For the first time in decades, state corporations’ activities are being subjected to direct Parliamentary scrutiny.
Previously, the function was executed “in a non comprehensive fashion” through examination of Government Ministries and Chief Accounting Officers by the Parliamentary Public Accounts Committee.
Parliament Committee on Statutory Bodies will this week examine 16 State Corporations.
There are plans to further leverage the examinations process in the coming year, by conducting hearings in public, where members of the public and media houses will be allowed to hear first hand, the conduct of the operations and management of State Corporations.
This follows the examination of parastatals beginning September 6 this year.
To be examined are: the Non-Bank Financial Institutions Regulatory Authority, Air Botswana, Botswana International University of Science and Technology, Botswana National Sports Council, Botswana National Youth Council, Botswana Tourism Board, Botswana Unified Revenue Services, Motor Vehicle Accident Fund, Botswana Savings Bank, Botswana Housing Corporation, Public Enterprises Evaluation and Privatisation Agency, National Development Bank, Public Procurement and Asset Disposal Board, Botswana Development Corporation, International Financial Services Centre and Botswana Institute of Development Policy Analysis.
The committee shall report to Parliament and the nation the results of its examinations.
“While some of our State Corporations have generally been compliant in terms of statutory compliance such as the submission to Government and to Parliament of financial statements and audit reports amongst others, it is regrettable to say that, with some of our Corporations, grave and glaring areas of non-compliance are emerging some of which appear to have been perpetrated even over inordinate periods of time, seemingly without notice,” Chairman of the committee and Member of Parliament for Gaborone West North, Robert Masitara, told members of the media at a briefing this week.
The legislator was all the more pleased that the examination process is carried out by the hearing of evidence from witnesses summoned to appear before the Committee, pursuant to the powers vested in the Committee in terms of the provisions of the National Assembly (Powers and Privileges) Act.
In terms of the Act, the Committee may summon any persons to appear before it or call for any documents or papers to be submitted to it. The willful failure to answer to the committee’s summons attracts the censure of the law, in terms of the provisions of the Act as it would constitute contempt to Parliament.
According to Masitara, the Committee has resolved to invoke the provisions of Section 12 of the National Assembly (Powers and Privileges) Cap 02:05, as a result of which witnesses appearing before the Committee swear to an oath prior to the giving of their evidence, undertaking that evidence they give before the Committee is truthful.
“This development is a deliberate intervention by Parliament to ensure that the process of accountability to Parliament by any persons summoned to appear before it or any of its committees, is accorded the necessary seriousness it deserves, as this is a process meant to ensure accountability by all and indeed also our State Corporations to the citizens of our country to whom the State Corporations belong,” MP Masitara said, briefing the media this week.
The legislator said the importance of the accountability process, given the critical role played by State Corporations as key component of the government’s cutting edge strategy for national development, economic diversification and good corporate governance cannot be over-emphasised.
Masitara said the examination process heralds a new season for the duty to account to Parliament and the nation by State Corporations and those charged with their management.
He had misgivings that government gives some parastatals more money than they need.
“Why should government give parastatals more money when they have excess reserves,” the MP wondered, arguing that it creates excess liquidity and often results in rising inflation.
Other Members of the Committee are legislators Mephatho Reatile, Odirile Motlhale, Rayner Makosha and Philip Khwae. The committee is assisted by First Secretary to the Committee and also Parliamentary Counsel to the Parliament of Botswana, Thebe Ramokhua with Philip Mutambara as the Financial Advisor.