MPs’ Asset Declaration Blocked

NAMIBIAN legislators have not been declaring their business interests and assets for about four years, because the process is being blocked while some ministers feel that they cannot do so twice.

As it is now, Cabinet members declare their assets twice – to the presidency and the National Assembly Speaker – while members of parliament declare to the Speaker.

The last time parliamentarians declared their interests was in 2009 as per the requirements of the Powers, Privileges and Immunities of Parliament Act of 1996. The first time MPs declared was in 2003.

Part of the Act states that “in the event that a member fails to comply, the House may, after investigation and recommendation, take such disciplinary action against such member as it may deem appropriate in accordance with its Standing Rules and Orders”.

Despite the Act being clear on what action should be taken if a legislator fails to declare their interests, no MP has ever been investigated for failing to do so. Sources also questioned the effectiveness of the current declaration system.

National Assembly sources told The Namibian that there appears to have been a plot to deliberately delay the process of declaring as forms were prepared and ready to be filled but the process was halted.

“We don’t know whether what they declared is really what they have or whether they are hiding something,” one of the sources said.

Although the sources told The Namibian that there has been a deliberate plot to delay the process, it appears some members of parliament are concerned that they are required to declare their business interests both to the presidency and parliament.

Speaker of the National Assembly, Theo-Ben Gurirab, confirmed to The Namibian on Tuesday that he has consulted fellow MPs about their concerns.

Gurirab said it was currently discussed whether Cabinet ministers, who already disclosed their interests to the President, should also provide the same information to parliament.

“Some clarifications need to be discussed before we go ahead,” Gurirab said.

He also said the decision as to whether Cabinet members should be exempted from declaring in parliament will be made, among others, in consultation with the Office of the Prime Minister.

The speaker said he would prefer that the registration of MPs’ assets start next year when the politicians will be sworn in for the next five years to start afresh.

National Assembly secretary Jakes Jacobs said: “The problem is not with my office. That’s all I can say.”

If politicians arguing against Cabinet ministers divulging their interests to parliament succeed, it will mean that about 43 ministers (including deputies) out of 72 will be exempted from divulging their interests to parliament.

Minister of Defence, Nahas Angula, said parliamentarians have not been declaring because the forms were not handed out.

“So I see no way ministers can dodge their accountability. Some of us have nothing to declare but our indebtedness to AgriBank,” he said adding: “No forms were handed out. We have been demanding them. If the presidency was able to hand out the forms, why not parliament?”

Angula also said the law states that ministers are accountable to the President and parliament, which is a watchdog “To keep oversight, which includes watching for possible conflicts of interest”.

So far, Prime Minister Hage Geingob, who is tipped to become President next year and is probably spending his last months as MP, is one of the few politicians who has been open as to what he owns.

According to the 2009 assets register, Geingob has shares in firms called Aradis and Hada Loha.

Geingob declared ownership of a company called HG consultancy, a controversial firm through which he became a ‘consultant’ and ‘aised’ the government to award a mining licence to UraMin (the company from which the French parastatal Areva bought Trekkopje in the Namib Desert). That job earned him N$2, 5 million.

He has a Nedbank cheque account, an account in London from 1987 and an account in Washington.

Geingob has owned a house in Windhoek since 1992 and co-owns houses in Swakopmund and Henties Bay, while Gurirab owns Hatama Properties and TBG Resources companies which he said were dormant. He declared a vehicle, a house in Windhoek and flats at Swakopmund.

Minister of Home Affairs and Immigration Pendukeni Iivula-Ithana has shares in Namfish and also partners businessman Knowledge Katti in Kunene Energy.

Iivula-Ithana also owns Omuthiya Service Station and two houses in Windhoek and Ongwediva. She has shares in two firms called Butchery and Ha-Na-He Farming.

Minister of Justice Utoni Nujoma has business interests in Old Mutual, First National Bank, Namibia Harvest, Etosha Fisheries, Namibia Queries, Tsumkwe Gam Trust and Namibia Grape Company.

In addition, Nujoma has a stake in United Auctioneers, Blue Sea Fishing Trust, Oshiwana Fishing and Namibia Diamond House.

Nujoma said that he co-owns a plot in Windhoek’s Avis with his spouse and shares in dormant companies such as Karidabes Farmers, Okawe: BEE, 50 New Partnership Investment and Okazapamba Trust.

He has three bank accounts, at First National Bank, Standard Bank and Barclays Bank in the United Kingdom.

DTA’s Philemon Moongo owns Yetu Investment, Oshakati Camel Thorn Garden and seven Uukumwe shebeens and groceries shops.

Source : The Namibian