I’m no govt puppet – Noa
Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) Director, Paulus Noa has defended himself against accusations that he is a government puppet, amid calls by his detractors for him to be replaced.
This comes after allegations surfaced last week that Noa frustrated his own investigators, when he allegedly blocked the arrest of Major General Thomas Hamunyela at the Grootfontein military base.
Hamunyela was under investigation for corruption, self-gratification, falsifying documents and fraud.
The Namibia Press Agency (Nampa) reported last year that the army general had allegedly illegally fenced off a large portion of communal land in the Kavango West region.
The press agency quoted villagers as saying army trucks had been seen offloading different types of building materials on a daily basis at the general’s homestead, while a water tank with a military vehicle registration number plate was stationed at the site to provide water for construction and household purposes.
The accusation that Noa blocked Hamunyela’s arrest caused a public outcry last week, with some saying that the crimebuster was only capable of targeting small fish.
In an interview with the Windhoek Observer this week, Noa rubbished the allegations against him.
“All these negative reports on me have been going around since I assumed office, but I am really not interested in going in circles to respond to them.
“Namibia has a transparency policy. We have the police force and the Ombudsman is there. How do I do cover for politicians?” Noa asked.
“I am not a government puppet. I am here doing my job; the law is clear. How can I be a government puppet? In fact, some of these cases that I am accused of closing were being dealt with by the police.
“These are irrelevant claims, and are just from backstabbers. I don’t have time to waste on such things at all,” Noa said this week.
All People’s Party President (APP), Ignatius Shixwameni, said that Noa and his deputy should be replaced.
“When the recent amendment of the ACC Act and of the titles of the two top officials of the ACC was done, I spoke about the ACC as an institution. I pointed out that it is one of those institutions that we need to take a closer look at, and which must be reformed. I stand by that.
“The two top officials must also be replaced. The process to appoint the top two officials must be made as transparent as possible.
“They must undergo a public interview process, which scrutinises their backgrounds. They must be, once appointed, completely apolitical and objective in the performance of their duties. They must be appointed for one fixed term of office only,” Shixwameni said.
The opposition party leader added that public trust in the institution had been lost.
“Surely all of us, including the general public, have completely lost trust in the ACC. That is why we are calling for its total overhaul and reform. The report on the ACC Director preventing the arrest of a top general is a point in case.
“The other cases (involving high-profile individuals, even solidifies the case that the ACC in its current form, and with the two meek political appointees it has, is more of a political public relations tool to the appointing powers that be.
“It is a mere toothless bulldog, which can only bark and make false sounds, but cannot bite; little can it bite the appointing hand which feeds it and pays its salaries and gives it its meagre operational budget.
“The ACC in its current format will never touch the big fish in the executive and the judiciary. They can only prey on small cats and mice.
“For those big fish that are corrupt, the current set up of the ACC is the best. ‘Bark as long as you cannot bite’ seems to be the motto. They are comfortable with it, because it is a mere public relations exercise by the executive. It is about looking good internationally, to get mere international accolades, whilst the house is burning,” Shixwameni said.
DTA Treasurer General, Nico Smit, said the ACC has not lived up to expectations.
“If the ACC was established to actively combat corruption, it has not yet met that initial target. However, if it was established to improve international perception of corruption in Namibia, then it has served its purpose.
“Out of 372 cases reported during the 2015/16 financial year, 127 cases were investigated. Investigations were concluded in 29 of these cases, while investigations are still ongoing in 98 cases - these damning statistics provided by the ACC itself tell you all you need to know about the effectiveness of the ACC.
“Tax payers have lost countless millions at Telecom and GIPF, and recently the Ministry of Environment and Tourism negligently handed a large portion of our already scarce resources to Adjovi.
“What has the ACC done to investigate this matter and recover the money? Or can the matter not be investigated, because there were senior politicians and government officials involved?” Smit quizzed.
He said that real criminals steal with impunity.
“One cannot deny that there are a number corruption cases that are successfully investigated and prosecuted by the ACC, but do these cases, involving smaller amounts and unknown small fish, really make a dent on corruption in the grand scheme of things?
“For so long as investigation and prosecution of small fish is used for stat-padding, whilst the real criminals get away with stealing with impunity, then the ACC exists merely to appease external corruption ranking bodies, and not to restore the faith of the Namibian people in transparent and accountable governance.
“To who is the ACC accountable, if not the taxpayers whose money is being defrauded?” Smit added.
Political analyst and social commentator, Ndumba Kamwanyah, argued that the ACC has not been successful in prosecuting well connected criminals.
“I think he (Noa) should give room for an investigation to establish the authenticity and merit of the case against him. I am not sure if it bothers them, but there is a wild perception out there that the ACC is not doing enough, especially when it comes to the big kahunas.
“Therefore, the failure to clear the boss reinforces or legitimises that perception that the ACC is somehow involved in covering up for some individuals, while they are quick to arrest others.
“The biggest issue with ACC is not that the boss is being fingered in the matter, but the crisis of legitimacy in which the institution finds itself. That’s what needs to be restored.
“If left unattended, it will have serious repercussions for the operation of the institution, in that it will find it difficult to get cooperation from the public.
“Much of their work depends on the public cooperation, so it is important that the ACC must win back that public trust,” Kamwanyah said.