The long awaited Law forcing MPs, the President and Ministers to declare their assets and liabilities is finally here, after a draft bill was gazetted on October 22 by Minister for Presidential Affairs and Public Administration, Lesego Motsumi, exactly 14 years after parliament first agreed such a law should be enacted.
However punitive actions for MPs who fail to declare their assets or under-report them is only P10,000, or suspension from sitting session of parliament for 30 days, and nothing more.
The ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) refused to be pressured by minority parties in parliament when the Botswana Congress Party leader, Dumelang Saleshando requested to be allowed to draft the law and present it to parliament.
BDP, using its numerical strength stated through vice-president Mompati Merafhe that the law will be drafted and presented at the pleasure of the BDP through the Minister of Presidential affairs and Public Administration, Lesego Motsumi.
In a debate about this law then BDP MP Botsalo Ntuane especially condemned the conduct of then Minister of Defense and Security, Ramadeluka Seretse after the company owned by his wife and close relatives, received tenders from his ministry.
Seretse maintained that while he formed the company he had long resigned from it and had even declared his interests to the President.
He is now facing criminal charges in court and has since resigned from his Ministerial post after learning that a criminal case had been opened against him. The case is ongoing.
The new Bill will be known as the Declaration of Assets and Liabilities of MPs Bill, 2010 and provides that every MP shall make a written declaration of all their assets and liabilities and those of their spouses and dependent children.
The written declaration is to be lodged with the Clerk of the National Assembly who shall be the registrar of Members' interests. On receipt of the written declaration, the Registrar is required to enter it into a register to be established as the register of members' Interests.
The Bill says the declaration of Assets and liabilities shall be made within 90 days of coming into force of the Act and thereafter within 90 days of being sworn in as an MP.
Failure to declare or deliberately making a false declaration would constitute contempt of Parliament.
The Bill also provides for the appointment by the Committee of Selection of parliament
The Bill describes assets as property, moveable and immovable, incomes present and contingent, owned by a Member of Parliament.
According to the proposed Bill every Member of Parliament-the President, the elected and specially elected MPs, the Speaker of National Assembly, shall submit to the registrar a written declaration of their assets and liabilities and those of their spouses, and any unmarried child under the age of 18 years.
The MPS will be required to start declaring their assets within 90 days of the law coming into force and thereafter within 90 days of being sworn into office as an MP. Also any subsequent assets acquired or any liabilities incurred by MP shall be declared within 90 days of the acquisition of the assets or incurring the liabilities, and the register of Members' interests shall accordingly amend the record.
The committee of selection of parliament shall at the commencement of the first session of each parliament, appoint a Standing Committee on Member's Interests. The Deputy Speaker shall be the chairperson of the committee, while the Clerk of National Assembly shall be the Registrar of Members' Interests and shall act as Secretary of the Committee.
The Committee shall be responsible for the enforcement of the law. Penalties include warning or reprimanding the Member, suspending the Member of Parliament who contravenes this law for 30 sitting days of the National Assembly or imposing a fine of up to P10,000. The Bill also provides for the establishment of an Appeal's Committee made up of the Speaker, the Leader of the House, the Leader of Opposition, where any member of the National assembly may appeal the decisions of the Standing Committee. The Appeal's Committee's word is final.