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Research Body Names and Shames MPs Not Declaring Assets

By: Kelvin Chiringa

On 27 January 2022, the Democracy Report team said that it requested to view the ‘Register of Members’ Interests’ for the 2021/22 financial year, which led to shocking revelations that 38 members of parliament did not bother to file their interest declarations.

The investigating team was provided access to the register on 31 January 2022.

This was part of a recent investigation of the register and MPs’ declarations which, according to researchers Frederico Links and Bradley Tjongarero, indicates that long-standing issues are no nearer to being resolved.

The team said it had identified 14 senior MPs and party leaders whose declarations would be inspected.

On that day, out of the 14 MPs chosen for inspection, the team only found the declarations of six MPs, said the duo.

The submissions of the six available declarations were all dated in November 2021, more than six months after the deadline of 30 April 2021.

“The declarations available for inspection were those of the following MPs: Hon. Bernadus Swartbooi (LPM); Hon. Jan Mukwiilongo (NEFF); Hon. Tangeni Iijambo (SWANU); Hon. Gothard Kandume (CDVP); Hon. Frans Kapofi (SWAPO); Hon. Doreen Sioka (SWAPO).

“Notably, the 2021/22 declarations of Namibian Prime Minister, Hon. Saara Kuugongelwa-Amadhila (SWAPO), and leader of the official opposition, Hon. McHenry Venaani (PDM) could not be found and viewed on that day. The same was true for finance minister Hon. Iipumbu Shiimi and agriculture minister, Hon. Calle Schlettwein

“According to a New Era newspaper report on 17 February 2022, Venaani’s declaration was viewable by then. When the Democracy Report team did a follow up viewing of the register in mid-April 2022, it emerged that both Kuugongelwa-Amadhila and Venaani had only submitted declarations in early February 2022,” said Links and Tjongarero.

The duo noted that the New Era report also stated that a number of MPs had failed to declare anything for the 2021/22 financial year up to that point.

Links and Tjongarero said that the Democracy Report team could only find the declarations of 66 MPs, out of 104, for the past financial year.

So, according to the researchers, 38 MPs had simply not bothered to file interest declarations.

“The New Era report also mentioned the vocal refusal of Hon. Utoni Nujoma (SWAPO), the Namibian Minister of Labour, Industrial Relations and Employment Creation, to comply with assets and interest declaration rules.

“The undermining of rules governing transparency and accountability in parliament by parliamentarians, political parties and parliamentary officials is akin to players and match officials making up and disregarding rules of a game as and while they play it – the continued deference to politicians and political parties to passively self-regulate their own conduct is clearly not bearing fruit and not conducive to setting the tone at the highest levels on integrity.

“The non-compliance, lax enforcement and mishandling of the parliamentary Code of Conduct and the assets and interests declaration dispensation are another clear example of how systems, processes and institutions are failing Namibians on transparency and accountability,” they said.

Links and Tjongarero have highlighted that on or by 30 April every year, all MPs must have submitted a declaration of their assets and interests to the Secretary of the National Assembly.

However, they said non-compliance with and lax enforcement of this deadline has become a culture in the assembly.

“As in the case of complying with and enforcing political party funding rules, the National Assembly has not been proactive in upholding the rule of law,” they said.

Kelvin Chiringa

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