A democracy report by the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) has found that during the financial year 2022/23, only 41 of the 104 members of parliament submitted assets and interest declaration forms.
With only 39% had declared their assets and interest, the IPPR charged the compliance with the rules were once again disregarded.
The research organisation said failure of many MPs to declare their interests and assets in a timely and comprehensive manner continues to cast a pall over parliamentary proceedings.
The Institute says the Code of Conduct and Disclosure of Interests for members of the National Assembly require all members to declare their assets and interests by 30 April every year.
“According to information provided by the National Assembly’s secretary Lydia Kandetu by 1 December 2022, which was seven months after the 30 April deadline, only 41 MPs had submitted assets and interests declaration forms for the 2022/23 financial year,” IPPRsaid.
MPs have been accused of not taking seriously the law which requires them to declare their assets under the Powers, Privileges and Immunities of Parliament Act of 1996.
Kandetu stated that aside from a later deadline over recent years, “repeated reminders” had also been issued to MPs.
Popular Democratic Movement (PDM) leader McHenry Venaani accused the system of being weak and riddled with loopholes.
IPPR said the code of conduct makes it clear that the registration of assets and interests is a transparency and integrity mechanism that is meant to track the changes in income and wealth of MPs.
Last year in April in its perspectives on parliament issue IPPR had revealed that both compliance with and enforcement of the provisions of the code of conduct have been less than optimal over the last 20 years.
The report then referred to records of the 2021/22 financial year when only 66 MPs out of the 104 declared their assets and interests.
“That is a compliance rate of just over 63%, but that is almost double the compliance rate of 2022/23 by 1 December 2022,” it said.
The interests to be declared include shareholding in various commercial activities, including lucrative fishing quotas, with IPPR stating all the assets and interests of MPs should be recorded in the register of members’ assets and interests on an annual basis.
“The register is managed by the secretariats of the National Assembly and National Council. For the National Assembly, MPs are required to file their assets and interests declarations by 30 April every year.”
IPPR stressed that reports over the years show that MPs did not adhere to the rules on deadlines and even failed to submit declarations for specific financial years.
In addition, the research organization said the National Assembly secretariat has historically also come across as not enforcing the rules, “arguably fueling the culture of lax compliance among MPs” as it concerns the submitting of their assets and interests declarations.”
In response to this, Kandetu indicated that MPs’ compliance with and the secretariat’s enforcement of the Code of Conduct had been hampered over recent years by the Covid-19 pandemic.
“This was why deadlines for MPs to submit their declarations had often been late in the year over recent years. For instance, for the 2022/23 financial year the deadline for submission of declarations appeared to be 7 July 2022, according to the declaration forms,” she explained.
Kandetu said MPs will again be required to adhere to the 30 April deadline for the 2023/24 financial year. She added the Code of Conduct and the Powers, Privileges and Immunities of Parliament Act (17 of 1996) make provision for the Committee of Privileges in the National Assembly to investigate MPs’ compliance with the code.
However, according to IPPR, in her 1 December 2022 correspondence, Kandetu stated that the committee “has never conducted any investigation into the declarations of Members of the National Assembly”.
“Meanwhile, the National Council appears historically to have fared better than the National Assembly in terms of compliance with submitting of declarations of assets and interests by MPs,” the IPPR stated.
According to information available by 1 December 2022, IPPR said of the 42 National Council members, 29 had submitted declarations by that date.
“That equates to a 69% declaration rate. As with the National Assembly, National Council MPs have to declare their assets and interests under a range of categories,”IPPR said.