Disclosure essential for transparency
Asset and interest disclosures are considered to be essential in enhancing transparency and in dealing with potential conflicts of interest. According to the World Bank, a real advantage to building an anti-corruption enforcement strategy around income and asset disclosure is that it lessens the threat to civil liberties and abuse of enforcement tools that can result from an aggressive campaign to root out bribery.
Perhaps the most neglected strand as far as the ‘crusade’ against corruption in Namibia is concerned is the scant attention given to the role of asset and interest disclosures in the overarching architecture for fighting corruption. According to the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR), this state of affairs seems to permeate all organs of the state including the public service.
In its 12th paper of the Anti-Corruption Research Programme series entitled “Asset Disclosure in Namibia: the need for reform and enforcement,” IPPR states that Namibia’s approach to the disclosure of assets and interests on the part of officials wielding considerable power across the various branches of the state could be described as laissez faire. “The current approach is more passive rather than proactive,” said Graham Hopwood.
The main characteristic of the current system is a blatant non-adherence to requirements for regular disclosure (where such a requirement exists), lack of measures to deal with non-adherence, and the absence of disclosure requirements in some sectors. In addition, there is a lack of overall management and oversight of disclosure processes.
Hopwood said the existing disclosure of interests regime in Namibia seems to suggest that there are serious problems with the main aspects of the disclosure process to ensure meaningful compliance. The lacklustre approach which defines the declaration of assets in the National Assembly indicates that the Committee of Privileges is largely a toothless entity.
The National Council, has a quite different record and while its Register may contain weaknesses it is at least produced on time with Members of Parliament facing sanction if they fail to submit their forms.
“Across the three branches of the state, it is only in the legislature where asset and interest disclosure forms are required to be filed. The executive and the judiciary are not required by any law to file disclosure forms. Similarly, no disclosure requirement or assets register exists for senior public servants,”Ellison Tjirera, author of the paper said.
He suggests amongst others, the amendment of the Public Service Act, Act 13 of 1996, to make it compulsory for management cadres to declare their assets and interests annually. A commission could be created in the Office of the Prime Minister to administer the register of interests for senior public servants.