Windhoek The National Assembly spends N$4,3 million a year on rental fees for office space in the central business district (CBD) to accommodate parliamentarians and their support staff, who cannot be housed at the parliament building, the Tintenpalast. This was revealed by National Assembly Speaker Peter Katjavivi in an interview with New Era on the envisaged construction of the new N$2,2 billion parliament building. The need for a new parliament building has largely been justified by the fact that the 2014 amendments to the Constitution saw the number of parliamentarians in the National Assembly increase to 104 voting members from the previous 72 – including eight presidential appointees. At the same time the number of National Council members rose to 42 from 26 previously. “Currently, the National Assembly has hired office space to accommodate MPs and staff at an annual cost of N$4,32 million for 45 offices,” said Katjavivi. “This is bringing a great amount of inconvenience in the work of parliament, particularly the work of the standing committees, as MPs and staff need to engage on a daily basis,” the Speaker explained. “The rental fees will eventually run into millions of dollars and it is not economically viable in the long term,” he told New Era. Although Katjavivi could not disclose who the landlords the NA is renting from are, New Era understands that it includes the same business people who own an upmarket hotel in the city centre. Katjavivi added that the current parliament building was built in 1913 as the base of the German Imperial Office. Over time it has become evident that the Tintenpalast no longer meets the growing requirements of parliament in terms of size and functionality. “Old infrastructure comes with the burden of maintenance costs and in the case of the Namibian parliament, a building over 100 years old requires substantial maintenance. Hence, one of the major considerations for the new parliament is to curtail long-term operational costs,” Katjavivi stated. It is his belief that a new building can provide opportunities for cost savings that justify the initial investment. “The National Assembly Chamber has a whole range of shortcomings, such as insufficient seating for special parliamentary gatherings. The Press Gallery does not accommodate all the media practitioners and lacks the necessary technological tools,” he said. In addition, Katjavivi said the National Assembly administration is experiencing a serious shortage of office space for both members and staff, despite the fact that every single office is utilised to full capacity. It is his view that it is extremely important that these requirements be met as soon as possible to enhance overall working conditions for members, staff and the public alike. The issue of constructing a new parliament building has become a hot potato in public discourse and has been widely rejected by the general public. During the official opening of the sixth parliament this year, President Hage Geingob encouraged parliamentarians to debate whether a new parliament building is needed, saying his hands are tied, as his office cannot interfere with decisions of the legislature. * Read the full interview with Professor Katjavivi in Friday’s edition.
New Era Reporter
2016-05-18 09:42:34 2 years ago