Political perspective

Political perspective

I’D like to be able to say it’s good news, but I’m not really sure.This week the Deputy Chairperson of the National Council, Margaret Mensah-Williams, announced that members of the House had to declare both their business and financial interests, and those of their spouses, like their National Assembly counterparts.

Good news that they’ll be asked to do what they haven’t done before, but the bad news is that the NA members have ostensibly done this for some time now, but whether this is, in fact, a transparent process, is hard to judge. IT really took some doing for the media to find out who’d declared what in the National Assembly, and it is hard to know whether all of them have been honest or not.After all, who’s checking? So if no one is, as we suspect is the case at present, then it is a less than useless exercise.Readers will recall that when the declaration of interests was first introduced in our Parliament, MPs did not know how to fill out the forms or what to declare and how; much like was the case with their tax forms.After some workshopping on both of the above, they apparently started to understand both processes.Against the background of spiralling corruption, the scrutiny of interests of public officials becomes more important than ever before.So someone, whether it is a select committee or an independently appointed forum, needs to check it out.We all know that corruption can be hidden.In fact, is usually hidden.So a person stealing large amounts of money in whatever manner is bound to try and disguise his or her tracks.One of the ways in which to do this is to spread it around among family members, of course.Signs include a formerly penniless aunt suddenly driving a luxury car; a grandfather who is overnight the proprietor of a huge farm; a wife with modest employment sporting a new collection of expensive jewellery.So whoever is checking MPs’ interests need to keep this in mind.It is probably not going to be declared if there is wrongdoing of any kind, so one is unlikely to find admissions of this nature on paper.They’ll declare the obvious.So if we ever do get the Anti-Corruption Commission off the ground, one would hope that one of its tasks would be to check the accuracy of these declaration-of-interest forms by MPs in both Houses.But apart from MPs being publicly honest about such things, including the declaring of gifts, interests in companies, whether direct or indirect, via shareholdings and/or other means, or even whether they’ve bought luxury property in South Africa or built a place in the Côte d’Azur, is the fact that their liquidity or otherwise must surely come under scrutiny as well.People who are financially under stress are very likely to do things they might not otherwise have done, and there are provisions in the Constitution prohibiting, for example, an unrehabilitated bankrupt person from taking office at all.And this is right and proper.A person who cannot manage his or her own financial affairs, and at the very least try and live within their means, is certainly not the best person to elect to public office.How often don’t we hear that this is precisely the case with so many of our office-bearers.That they cannot manage their own money; are overextended financially; and/or even deep in debt.So the President, if he truly is serious about his ‘zero-tolerance’ policy, needs to put in place more than is there at present to curtail the potential for graft.Declaration-of-interests forms alone won’t prevent it.These have to be checked and cross-checked, much in the same way as the Receiver does with tax forms; and updated regularly.And if any of them are proven to have lied, they must face the wrath of the law.For theirs is a public trust.IT really took some doing for the media to find out who’d declared what in the National Assembly, and it is hard to know whether all of them have been honest or not.After all, who’s checking? So if no one is, as we suspect is the case at present, then it is a less than useless exercise.Readers will recall that when the declaration of interests was first introduced in our Parliament, MPs did not know how to fill out the forms or what to declare and how; much like was the case with their tax forms.After some workshopping on both of the above, they apparently started to understand both processes.Against the background of spiralling corruption, the scrutiny of interests of public officials becomes more important than ever before.So someone, whether it is a select committee or an independently appointed forum, needs to check it out.We all know that corruption can be hidden.In fact, is usually hidden.So a person stealing large amounts of money in whatever manner is bound to try and disguise his or her tracks.One of the ways in which to do this is to spread it around among family members, of course.Signs include a formerly penniless aunt suddenly driving a luxury car; a grandfather who is overnight the proprietor of a huge farm; a wife with modest employment sporting a new collection of expensive jewellery.So whoever is checking MPs’ interests need to keep this in mind.It is probably not going to be declared if there is wrongdoing of any kind, so one is unlikely to find admissions of this nature on paper.They’ll declare the obvious.So if we ever do get the Anti-Corruption Commission off the ground, one would hope that one of its tasks would be to check the accuracy of these declaration-of-interest forms by MPs in both Houses.But apart from MPs being publicly honest about such things, including the declaring of gifts, interests in companies, whether direct or indirect, via shareholdings and/or other means, or even whether they’ve bought luxury property in South Africa or built a place in the Côte d’Azur, is the fact that their liquidity or otherwise must surely come under scrutiny as well.People who are financially under stress are very likely to do things they might not otherwise have done, and there are provisions in the Constitution prohibiting, for example, an unrehabilitated bankrupt person from taking office at all.And this is right and proper.A person who cannot manage his or her own financial affairs, and at the very least try and live within their means, is certainly not the best person to elect to public office.How often don’t we hear that this is precisely the case with so many of our office-bearers.That they cannot manage their own money; are overextended financially; and/or even deep in debt.So the President, if he truly is serious about his ‘zero-tolerance’ policy, needs to put in place more than is there at present to curtail the potential for graft.Declaration-of-interests forms alone won’t prevent it.These have to be checked and cross-checked, much in the same way as the Receiver does with tax forms; and updated regularly.And if any of them are proven to have lied, they must face the wrath of the law.For theirs is a public trust.

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