The Namibian media ombudsman, John Nakuta has cut into transparency of the country’s election process stating that levels of transparency and accountability of relevant electoral stakeholders are below a satisfactory standard.
Presenting his briefing paper, titled, Access to information and elections: The case of Namibia at a discussion last week Friday, Nakuta stated that the vital link between a proper exercise of the right to vote and the right to access to information is beyond dispute.
“For every citizen to be truly free to make an informed political choice, access to relevant or empowering information must be facilitated,” he said.
Listing some of the challenges Namibia faces in election transparency Nakuta stated that information such as the final voters’ register is published in hard copy format only. “This makes the inspection of the voters’ register an overly burdensome and strenuous exercise as was pointed out by one key contributor to this paper,” Nakuta said.
In addition, the Electoral Act does not compel relevant electoral stakeholders to an established procedure on how to request election related information.
Nakuta further touched on other loopholes such as a lack of financial transparency in political parties stating that although the Electoral Act provides that the audited financial accounts of political parties be submitted to the ECN, no procedure is currently in place to actualise this entitlement.
“In fact, such information is not reflected at all on the ECN’s website. Data delivery is generally done reactively, except for the few instances where the Act requires proactive disclosure of information” Nakuta stated.
He advised that to ensure greater transparency and accountability in the electoral process, it is necessary to conduct a comprehensive audit of current legislation, policies, practices and procedures to access to information on the electoral process with a view to comply with the provision of the guidelines.
He further called for the expediting of promulgation on access to information legislation which must provide for the recordal and disclosure of election related information, including; public and private funding information; increasing the number of available information through easily accessible formats by the use of new technologies; and to compel the ECN, as the electoral management body, to develop guidelines and requirements of proactive disclosure for the relevant electoral stakeholders.