Contributing to the debate on the committee of supply for the Office of the Ombudsman, Lobatse Member of Parliament, Nehemiah Modubule, proposed that appointments of heads of oversight institutions, like the Ombudsman, be made by parliament after they have been advertised in the media.
We cannot but agree with Modubule on his proposition given the important roles played by these institutions, especially on governance issues.
Parliament, as an oversight body, should never be sidelined in matters of national importance.
In order to give credence to the holders of these positions, the appointments of the heads of these institutions should be done in a transparent manner that is commensurate with their importance.
There is no doubt that the oversight institutions should be headed by people of high caliber and impeccable integrity.
The holders must possess unquestionable clout. As such, their appointments should be done in such a transparent manner that does not raise a public perception that they are political appointees of the ruling party and its president.
Most importantly, they are appointed to head these institutions to serve the nation and not the president.
Most of these institutions were enacted by acts of parliament after serious scrutiny.
These institutions were established to serve the nation without fear or favour. Their heads should be people of impeccable standing in society. The appointment of the heads of these institutions should never be politicized.
In the current scheme of things, public perception abounds that these heads are political appointees inclined to serve the interests of the ruling party and its president.
It is not our intention to point fingers at any of these heads or doubt their integrity in the eyes of the society.
While we do not doubt their credentials, their clout should be beyond reproach. That can only be if they are appointed in such a transparent manner that removes any doubt of them having been favoured or appeased to ascend to those positions.
We are inclined to agree with Modubule because of the ongoing debate on the appointment of judges.
Former Francistown High Court judge, Justice Moses Chinhengo observed elsewhere in this publication that “the process of appointment of judges must always be transparent in order to maintain faith in the judiciary and its independence.
“Judicial independence is not for the judges alone or for the benefit of the judge. It is the right of the people because the Constitution provides that you have the right to your case being decided by an independent and impartial court. The transparency in the appointment process enhances the public perception of their judiciary as independent and impartial”.
This observation by the former judge is very correct. The public must have confidence in the institutions that serve them.
This extends to the offence of the Ombudsman and other oversight institutions charged with the responsibility of handling complaints by aggrieved parties against government.
The complainants wish to lodge their grievances before an independent and impartial body that will undoubtedly deal judiciously with their matters.
One way to erase misgivings against the holders of these positions is the transparent manner in which they have been appointed.
Before appointment they must be subjected to public scrutiny.
In our view, in addition to Modubule’s proposition that parliament be involved in the appointment process, we implore that the process should go beyond parliament and extend to the general public.
The public must be given an opportunity to scrutinize the candidates and make an input. The prospective candidates may have some weaknesses that the legislators are not aware of.
It is only through public participation that, if indeed such weaknesses exist, they are brought to the fore and attention of the appointing authority.
As it stands, the appointments are done under a cloud of secrecy.
That cannot be good for our democracy.
We need men and women of impeccable integrity to head these institutions.
It is our ardent hope that government will seriously consider the misgivings that were raised by Honourable Modubule and ensure that, going forward, such appointments are done in such a transparent manner as to instill public confidence in those offices and their holders.