It Wasn’t Me – Gurirab

MEMBERS of parliament have disowned the document listing demands they allegedly made to a presidential commission in 2012, among them eternal VIP status and other perks.

The bone of contention is the authenticity of the document which was cited in a Public Office Bearers’ Remuneration and Benefits Commission report released two years ago. The Namibian revisited that report and compiled a list of the demands by the MPs.

The document in question claims that National Assembly speaker Theo-Ben Gurirab put together a group to look at the perks of MPs which came up with proposals for a VIP status for life.

Pages 50 and 51 of the 2012 POBC report state that “in addition to the consultations made by commission, the speaker of the National Assembly had formed a working group that was tasked to consider the salaries, wages and conditions of service of members of parliament”.

However, Gurirab disputed this claim. “I did not set up any group,” he told The Namibian on Monday.

The speaker, however, admitted that he had met the chairperson of the commission on 28 February 2012 and that several documents have been floating around since. He also questioned why such correspondence is being discussed now, two years later.

The “working group” proposed that retired lawmakers should be accorded VIP status for life, retain all the benefits as well as re-introduce a new retirement package.

“VIP status should be accorded to all public office bearers within the borders of Namibia after retirement, that the honour and integrity of parliamentarians be retained after retirement (such as housing, transport and furniture),” the group’s report said.

The group also proposed that a parliamentary service commission that governs salaries and conditions of work of politicians should be established since it is a common practice in Commonwealth countries, a move that would allow MPs to determine their own perks.

The Namibian understands that politicians are using the lack of signatures on the document as a loophole to disown some of the proposals which have been described as outrageous.

POBC’s vice chairperson Monica Kalondo clarified in a statement published in the media last Friday the issue of perks for politicians.

“The widely reported (demand for) benefits for life emanated from an unsigned document, provided to and considered by the POBC which included various legitimate issues affecting parliamentarians but at no point purporting to represent all the views of parliamentarians,” Kalondo said.

The POBC insisted that even though proposals were made by the “working group,” the commission did not include them in their final recommendations to the President.

Kalondo said politicians will only receive inflation-based annual increases this year. The commission said the recommendations made to the President and the inflation linked annual adjustments have no bearing on one another and their concern is that the two issues are referred to interchangeably to a point where it has caused confusion.

Kalondo said they are uncertain why issues raised in a POBC report that was released two years ago are becoming a controversial issue in 2014.

She said the POBC evaluated numerous suggestions from all politicians in compiling its 2012 report. “The process undertaken by the commission is well documented, defensible and of such a nature that adequate checks and balances were put in place that no representations would unduly influence the work of the commission,” she said.

Even though the commission still believes that politicians have been underpaid for years, they also suggested that a monitoring and evaluation office be set up in the presidency to guide political appointees on their performance.

Source : The Namibian