Despite numerous calls for the government to fully disengage from the office of the president to strengthen the independence of parliament in accordance with the principle of separation of powers, government Friday insisted it would not budge as it deems parliament is not administered from the Office of the President.
Standing in for the Minister of Presidential Affairs and Public Administration, Daniel Kwelagobe, the Minister of Defence, Justice and Security, Ramadeluka Seretse, denied suggestions that parliament was influenced by the Office of the President. He said that, like all ministries, parliament was afforded essentials necessary through the government budgeting system.
For quite a considerable time now, opposition voices have trumpeted disquiet over the independence of parliament, charging that it was controlled from the Office of the President and that it was an institution which rubberstamps decisions at the expense of parliament.
They demanded independence.
“Parliament is not administered from the Office of the President,” thundered Seretse. “Like all the ministries and independent departments of government, it is allocated human, material and financial resources through the government budgeting system. These resources are under the direct control and administration of the Clerk of the National Assembly who is the accounting officer for parliament.”
Seretse added that, like all other accounting officers, the clerk is accountable for the use of these resources and the minister in turn is also politically accountable.
“In this connection, accountability and communication, which go with it, do not undermine the principle of separation of powers,” he argued.
Seretse said that as a small establishment and if completely separated from the rest of the civil service, the staff of parliament would lose advantages which go with being part of a large organization such as opportunities for progression.”
Seretse was answering a question from Gaborone West North MP, Otsweletse Moupo.
Still in parliament, the legislators were also taken aback to learn that the foreign freelance journalists working for popular Radio Botswana current affairs programme ‘Around the World Today’ were working without having undergone proper employment procedures.
Standing for the Minister of Communications, Science and Technology, Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi, Health Minister Lesego Motsumi revealed that “there is currently no contract signed between the foreign ‘stringers’ and Radio Botswana”, adding “however, the Attorney General’s Chamber has recently approved the format for a Memorandum of Agreement that the department should use to engage all external freelancers”.
She asserted that the Department of Broadcasting Services is pursuing the signing of the contract with its stringers whose negotiated rate of payment stands currently at 20 United States dollars for each piece of work broadcast.
She parried suggestions these foreign freelance journalists could be unaccredited in their own countries or by any media following the absence of any employment procedures, arguing “around the World Today uses stringers who are accredited in their own countries as evidenced by their press cards and this has satisfied the requirement for practicing in Botswana”.
Currently, the Department of Broadcasting Services buys stories from a total of seven foreign freelance journalists for use on Radio Botswana’s 20-minute news magazine programme which covers world news and events with background information.
The program has regular correspondents from Kenya, Ghana, Malawi, Swaziland, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
Motsumi was answering a question from Gaborone south MP, Akanyang Magama.