IPPR Calls for Conflict of Interest Law

The Director of the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR), Graham Hopwood, has repeated his organisation’s call for a law on conflict of interest in order to ease the burden of administering public resources.

This law would particularly help government leaders and other political office bearers in matters where they or their close relatives, might be tempted to do business.

The IPPR has in the past called for codes of conduct and effective asset or interest declaration systems to be put in place for political office bearers right up to the presidency.

“A code of conduct could establish where the boundaries lie in terms of close family members benefiting from state resources and also what procedures are necessary to ensure a conflict of interest does not take place,” he said.

Hopwood was responding to questions on whether children of highly profiled politicians can benefit from government tenders like any other Namibian.

He said that at the moment, Namibia only has the principle outlined in Article 42 of the country’s constitution on conflict of interest for cabinet members.

News about President Hifikepunye Pohamba’s daughter, Kaupumhote, being awarded a N$16 million NHE tender, caused outrage in certain sections of the community, with some labelling it a conflict of interest.

But state house said that the president had nothing to do with the tender and that she was grown enough to make own decisions with whom to do business with.

However, Hopwood said the issue raised the lack of rules and guidelines on conflict of interest in Namibia but that there was no evidence that the President tried to influence the decision to allocate the tender to his daughter’s company – “and indeed – it seems highly unlikely that he would directly interfere in the NHE’s decision making.”

He further stressed that under the constitution, Namibians have the right to carry out any business or trade they wish to – therefore it would be very difficult to bar the offsprings of political office bearers from obtaining contracts from the state.

“Usually the focus of the law and guidelines in these types of cases is on preventing possible conflict of interest through recusal of persons who might have undue influence on a decision-making process,” he said.

The IPPR director said that the key issue here was perhaps the way in which NHE allocates tenders.

“I don’t know the criteria they use – but since there are many emerging construction companies it does seem hard to understand how a company that does not appear to have previous involvement in the industry obtained such a high-value tender,” he said, adding that the NHE should explain the reasons for choosing this particular company above others that competed for the tender.

Furthermore, Hopwood said that fronting, whereby politically connected figures obtain contracts and then pass them on to another company while taking a significant portion of the funds for themselves, is a practice that should be avoided. “Tendering procedures should seek to rule out such companies,” he added.

Source : New Era