Since the world-wide outbreak of the Covid-19, and after the President Hage Geingob declared a state of emergency in Namibia and subsequent lockdown measures, I have spent the last couple of days reading about the fantastic support that individuals and many companies from every single sector are willing to provide to the government in the fight against Covid-19. I mostly focused on the support pledged to the infirm and the inhabitants of the informal settlements including the private businesses. Many demonstrated their eagerness to aid the government to smoothly assist all affected areas impacted by the Covid-19. I have likewise observed the bravery of medical personnel and support staff who, day and night, sacrificed their lives to those that are suspected to have contracted, or those that have contracted the coronavirus.
This is a global pandemic. Thus, governments around the world, Namibia included, have announced unprecedented financial aid packages to individuals and companies alike to try and mitigate the effects of a global economic shut down due to the Covid-19 lockdown. There is no uncertainty that truly, governments, particularly in Africa, definitely require swift injections of financial and technical support. In any case, it is critical that existing funds and any other extra support are strategically devoted to fighting Covid-19.
Whilst reading about the support pledged by individuals and corporate citizens, along with the government support package, as well as other developments pertaining to the Covid-19 outbreak, I have been thinking of what could be happening with all these donations, and brilliant stimulus relief programmes such as emergency income grant, water subsidy, wage subsidy for hardest-hit sectors, tax-back loan scheme, and many more at the implementation stage. To my psyche I resembled ’yoooo’, this entire crisis would attract the dishonest, the amoral and immoral. Do not crucify me, not yet please, I won’t be surprised if reports of attempts by a few to make huge financial gains out of this global crisis emerge.
I am further of the view that while the majority of individuals who will apply for grants, loans and other forms of economic support will be honest and decent people trying to keep their businesses going; paying dues to their workers and suppliers or trying to pay for their mortgages just to mention a few, there will be some who will consider this to be a once in a blue moon chance to fleece “the system. This conduct might be hard to be halted and perhaps time will not allow for sufficient control mechanisms to be put in place ‘we know this is an emergency’. However, one would not have any desire to let it pass just for the sake of ‘’emergency’’. Along these lines, notwithstanding the present measures set up, the government must ensure that there is a genuine deterrent to dishonest conduct.
We are trying as a country to fight and prevent corruption in all sectors. Transparency mechanisms should be strengthened throughout the medical pharmaceutical, life/science, medical supply chain to ensure that profit-making does not override public interest. Equally, the pandemic is a reminder that the global community and governments alike should make sufficient investments in pharmaceutical management systems (warehousing and distribution) to cater to the likes of this current crisis.
Recognising what governments all over the world have done with Namibia not being an exception, (they passed emergency legislation to deal with the crisis), they should prioritize protecting the public interest by deterring those who seek to profiteer from the crises through fraud and corruption.
The fight against corruption must remain a priority amid this crisis. Despite numerous anti-corruption measures, funds would be diverted in a blink of an eye as the response of the pandemic requires haste and minimal or no bureaucracy. Existing mechanisms are insufficient; hence, it is required of each and every individual to be alert. The inclusion of anti-corruption experts in public health discussions could be a measure to deter corrupt activities. Another measure could be support for the Anti-Corruption Commission to provide a watchdog function for instance on grant disbursement and hold implementation agencies to account.
Emphasising our individual role towards the fight against corruption, we have to all take it upon ourselves, individually, to ensure that we uphold the highest ethical principles in dealing with the crisis at hand. No ifs, ands or buts, this pandemic will be seen by some as an opportunity to take advantage of the situation for private gain. The current situation demands that corruption not be overlooked by any stretch of the imagination. I repeat, the outbreak certainly presents an opportunity for scammers and unscrupulous businessmen to defraud the system, often with the complicity of government officials.
Namibians, let us be reminded; the medical personnel/health care workers, whether consultants, cleaners, drivers, doctors, nurses, community health workers, pharmacists or radiographers, who are risking their lives on a daily basis deserve respect and gratitude. May we all hold fast to the Head of State’s call for transparency and zero tolerance for corruption, and to assure taxpayers that the funds earmarked for Covid- 19 will be used for the intended purposes. The economic crisis will definitely deepen and will be bringing out the worst of the corrupt.
Let us all be part of the fight against corruption by reporting instances of corruption during this crisis. May those entrusted with the responsibility to disburse the Covid-19 support packages do so wisely and ensure that the aid deployed to help fight the virus benefits those who need it most. Else, the country’s efforts to respond to the crisis would be in vain. ‘Let the Holy Spirit guide those in the frontline of the fight against Covid-19 pandemic.’