15 February 2013

Namibia: MPs Must Make Their Voices Heard

Windhoek — The Speaker of the National Assembly, Dr Theo-Ben Gurirab, says if parliament does not communicate its activities, voters will continue to believe MPs do nothing and that they do not deserve their salaries and benefits.

He made the remarks during a one-day budget-training workshop for members of parliament (MPs) and staff of the various parliamentary standing committees yesterday in the National Assembly.

He noted that in-depth knowledge of the budget cycle, the Targeted Intervention Programme for Employment and Economic Growth (Tipeeg), the Fourth National Development Plan (NDP4), the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and the three-year rolling medium-term expenditure framework will allow MPs and members of standing committees to make informed decisions and statements, which will be reported on, thereby passing on credible and easily understandable information to voters.

The public accounts committee, for example, can only look at and examine results after debates have taken place and the struggle to implement the national budget is over. "This is good and necessary but the other standing committees must also get involved (join the process of implementation). While the approved budget is being implemented to identify bottlenecks and other related problems, thereby ensuring that development budgets are implemented in full and that the tender process is transparent and ensures value for money. This will enhance policy management, poverty reduction and employment creation," he told lawmakers.

According to him, detailed knowledge of the three-year rolling development budget will allow members to inform voters and make it possible for them to influence future development budgets to cater for urgent high priority projects. Every year during the budget debate in parliament, MPs spend a lot of time discussing infrastructure, building projects and skills development. He explained that if MPs have a copy of the five-year road-building programme, they would be properly informed and be able to influence future projects of that nature and other challenges.

Gurirab emphasised that the yearly government budget is the most important instrument available to the government to implement strategies and programmes aimed at nation building and service delivery. He said if members want to be part of this crucial process, they need an in-depth understanding of the budget process and financial management.

President Hifikepunye Pohamba on Tuesday urged lawmakers to ensure service delivery through the passing of relevant legislation to address bread and butter issues.

Since the country has been independent for the last 22 years, Pohamba said, the time has come to deliver and meet people's expectations in an efficient and effective manner. "I must hasten to add that while passing laws is necessary, it is not sufficient in itself. Our parliament must pass laws that improve service delivery and bring about positive and lasting change in the lives of our people. If we fail to provide basic necessities to our people, our inaction will be tantamount to abdication of the sacred duty bestowed upon us by the electorate," Pohamba told lawmakers.

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