expensive exercise, and as such budgetary provisions are made to enable MPs to execute and fulfil their constitutional mandates of representation, legislation and oversight, as well as provide the opportunity for members of the public to participate in the lawmaking process without travelling to Windhoek, where parliament is located. It is also worth noting that some of the travels the MPs undertake are sponsored by either the inviting organisations or local development partners. Not all MPs’ travels are funded by Treasury.
– David Nahogandja, public relations officer at the National Assembly, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org