Schlettwein under fire for failure to budget for Whistleblower Bill

The official opposition president, McHenry Venaani has bashed government for failure to budget for the Whistleblower protection Bill passed in parliament only last year.

Finance Minister Calle Schlettwein in his budget statement said the implementation of the bill can only come about on the condition that there are funds available for it.

Pressure groups have also joined in the fray to attack government for killing the momentum of fighting corruption by giving the bill a cold shoulder via depriving it of a stand alone budget. 

Speaking to The Villager, Popular Democratic Movement’s Venaani said this was a mere mockery of the bill and that failure to give it financial support defeats the purpose of having it in the first place. 

 “We can not pass bills that do not have financial support because it’s a mockery of passing a bill. The Whistleblower is a very fundamental bill aimed at reporting instances of corruption through protection. Now if you say we do not have money for whistleblowers, why have a bill?”  

“The priorities of government are wrong and it goes without saying that there is no serious concomitant approach towards fighting corruption. We are paying lip service, there is no seriousness and that is just a clear indication that government does not see the seriousness of fighting corruption. That’s why we create a bill and we don’t support it,” he said. 

The outspoken opposition politician has also taken a swipe at Schlettwein for being out of order while demanding that resources to support the bill be procured so that it serves its purpose. 

“The minister of finance is utterly out of order. We must find resources to finance the bill because what is the point of legislating and you create institutions that must be there and you create structures and you don’t put them in place. Why bring the bill to the house if you do not have money?” queried Venaani.

Former justice minister, Dr. Albert Kawana is on record stressing the vitality of the bill once passed into law. 

“This Bill is one of the most important to the Namibian nation once it is passed into law. It will go a long way to address the concerns of some of our citizens, especially lack of legislation to protect whistleblowers both in the public and private sectors in our country,” Kawana  is quoted as saying. 

Institute for Public Policy Research, the country’s leading socio-economic think tank has also said frowned at Schlettewein for making funds available for defense and at the expense of fighting corruption. 

“It’s a pity that it has not been seen as a priority in this year’s budget. Money is being wasted on other things, the high wage bill, there is a number of infrastructure projects.  If we are to fight corruption we need to put institutions in place,” said the institution’s director, Graham Hopwood. 

Attempts o reach the minister for a comment as to what precluded him from budgeting for such a vital tool of legislation were fruitless as he was reportedly said to be busy.  

He did not reply to a message left by this publication till the end of the business day.   

This is no the first time the bill has stoked controversy, of particular concern having been a lack of independence for various bodies and disproportionate punishments for false reporting.

Section 30 (5a) of the Bill got huge criticism as it stated that a person who intentionally makes a disclosure while knowing it is false commits an offence.  

On conviction, that person would be liable to a fine not exceeding N$100 000 or a prison term not exceeding 20 years. 

Current justice minister, Sacky Shanghala is on record vehemently defending the clause in the August House.

“I do not understand why a person who goes and lies about something should not be punished,” he is on record as saying. 

His argument was that the bill should also aim at addressing the effects of rumour mongering. 

While the media have been lauded for taking the lead in exposing corruption and steering investigations by the corruption watch dog, Shanghala said most of these reports were based on rumours and that they should be nipped in the bud. 

The clause was defined by critics as giving freedom with the right hand and taking it away with the left hand. 

Institutions like the IPPR called for the total removal of the clause.