The Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) has yet again punted its responsibilities to fight corruption and dumped their duties onto the people seeking its help to bring such illegalities under control.
We have to ask: ACC, Quid tu facis? (What are you doing?)
The National Housing Enterprise (NHE) commissioned and received an expensive report from reputable outside auditors, Deloitte, that the board saw it fit to refer to the ACC for investigation and prosecutorial referral.
But the ACC has refused action on the report claiming that the NHE should discipline its own workers.
With some of those referred to in the report, no longer in the employ of the SOE, it is unclear how the NHE would investigate and bring to justice those accused of irregularities.
The ACC is mandated to act against any form of corruption in public and private entities. And yet, it has dodged its responsibilities, chastising the NHE for referring the case to it in the first place.
If the ACC lacks the capacity to investigate corruption, let it announce this and demand more money to pay experienced, well-trained, aggressive investigators.
If the ACC is too fearful to go after the ‘big dogs’ that may be involved in corruption schemes, then let it announce this and its leadership should do the right thing and resign with immediate effect.
Anyone sitting back and banking a pay cheque while knowingly and purposefully avoiding their legal mandate can, arguably, be accused of corruption.
The Anti-Corruption Act 8 of 2003 as amended in 2016 is very clear, yet the poor record of implementation by the ACC reduces its strong words to mere wishes and dreams rather than a call to action.
The functions of the ACC include an obligation to receive or initiate and investigate allegations of corrupt practices; to conduct inquiries or investigations in relation to corrupt practices; to assemble evidence admissible in the prosecution of a person for a criminal offence and to investigate any conduct which may be connected with or conducive to corrupt practices.
It is also supposed to take measures for the prevention of corruption in public bodies and private bodies and to assist entities to implement systems to prevent corrupt practices in the future.
In declining action on the NHE Board’s report, we wonder how that response is in accordance with the ACC Act?
How does that response promote the investigation (by the ACC) of corrupt practices, or assemble evidence or assist the NHE in developing systems to prevent future abuses?
In our view, that response and other ACC responses over the last several years, adds to the atmosphere of impunity that allows corruption to thrive in Namibia. The message could be interpreted as this: The ACC is contentedly under-capacity, so the field is clear for any sneaky, money-grabbing scheme you can get away with.
Given the financial strain on Government and the extreme need to cut the civil service payroll, we suggest that the minister of finance’s budget axe consider the ACC as a starting point.
Agencies that continue as a part of the Government must perform in the roles they are given. The ACC has distinguished itself in chasing drivers of Government cars that don’t have the right paper work and secretaries in schools that steal from the cash box, yet it is impotent when it comes to bringing to book the N$24 million KORA culprits (those responsible for sending the money out in the first place) or addressing the attorney general’s N$47 million personally-approved legal spending spree in the UK.
There is N$200 million missing from the SME Bank and the persons of interest who were involved in transferring those funds are available, and yet, the ACC is again, deflated and impotent.
In 2015, the ACC’s N$133 million budget was primarily spent on operations according to its Director General, Paulus Noa.
2016 statistics from the ACC show that, of the 435 reports that were brought to its attention, only 60 or 13.7 percent were referred to relevant institutions. And yet international agencies who rate Namibia constantly report that the perception of corruption in the country is increasing.
We are uncertain if the ACC is really able to function as an independent body tasked with investigating, publicly bringing accused criminals to book and assisting institutions to implement systems that deter corruption as their mandate requires.
The ACC must follow the evidence on offer whether it involves a Cabinet minister or a permanent secretary or a school secretary. If this agency cannot do this, serious consideration should be given to closing it down.
We reflected on what a Namibia without an ACC would look like and we see no difference in the Namibia we live in today.
In fairness, we take note that the ACC has said that most cases referred to them are unfounded vengeance utterances or accusations that cannot be substantiated.
The agency claims that the public’s expectation of the ACC is overblown, given the limitations of its Act. Using such responses as a reason for inaction is side-stepping the ACC mandate, i.e., to provide for the prevention and punishment of corruption.
As it stands, we believe decision-makers should consider completely reforming the ACC or amending the Act to incorporate it in the Office of the Ombudsman.