War waged over procurement bill

10 October 2013 Author  

front Bill 11 OctThe recent uproar in parliament about the tabling of the procurement bill by Finance Minister Saara Kuugongelwa-Amadhila appears to be a little more than Kazenambo Kazenambo being carried away by his emotions sources in Swapo say. The tabling of the bill has once more exposed the division within the ruling party, and even though Swapo’s elective congress determined where the political power lies, it has not stopped other factions in the party from going after economic power.

According to party insiders, this is exactly how some national leaders interpret the inclusion of certain provisions in the procurement bill, whether members of the ruling party or otherwise.

As much as party members never miss the opportunity to chant ‘Swapo united, Swapo victorious’, if one had to block ones ears and rely only on ones vision, all that one would see is the internal battle of politics versus economics.

As the debate in parliament around the bill resumes it will illuminate the political divisions among Swapo members, and unless those who strive for economic power remain mum, one will clearly see how they have once more drawn the battle lines.

The objections raised by Kazenambo in parliament last week appear to cover the very same issues that a Swapo party caucus discussed earlier, as part of the consultations that took place prior to tabling the bill.

“The issues that we thought had been addressed at a party level, have been conveniently ignored and now the minister is trying to push through the bill without making the relevant amendments,” a party member said.

“What was the rush?” the source questioned.

As the former youth minister took the floor last week and heavily criticised the bill in parliament, among his main objections was the fact that the bill gave the minister as well as the proposed Central Procurement Board (CPB) too much power.

He further questioned why the board would have the right to gain access to any information about any company providing a service to government, and argued that one could not give individuals access to companies dealing with military or security information.

Speaking to the Windhoek Observer Kuugongelwa-Amadhila admitted that the objections raised in parliament were some of those raised at the party consultation, and then went on to explain her reasoning.

“Yes some of the same issues came up in parliament. However, at the party parliamentary caucus some came in the form of a question to which an answer was provided and others came as a query.”

“When you answer somebody’s question you get the impression you have satisfied that issue. The queries brought forth I felt could be debated in parliament and even dealt with at the committee stage,” she said.

The finance minister, after acknowledging that the debate did not fully address all issues, further stressed that the power lies with parliament, and that the lawmakers of the country would ultimately decide on the matter.

“If there are alternative views on the policy it can be adjusted, because we remain open,” the finance minister said.

When commenting on the issue of too much ‘power’ that the bill gives the minister, Kuugongelwa-Amadhila made reference to comments made by fellow parliamentarians, who felt that if anything the law disempowers the minister.

“I don’t see anything that makes the minister powerful. Once the board is appointed you no longer have control, this has nothing to do with my person and what I want, we have set out to ensure proper balance in an objective way,” she said.

As the appointing officer of the proposed CPB Kuugongelwa-Amadhila said that, she would look for professionals with skills and experience in the area of procurement administration.

According to the minister, she would not limit the selection to someone who has worked in a related field before and would consider those with a background in economics, law and accounting.

When asked whether he fears looming division in the party around the bill, Chief Whip of the Swapo party Peter Katjavivi stated that there was no need for alarm.

He felt that although they were dealing with issues of national importance this should not threaten the unity of the party.

“Because of the complexity of this bill, one expected debate of this nature to arise. I am also confident that the minister of finance will deal with the issues raised by parliamentarians and amend the bill accordingly,” Katjavivi said.

Katjavivi further remarked that Kazenambo had simply taken a critical look at the bill as a legislator with an economist’s lens, and reinforced his concerns about the bill given the fact that he had not seen the amended version.

Parliament has excused the minister of finance from the house until 16 October 2013 due to official duties she needs to attend to.

Deputy Speaker Loide Kasingo adjourned the debate on the bill in parliament on Tuesday and it will only resume when the minister returns to the house.
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