A visibly fed-up ACC Director Paulus Noa tells us that Namibians of all creeds and colours, no matter their status in society, will be investigated if they provoke the need for such.
You started the ACC from scratch. How were you able to make this institution functional?
My deputy and I started putting pieces together because there was nothing at all. Today we are seated in this big building here (ACC headquarters). Our first task was to come up with staff structures. We knew there would be a need for a directorate that deals with investigations, a directorate on public education and corruption prevention and a division for support services such as human resources and finance. This was done before we then started with the recruitment process, with a very limited budget. Today we have a staff complement of over 60 people, including 22 investigating officers. Apart from our headquarters, we have regional offices in Oshakati, Otjiwarongo and Swakopmund. The ACC came into being at a very sensitive time when Namibians were demanding action on matters such as the ODC’s missing N$100 million, SSC-Avid’s N$30 million and the GIPF money that also went missing. So there were huge expectations on us.
The ACC was heavily criticised for not acting on those cases that you just mentioned …
Yes, people were angry and they had expectations. Unfortunately all these cases happened way before even our founding Act came into existence. When the law came into being, it did not give us retrospective power to deal with whatever happened in the past. Normally we have to serve summons but such summons has to outline the law that empowers you to do that. You cannot deal with matters that were not, in law, a crime at the time.
Many people confuse the role and mandate of the ACC. Who exactly are the ACC?
ACC is an institution established by an Act of Parliament. Our powers and mandate are defined in the Act. Our major mandate is to investigate allegations of corrupt practices, educate the public about the dangers of corruption and also to put preventative measures in place against incidences of corruption.
What are the major projects or activities the ACC is busy with at the moment?
One of the things we are busy with at the moment is the recruitment of more investigating officers. But some offices within government are setting us backwards. The minimum requirement for any position in the public office is set up by the Office of the Prime Minister. When it comes to the minimum requirements for investigators of the ACC, it is stated that someone must have a qualification in police science. We need people who have skills in a variety of areas such as forensic auditing, accounting or any other discipline but because of the set minimum requirements we cannot bring those people on board. We are not a police unit. Setting this requirement also forces us to poach investigators from the Namibian Police, and that is depleting the police force. We have sent back those requirements with a request that they must be reconsidered. Apart from that, we are still engaging the public with our awareness campaigns, including going to schools and inculcating a culture of non-corruption. Overall, we are dealing with volumes and volumes of cases that are reported with us.
How active is the ACC in contributing to the formulation of policies and laws related to corruption?
In the past we have made certain recommendations on various matters. We always include these in our annual reports. We are saying for example that there must be a law requiring accountability among political parties that receives public funds through their parliamentary representation. There has also been a public outcry about the awarding of public tenders and the suspicion of collusion in these processes. Some people questioned the composition of the Tender Board, saying that the permanent secretaries who sit on the Tender Board are also chairpersons of their respective ministries’ internal tender committees. We made a recommendation in this regard that the composition of the Tender Board must be reviewed and I am glad that the Ministry of Finance has now come up with the Public Procurement Bill, which proposes amendments to that composition. The Tender Board will now be broader and will include people from the private sector as its members.
How often does the ACC get tip-offs of perceived tender corruption?
This office is always flooded with such complaints. Some of the people who have come to the ACC with allegations of tender irregularities are disgruntled individuals who were unsuccessful in their bids. They were fairly and squarely outplayed by their competitors. Luckily, the Tender Board has always been very cooperative with us whenever we needed any information from them. These people come to you guys in the media, make allegations and ask for their identities to be protected. As such, a global perception is created that Namibia has massive corruption tenders. Yes, there is corruption but not to the proportions portrayed most of the time.
There’s also a perception that nothing comes out of many cases reported to the ACC …
It’s not everything that we investigate that will end in prosecution. Sometimes we approach institutions themselves and alert them to some of the things their officials are doing. We urge them to look into these matters and take appropriate administrative measures. The majority of cases reported to us are of this nature. Not everything will end in up in a criminal court. Some things are happening because there are no policies in place to guard against that. These are matters that need administrative attention of the administrative authorities. We are not here to do jobs of boards of directors. When there’s corruption, we will surely move into that.
Would you say the establishment of the ACC has lessened corruption prevalence in Namibia?
I can’t give you figures, but I can tell you that we have made significant interventions where, for example, public officials could collude with officials from the private sector or collude with so-called middlemen or agents to decide who get tenders. Sometimes they even inflate the costs. We have exposed corrupt plans that could have cost our economy heavily. And those cases that do not fall under our ambit, we report them to relevant authorities. There are many cases that did not end up in a court of law but our interventions have helped end whatever was happening. I’ll give you an example of a case of tax fraud that we had forwarded to the Prosecutor General with recommendations to prosecute but the Prosecutor General decided otherwise. We then alerted Inland Revenue and they took it up. It was found out that the company was under-declaring their income and they were asked to pay N$6 million which they did. We just got confirmation this week. N$6 million is a lot of money that the State could have fictitiously lost.
There has been a string of arrests over what many consider trivial issues. What’s your take on talks that ACC is selectively avoiding the so-called big fish?
To us, no case is smaller than the other. Corruption, no matter the size, will kill our economy. For us, as long as anybody is prepared to provide information, we are prepared to investigate as long as that matter falls within our mandate. The only challenge the ACC is facing today is that many Namibians are so useless, hopeless and cowards. They are only good at claiming that politicians and ministers are corrupt yet they are not prepared to come forward to provide relevant information so that the ACC shows them that we fear nobody in this country. They rush to the media and then ask not to be mentioned. So I repeat that they are cowards and saboteurs because hiding information from us will only help destroy the economy.
You are investigating Works Minister Erkki Nghimtina. Can this be proof that ACC is not scared of politicians?
This affirms my argument that cowards are not prepared to come forth with information. We have limited information that we are working with, but the person that is making these allegations is not coming forth with adequate information to help our probe. We fear no one. Not this minister or any other. We don’t care whether you are an ordinary citizen or a minister. And Nghimtina is not the only minister that we have or are investigating.
Finally, who watches this watchdog called ACC?
We are not the only investigating agency in the country. If I, as director of this institution, do something that warrants investigations, institutions such as the police will be at liberty to deal with me. So we are not above the law. No Namibian is.
New Era Reporter
2014-08-01 11:36:11 | 6 years ago