Namibia’s ineffective laws breed corruption
Windhoek – Although the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) of Namibia recorded 435 cases during the 2013/14 financial period, this is not the real picture, as real cases of corruption have been on the decline for the past five years, says director general Paulus Noa.
What has increased Noa said was the public perception about corruption because of socio-economic challenges where the majority of the people are living in poverty and that of people who find themselves in this poor living condition attributing poverty to corruption.
However, Noa noted that the public cannot be blamed for acquainting their situations to corruption, because their perceptions are based on observation of “how some people, of course a small group of Namibians, accumulate more wealth at their expense.
“The truth is that there is an unequal distribution of national resources in this country and the status quo needs to receive urgent attention from government. The majority of the people, particularly those who are in real need, do not benefit from the fishing quotas and mineral resources of the country. How do you expect them not to conclude that there is corruption in Namibia when the same group of few Namibians who are benefiting from construction tenders are the very same who own fishing quotas, mineral licences and in most cases the very persons who own land,” he said.
“The economic status quo frustrates the poor and disadvantaged citizens of our country. I can understand why they perceive corruption to be on the increase,” Noa told The southern Times in an interview.
On funding, Noa said although the budget has been increasing slightly every financial year, the ACC does not spend billions on fighting corruption.
It has just been reported that South Africa spent close to R20 billion fighting corruption in the past 20 years.
“The current operational budget is only R50 million. This is the money spent on salaries, investigations, public awareness campaigns and necessary office materials,” said Noa.
The most common complaints that the ACC receive are allegations relating to favouritism in awarding of tenders.
“Though it has been difficult to prove public officials receive bribes, there are many suspicions that the awarding of fishing quotas and mining licences are riddled with corruption.
“Policies with regard to the awarding of concessions in these sectors need to be reviewed to ensure the process is more transparent. These are national resources which do not have to benefit a small group of people in this country.
There should also be no secrets as to who is benefiting from the national resources of this country.
The public is paining and left to speculate that there are corrupt deals behind the scenes,” he said.
On whether the country’s national elections last year and the news of the President-elect has removed the attention from corruption, Noa said: “The President-elect has made his position already clear. He rejects corruption just like his predecessors. He correctly made it clear that there is real and perceived corruption in Namibia and the responsibility lies with all of us to fight corruption.
The commission has developed a National Anti-Corruption Strategy which is in the final stage of its completion and will be launched early this year. Prime Minister and President-Elect Dr Hage Geingob officially inaugurated the Technical Committee last year to spearhead the development of the anti-corruption strategy.
The Strategy addresses the call by the President-elect that all stakeholders must participate in fighting corruption.”
Noa stressed that the main challenge the ACC faces was some Namibians who make serious corruption allegations in the media but were not bold enough to go to approach them and provide information.
He said information will help the commission take appropriate action, as they cannot investigate any suspect unless there is evidence that implicates the suspect.
Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) Executive Director, Graham Hopwood said it is difficult to ascertain whether public perception is wrong as it may be that the ACC is dealing with fewer cases but this could be because the public have lost faith in the commission’s ability to tackle corruption and are therefore not reporting cases.
“According to the latest Afrobarometer, the public do believe corruption is increasing. This should be taken seriously even though we do not have empirical evidence to show whether there are more instances of corruption than before. One of the problems we have in Namibia is that our laws and regulations, including the Anti-Corruption Act, are not fit for purpose when it comes to dealing with corruption.
So for example, reports of highly unethical behaviour are not investigated by the ACC because in terms of the current law they are not illegal acts. We do not have laws and regulations that deal adequately with conflict of interest for example,” he said.
Hopwood said because of inaction on these cases and that many cases are delayed in the inefficient justice system for years, “it would be understandable if the public is losing faith in the authorities’ willingness and ability to tackle corruption.
There is a growing sense of impunity – that if you have the right political connections you can do what you want and you will never be challenged or investigated.
The public tendering system is full of loopholes that can be exploited by corrupt elements and is in need of urgent reform.”