Speaker having sideline meeting
October 16, 2022

Speaker of the National Assembly of the Republic of Namibia Professor Peter Katjavivi on the side line of the ongoing 145th Assembly of the Inter Parliamentary Union (IPU) called on Ghana’s Speaker Rt. Hon Alban Kingsford Sumana Bagbin on Thursday, October 13, 2022. According to him his agenda on calling on the Ghanaian speaker is to learn some best practice from his Ghanaian counterpart to transform their National Assembly.

He recounted his role during the struggle to independence, his role at the National Assembly, and how their founding father President Sam Nujoma request that he set up their National University, where he came down to Ghana and interacted with University of Ghana, from 1992 to 1994. Until in 2003, he left academia and rejoin Parliament again in 2010 as government chief whip and they want to learn from Ghana, the budget office within the parliament, how it is organized and structured, as they have battles with government when it comes to budget of parliament.

“I am concerned that most often the minister of finance comes to the House to present budget , he should share with me so that there are no surprises, the budget of parliament is worked out like any other ministry and this is where we have issues”.

Speaker right Namibia Parliament

Professor Katjavivi noted that, when the budget is cut for ministry that also applies to them, “they are told you have a ceiling, and this has been the history and now they are saying to their colleagues in the Executive that no, this does not do justice to parliament”. Because parliament plays an oversight role, they do not have representation in other regions, so MPs would have to physically go there, unlike the Executive who are well represented in all the regions, they can easily manage without necessarily traveling there .

“We have been trying to educate the Executive on this but have not been easy. Last year, we succeeded; our ceiling moved up, it was a battle we won; it is now a question of sustaining it. But it comes with a heavy responsibility. We need a budget office that would be able to do justice; a competent right to ensure that we retain and sustain the rational, that we are putting forward our interest is to learn from you how you have been dealing with this so that we can learn from you”.

He said they have plans to organize a small group to come to Accra to continue the conversation by then they would have an understanding of what they are looking for. It would be put in a letter to the Speaker so that all these are well captured. And one worrying development is that he has to present the budget of constitutional bodies, sometimes he has to defend the indefensible when things are not done properly and the structures are not right and listening to the Majority Leader and the Speaker from Ghana at their side meeting he appreciated that Ghana has advanced and things can be done through consultation.

On his part, Rt. Hon Alan Kingsford Bagbin noted that the three arms of government need to work together particularly on how to strengthen and make parliament independent and autonomous to be able to work on its duties, get it some kind of financial autonomy adequate enough to operate. And to make impact, because democracy is nothing but parliament, unfortunately these are new features in governance in Africa, as people have been used to the Executive, the Minister, not Speaker, not MPs.

Again those challenges are not peculiar to them alone, there are some progress that other parliaments have made, Ghana has been able to make progress in this direction and would share that with Namibia when their delegation visit Accra. The current leadership in Parliament, because they have been in parliament these concerns come to them and they put ideas together and work on them.

Luckily, the current president was a former Member of Parliament and both experience the kind of challenges so they are amendable and listen and find ways and means to deal with this. As it takes time to amend a constitution, if you do not have a basis in the constitution, you dialogue and find solution. When I became Speaker and I received invitation from the president for a meeting, it was to discuss the budget of parliament.

Kwaku Sakyi-Danso/Ghanamps.com/Rwanda/Kigali