Absenteeism hits Parliament business

16 November 2018 Author   Kaula Nhongo
The Speaker of National Assembly Peter Katjavivi has accused absentee Members of Parliament (MPs) for delaying the agenda and work of the National Assembly.
This comes after only 41 out of 104 parliamentarians attended parliament this week (Wednesday), resulting in the postponement of several items on the order paper, including Resumption of Committee Stage-Basic Education Bill after the assembly failed to reach a quorum in order to continue with the debate.
“What I am seeing with my eyes is not encouraging. We are on a really tight schedule and this sets us back,” said a clearly displeased Katjavivi.
A quorum is reached when at least half of the MPs are present in the house and if fewer are present, the session cannot go ahead.
Earlier this year, the Patriot reported that some parliamentarians had even been absent for more than a month at a time, despite the rules stating that an MP can only be absent from the National Assembly for 10 days or less.
According to the Patriot, not once since the current crop of MPs were sworn in during March 2015, did all 104 members attend a sitting on the same day.
Out of 365 days in 2017, the National Assembly sat for 75 days, yet there are MPs who failed to reach the 50 percent attendance mark.
MPs receive an annual salary of over N$600 000 per annum, which translates into more than N$50 000 a month and averaging N$8000 per day.
The attendance register for 2017 show that some lawmakers such as former sports minister Jerry Ekandjo, deputy labour minister Alpheus Muheua and All People’s Party’s Ignatius Shixwameni even went a month without attending parliament.
Out of the 75 sittings in 2017, Muheua only attended nine of those, Ekandjo attended only 21, while Shixwameni only sat for 23 days.
At the beginning of this year, President Hage Geingob expressed concern over absenteeism in parliament.
"I have learnt with disappointment that only 19 bills out of the 40 tabled during the last session (2017) were passed," he was quoted saying.
Geingob urged members to improve the quality of debates in parliament on the 20 bills expected to be tabled this year.
Over the years there has been complaints of MPs being absent from Parliament business, a tendency which seems to have escalated seeing that those who are guilty are often not taken to task.
Since 2015, when the Fifth Parliament began, it has become common for questions on the Order Paper to be deferred because ministers are absent.
Thursdays are normally set aside for lawmakers to engage ministers on issues facing the country.
Analysts have offered several plausible explanations, that the unnecessary and costly decision to increase the members of parliament has not been justified and that the costs involved far outweigh the benefits.


The Windhoek Observer is an English-language weekly newspaper, published in Namibia by Paragon Investment Holding. It is the country's oldest and largest circulating weekly.

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