13 December 2012

Mozambique: Attorneys Firm On Meaning of Public Probity Law

Maputo — The Mozambican Attorney-General’s Office has no doubt about the meaning of the Law on Public Probity that took effect in mid-November – no public official can be in receipt of more than one wage, salary or other form of remuneration from state bodies.

Speaking to reporters on Wednesday, during a meeting of the Coordinating Council of the Office, Assistant Attorney-General Taibo Mocobora said that, as from 15 November, the date the law came into force, any citizen earning remuneration from two state bodies, state companies, or companies in which the state is a shareholder, is automatically in a conflict of interest.

Anybody in such a situation, said Mocobora, must relinquish one of his or her positions. Failure to do so would be a violation of the law. There are no exceptions.

Yet almost a month after the Law took effect, none of the parliamentary deputies whom it affects have obeyed its provisions on conflicts of interest.

Several deputies from the ruling Frelimo Party are affected by the law, since they hold other jobs in the state apparatus, or sit on the boards of publicly owned companies.

The most prominent of these are Teodoro Wate, chairperson of the parliamentary commission on legal and constitutional affairs, who is also chairperson of the board of the national airline, LAM; Margarida Talapa, head of the Frelimo parliamentary group, who is a non-executive director, of the publicly owned mobile phone company, m-Cel; and Mateus Katupha, a member of the Parliamentary Standing Commission, who is also chairperson of the public fuel company, Petromoc.

The Frelimo group may now seek a clarification of the meaning of the law during a plenary session of parliament. The spokesperson for the Frelimo group, Edmundo Galiza-Matos Junior, told reporters earlier this month “the Assembly of the Republic is a body which, when doubts prevail about how to interpret the Law on Public Probity, has the power to explain the way in which it should implemented”.

The Frelimo group, he added, “does not rule out the possibility of proposing a debate in the plenary session or some other way of regulating the law and clear up possible misunderstandings”.

But Mocobora believes the law is quite clear, and there is no room for any ambiguity or misunderstanding. Cited in Thursday’s issue of the independent newsheet “Mediafax”, he did not accept complaints that the law is somehow “retroactive” or affects “acquired rights”.

Compliance with the law is required from all public officials, from the President of the Republic down to village headmen, he stressed. There is no argument that can prevail over the legal requirement that, as from 15 November, nobody can receive remuneration from more than one state body.

The only exceptions are retirement pensions, teaching duties, intellectual property rights, and any wages or benefits from previous jobs which for any reason have not yet been paid.

The ban was now in force, Mocobora added, even though the Central Ethics Commission envisaged by the law has not yet been set up.

Avoiding conflicts of interest was, in the first instance, a personal responsibility, he argued. “It is the responsibility of each public servant to identify and manage personal situations of conflict of interests”, he stressed. The Central Ethics Commission intervened later.

Despite Mocobora’s firm words, it is not yet clear what action, if any, the Attorney-General’s Office is planning to take to ensure that deputies cannot continue to sit both in parliament and on the boards of public companies.

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