Opposition leaders in the National Assembly are saying the ruling Swapo party should not be allowed to chair eight out of the nine parliamentary steering committees alone, if the Legislature is serious about its oversight function.
Since independence, only the public accounts committee is chaired by opposition parties and some lawmakers are of the opinion this must change for effective accountability and transparency checks.
Nudo chief whip Joseph Kauandenge said the parliamentary oversight function to hold the executive accountable has become weak over the years.
“If you have incompetent people chairing these committees simply because they are Swapo members, it becomes difficult for them to hold the executive accountable, because they are all from the same ruling party,” said Kauandenge.
“The steering committees have not been working for the past years. They are toothless and in order for the Executive to account, this should change. The current setup defeats the entire purpose of the steering committees,” he added.
According to Kauandenge, all opposition parties should speak with one voice when electing these chairpersons and deputies within the committees. “They must agree to support one candidate as opposition and not have two to three people running for the same portfolio.”
The chief whip of the Namibian Economic Freedom Fighters (NEFF) Kalimbo Iipumbu indicated that Swapo has been monopolising the entire process of chairing these specific committees. “They fear that when the opposition takes over the chairing of these committees, it will not be business as usual as the opposition will fulfill the oversight function effectively. We are suggesting that Swapo can chair five committees deputised by members of the opposition, while the other four committees should be chaired by the opposition deputised by Swapo,” said Iipumbu. Iipumbu explained that Swapo has chaired all eight steering committees in a bid to top up the salaries of some of their members and not necessarily that the specific politicians are fit and competent to lead the committees.
“This has been the reluctance of Swapo who wants to protect their colleagues. But we need to have a balance of power here.”
National Assembly Speaker Peter Katjavivi said the issue of chairing steering committees cannot be disputed or discussed in a vacuum as this is usually based on the government (Swapo) chief whip. He said this is stipulated in the existing standing rules and order. “The is the convention within the commonwealth parliamentary system for smaller parties to chair only the public accounts committee. Now if they want to chair other committees, smaller parties must engage the government chief whip and his team,” said Katjavivi. “This is a question of consensus and agreement within the various political parties to get the needed support for that to happen. What is ideal is that the various parties engage in the whips’ forum to iron out these issues.”
Contrary to this, Swapo chief whip Hamunyera Hambyuka stressed that he is only responsible for deploying his members in the different steering committees and not allocating chairperson portfolios. “The decision to elect chairpersons to the different committees is left with the members serving in those committees. It is an election, which all members are free to contest and Swapo does that except for the one committee of public accounts. These portfolios are not assigned or decided upon by the chief whip,” said Hambyuka.
2020-04-28 09:59:42 | 6 months ago