Maputo — Mozambique’s Ministry of the Public Service and the Attorney-General’s Office are undertaking a national campaign to raise awareness of the Law on Public Probity, which takes effect as from 15 November.
A press statement from the Ministry of the Public Service says that the two institutions will hold meetings and lectures throughout the country to explain the new law, which was passed by the country’s parliament, the Assembly of the Republic in May.
“The importance of the Law on Public Probity is that it enshrines the duties, responsibilities and obligations of public servants and the holders of public office”, declared the statement.
The article in the law that has aroused most interest initially barred all parliamentary deputies from receiving wages or fees from other public institutions or companies. This was seen as targeting those parliamentarians from the ruling Frelimo Party who also sit on the boards of publicly-owned companies.
But amendments passed in the Assembly extended this ban to all holders of public office. The law lists them and they range from the President of the Republic down to village headmen. They include all ministers, deputy ministers, provincial governors, district administrators, mayors and municipal councillors, as well as parliamentary deputies.
As from 15 November, none of these officials will be entitled to draw remuneration from other public bodies (except for teaching duties, intellectual property rights or pensions from jobs held in the past).
The law also bans all holders of public office from recruiting journalists still active in the media as their press attaches or consultants. This should end the practice of journalists working both as reporters and as government advisers, which has frequently been criticized as compromising media independence.
The law forbids public servants from “promoting party, political and religious activities” in their workplace, during normal working hours.
There is no ban on Frelimo, or any other political party, having branches inside the state apparatus, but the members of those branches can only hold meetings in their own time, and not that of the state.
The law obliges all elected and appointed political officials to declare their assets. This obligation extends to all judges, all public prosecutors, all managers in the central and local state apparatus, directors of the Bank of Mozambique, senior staff in the Mozambique Tax Authority, managers of the assets of the armed forces and the police, and the managers of public institutes, funds and foundations, of public companies and of companies in which the state holds shares.
There should be thousands of these declarations, which must be deposited with the Attorney-General’s Office (with the exception of declarations from public prosecutors, which will be deposited with the Administrative Tribunal).
These declarations must cover bank accounts (inside and outside the country), real estates, shares, securities, rights to the use of more than one hectare of land, and ownership of vehicles boats and aircraft. They must also state the gross income on which tax is paid, and any income that is exempt from tax.
The officials covered must also list the assets of their spouses or partners, and of any other dependents. The declarations of assets must be updated every year, and a final declaration must be provided within a year of the official concerned leaving office.
The law states that public servants must refrain from taking decisions, signing contracts, or undertaking any other act, whenever they are in a potential conflict of interests. In parliament, deputies must declare if they have any private interest in bills that they move or speak on.
The rules and procedures for preventing conflicts of interest are to be established by a Central Public Ethics Commission (CCEP), consisting of nine members – three appointed by the government, three by the Assembly of the Republic, and three by the Higher Councils of the Judicial Magistracy, of the Administrative Magistracy and of the Public Prosecutor’s Office.
But the major obstacle to implementing those clauses in the law concerning conflicts of interest is that the CCEP does not yet exist, and nor do the Public Ethics Commissions which should be set up in all central bodies of the state apparatus.
Although more than three months have passed since the law was promulgated in July by President Armando Guebuza, none of the bodies that must appoint members to the CCEP has yet done so.
Nonetheless, other aspects of the law can take effect straightaway on 15 November. The Attorney-General’s Office can start collecting the declarations of assets, and can warn the officials concerned that any failure to comply, or late delivery of the declarations will result in heavy fines, and possible expulsion from the public service.
As from 15 November, the holders of public office who are currently being paid by more than one public body must choose. In the case of deputies, they must either resign their parliamentary seats, or give up their other paid positions.
The deputies who must make this choice include the head of the Frelimo parliamentary group, Margarida Talapa, who sits on the board of the publicly owned mobile phone company, M-Cel, the chairperson of the Assembly’s Constitutional and Legal Affairs Commission, Teodoro Waty, who is also chairperson of the board of Mozambique Airlines LAM), and Mateus Katupha, who is the chairperson of the state fuel company, Petromoc, but also a member of the Assembly’s Standing Commission.