15 May 2018

Namibia: National Council Losing Relevance - Councillors

SOME National Council members yesterday said they felt irrelevant in the eyes of the law, and that they needed a bigger budget.

Kabbe South constituency councillor John Likando said they feel they are not being taken seriously because, despite suggestions for amendments they make, the National Assembly pushes some bills through regardless.

He gave examples of amendments they suggested on the Public-Private Partnership Act (PPP) and the Public Procurement Act that were not taken into consideration, while the constituency development fund (CDF) bill has been pushed aside and ignored.

"This house is the only medium of communication between the electorate and democratically elected leaders because we come from the constituencies and respective regional councils," Likando charged.

According to him, the fact that the National Council's budget stands at N$100 million makes matters worse as it limits the councillors' work. It is sad, Likando added, that their input is not considered when the budget is drawn up, yet they are called upon to defend decisions which have already been made in this regard.

"It is time Namibian people decided whether we continue having two houses of parliament, or we dissolve them and have one house of parliament," he said.

Likando stated that they could not continue spending time talking and registering matters of regional concern when these go nowhere.

He said the councillors would continue to be subjected to criticism by members of the public who feel they are doing nothing, thus the CDF bill must be passed and decentralisation implemented.

Okahandja constituency councillor Steve Biko Booys said the budget of the NC is too measly to assist with the operations of the councillors. Booys further said issues of accommodation and S&T should be addressed as they get too little, and the lack of security leaves councillors in harm's way.

Opuwo constituency councillor Weich Mupya suggested that the government builds a compound where parliamentarians can rent accommodation when they come for National Council sessions.

The vice chairperson of the committee of the whole house, Cletius Sipapela, agreed with Likando's sentiments, and urged him to continue the discussion in another session.

The Institute for Public Policy Research's researcher Tania Wiese conducted a research on the arguments for or against the bicameral system. This system consists of two chambers of parliament, the National Assembly, which has more power, and the National Council for legislative review.

Wiese found in her study that the bicameral system worked as most of the members are territorially elected, and that it also induces stability because undesirable policies can be avoided through the interplay between the different preferences of the members of the two houses. However, she found that their bicameral system might not work due to a constant clash of authority, where one house emerges superior to the other.

Political commentator Phanuel Kaapama agreed that the National Council is losing its relevance and impact.

He suggested that instead of phasing out the bicameral system, other options should be considered such as amending parts of the country's Constitution that the National Assembly uses to bypass National Council suggestions on bills.

"It is true that over time, the National Council has lost its relevance, and has become a talk show without making any substantive contribution to the lawmaking progress or legislative oversight," he stated.

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