Namibia anti-graft war intensifies

Pohamba officiated at the launch of the three-year N$5 million zero-tolerance campaign co-sponsored by the governments of the United States, Finland and Sweden. The campaign is spearheaded by the Namibia Institute for Democracy (NID) in collaboration with the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC), the Office of the Ombudsman and other civil society organisations. Pohamba said the campaign was a vivid way of demonstrating the willingness of members of society to contribute tangibly to the achievement of Government’s objectives. “In my view, this is testimony to the consensus that has taken root in our country that corruption must be fought by all members of our society,” he added. Citing a case of fraud involving N$100 million that is yet to be resolved, Pohamba said the money could have been used to provide drugs to people;e living with HIV and AIDS, or for children who do not have schools, or for developing roads in communal areas. Pohamba said the fight against corruption would benefit the people of Namibia through prospects for a brighter future. He said it was important that all participate and get involved in the process of governance and in shaping their own destiny. He launched the campaign by blowing a red whistle, inscribed with: “Say no way to corruption”. In attendance were politicians, representatives of civil society organisations, diplomats and government officials. He warned that unless all spheres in Namibian society become involved in the fight against corruption, ordinary Namibians will continue to be robbed of opportunities to realise their full potential. Corruption has been in the limelight since Pohamba took over as president on March 21 last year. His stance against corruption has already claimed the job of Deputy Minister of Works Transport and Communication Paulus Kapia who was forced to resign after revelations that he was involved in a questionable N$30 million investment deal from the Social Security Commission. Since taking the helm of power, Pohamba’s graft fight has improved the country’s perception index by eight positions on Transparency International ranking, from 54 to 46. Botswana on position 31, is the least corrupt country in Africa. Contacted for comment, an official at the Berlin based Transparency International ‘ whose global perception index is considered very critical ‘ said she could not comment on the strides taken by Namibia as they were apparently not monitoring the situation in the country. Early this year, the ACC was inaugurated and this week efforts to root out corruption in the country were further boosted through the launch of the Zero Tolerance for Corruption Campaign. Corruption is described as the exploitation of a position for private benefit or of people’s positions within private enterprise. Abuse of public offices not only impedes foreign investment, but also allows organised crime and it generally erodes the quality of life. Forms of corruption include bribery, embezzlement, misappropriation of property, trading in influence, abuse of functions and illicit enrichment as criminal offences. The campaign aims at supporting public institutions through training and technical assistance in anti corruption strategies and the implementation of integrity systems. “In my view, this is testimony to the consensus that has taken root in our country that corruption must be fought by all members of our society,” Pohamba added. He warned that unless all spheres in Namibian society become involved in the fight against corruption, ordinary Namibians will continue to be robbed of opportunities to realise their full potential. According to Seija Kinni Huttunen, Charg’ d’affaires of the Embassy of Finland, some strengths that are considered to be of special added value in the international anti corruption efforts include moderation, personal restraint and the common good, a comprehensive system of legislation, a well functioning judiciary, efficient law enforcement and proactive monitoring of abuses, up-to-date financial management as well as representation of women in parliaments and other higher public offices. In Finland for instance, over a third of parliamentarians and members of municipal councils are women. She also noted that adequate wages and small income gaps are conducive to a decrease in corruption and “higher incomes increase job satisfaction and reduce the propensity to accept bribes, while smaller income gaps curb economic greed in career building”. This, said Kinni Huttunen was a challenge for Namibia, whose gap between the haves and the have-nots is very wide. According to statistics, Namibia has the widest income gap in the world, where the richest 10 percent of the households in Namibia has more than 50 percent of the total income of private households.

April 2006
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