The Anti-Corruption Commission has come under renewed scrutiny after seemingly clearing two prominent public figures of maleficence recently.
The institution has traditionally been accused of not going after the ‘big fish’ in society.
In fact, ACC shocked many by praising Immanuel Mulunga, the embattled Namcor managing director, for a N$100 million decision he took that was not cleared by the State-owned petroleum company’s board.
Similarly, higher education minister Itah Kandji-Murangi remains haunted by persistent claims of abusing subsistence and travel allowances from State-owned enterprises under her ambit.
A week after, ACC director Paulus Noa instructed those accusing the minister of corruption to approach the commission to give formal statements and present documentary proof in support of their accusations.
City of Windhoek councillor Job Amupanda has hit back at Noa, saying he should initiate investigations on his own without waiting for anyone to approach them or submit any document – as per the Anti-Corruption Act (Act No. 8 of 2003).
“At this stage, it is not in doubt and there is no confusion that the minister has pocketed thousands of dollars from institutions under her authority. Not only have these institutions under her confirmed that they have paid for her personal benefits, but some proofs of payments are also already in public hands. The nation knows that money was indeed paid into her personal account. There is no accusation here whatsoever. The amounts paid are known, the sources of these funds are known and indeed those who made the payments have confirmed,” he responded.
Last week, Noah in a statement said ACC is in possession of only a letter from the Office of the Presidency authorising the trip; proof of letters by the personal assistant to the minister addressed to the executive director, Dr Van Kent, as well as proof of letters written and signed by the executive director to the institutions.
However, Amupanda dismissed Noa’s justification, saying “Corruption is indeed facilitated by letters, including letters to and from the Presidency”.
He said, “What is clear is that the ACC has limited information. It is thus best advised to stop making statements and focus on gathering information that it evidently doesn’t have”.
Additionally, Noa also said the entity is in possession of documentary proof that refunds by the ministry to the institutions were fully honoured, which Amupanda disputed.
“Does this mean the ACC is not concerned about policies and laws but only whether the gangsters have returned public money to each other? Is that how public financial management systems work?” Amupanda.
On Monday, the anti-graft body released the outcome of the investigation into the case of the suspended Mulunga in which it cleared him of criminal intent for payment of N$100 million for an oil block in Angola.
One of the main findings in the investigation is that Mulunga did not secure board approval when he authorised the transfer of US$6.7 million to Sungara Energies Ltd.
The report further states that Mulunga authorised the transfer of money in the interest of Namcor and the country.
According to a summary of investigations and findings, Noa said there is no evidence to prove criminal intent against Mulunga.
“The payment was a matter in which Mulunga had to make a difficult decision to safeguard the contract and avoid financial loss to Namcor and the country,” the report states.
Various commentators, however, have reacted to the news in astonishment.
“It is deeply concerning that an anti-graft body like the Anti-Corruption Commission finds absolutely nothing wrong with the unapproved transfer of US$6.7 million to Sungara Energies Ltd by the MD,” said Popular Democratic Movement member of parliament Nico Smit.
Smit reminded ACC that the board of directors has a fiduciary duty to protect the best interests of the company and its shareholders.
“Certain significant transactions can have profound effects on companies, such as Namcor, their operations and their profitability. Board approval of transactions ensures there is a process by which the directors examine, discuss and assess the pending transactions to the extent necessary to make an informed decision and vote accordingly,” said Smit.
He added, “Secondly, the Anti-Corruption Commission should have castigated the board for putting the transaction in jeopardy due to their failure to take a timeous decision one way or the other and also for the obviously trumped-up witch hunt against the MD”.
Smit said the outcomes of the investigation seemingly give leeway to other high-ranking officials at public enterprises to perform international high-level transactions without the approval of the board of directors and “get showered with praises instead”.
“This is a dangerous predicament from an anti-graft body that is entrusted to curb corruption in Namibia,” he further warned.
On the other hand, analyst Frederico Links believes that for ACC to establish public trust, merely releasing an opinion-like statement is insufficient. Instead, he argues, they should provide a comprehensive report that defends their stance.
In an interview with New Era, he pointed out how ACC handled the Kandji-Murangi matter, expressing concern that asking the public to come forth with evidence would only lead to further public speculations.
“They could even have a press conference, where they would lay out all the findings of the investigation and explain to the public why someone was found or not found guilty, based on the laws and policies in place. I think we should see more of deep engagements from ACC with the public to maintain trust,” he said.