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IPPR:“Nothing to disclose” shortcomings of asset declarations

Max Weylandt, IPPR Research Associate
Prof. André du Pisani during Q&A session
Researchers networking
Frederico Links during Q&A session

Asset declarations of public officials are often perceived as an important tool in many countries around the world and acts as a signal of transparency and trust. However, after years of little progress regarding asset declarations in Namibia, the Government is finally increasing its willingness to establish a declaration system. In spite of these efforts, many problems still remain especially with asset declarations in Parliament, as this is the only part of the government which has notable provisions for asset declarations in the law. 

According to Weylandt, the Members of Parliament are usually required to declare their assets, but the Namibian’s current system suffers from shortcomings at every step of the way, since only a small number of public servants disclose their assets. The research found out that the latest round of declarations by the National Council is characterised above all by the statement  “nothing to disclose“. While 7 members out of the 42 Councillors said they had nothing to declare on all 13 categories, many others had nothing to declare on the majority of the questions.

“This does not mean that the National Council were lying on most of these questions. No one is required to hold shares or own property,“ said Weylandt.

He added that in order to improve the system of asset declarations, the scope of it should be expanded, and this should include the coverage of the President and Vice – President. The judiciary, the electoral commission, central procurement body, political parties as well as the state-owned enterprises (SOEs) also need to declare their assets to avoid a conflict of interest and to promote transparency. 

Weylandt explained that declaring of assets is important as it builds the public’s trust in government officials, as a comprehensive system of asset declarations shows that officials have nothing to hide. In addition to that, it also reduces corruption at every step of the way, and for that to happen Weylandt advised for the current system to be improved and it should be made public.

A number of recommendations are made in the Briefing Paper, which states even though the privacy of the officials is important, the public’s interest should also be prioritised  when it comes to privacy concerns. Therefore, declarations should not be secret and they should be easily accessible to the public. “A clear framework would help everyone, as there is not a lot of clarity for public servants on what is allowed and what is not,” Weylandt concluded.

In closing remarks, Ms. Martha Nangolo made a call for action and thanked the Hanns Seidel Foundation for its endless support with IPPR's research work.