A Nightmare Year for Corrupt Elements

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By Emma Kakololo WINDHOEK TWO thousand and five will go down in the annals of the country’s history as a year in which corrupt elements were exposed. It also saw several high-profile cases being exposed as could be attested by the High Court Inquiry into the Avid case. Money amounting to N$30 million of the Social Security Commission (SSC) went down the drain through Avid, a greenhorn investment outfit whose architect Lazarus Kandara committed suicide under mysterious circumstances. Avid claimed the political career of Paulus Kapia who was compelled to resign as Deputy Minister of Works, Transport and Communication, while Tuli Hiveluah also resigned as CEO of the SCC before a disciplinary hearing could be held. Evidence before court claimed that Hiveluah allegedly pocketed a hefty kickback while Kapia apparently received a questionable payment of N$40 000 on top of using his influence to secure the N$30-million investment for Avid. The year also witnessed the enactment of the long-awaited Anti-Corruption Act in May and finally the establishment of the Anti-Corruption Commission aimed at rooting out corrupt and ruinous practices in the country. The State Owned Enterprises (SOE) Bill was also enacted this year, compelling each parastatal to formulate a strategy on how it plans to operate its business and be accountable to the public they serve. “We envisage an agency that will monitor all SOEs on behalf of government. Government is very much determined on quality service delivery so we must perform. Otherwise be prepared to face the consequences of not performing,” Prime Minister Nahas Angula stated at the establishment of the graft agency. This stemmed from President Hifikepunye Pohamba’s principled position on corruption and the execution of his promise. At his inauguration on March 21 this year, the President said, “As before, there will be zero tolerance for waste and corruption in public life. I therefore make a solemn pledge to you my compatriots and fellow citizens that I shall set a personal example.” Pohamba’s declaration came hot on the heels of a spate of incidents of fraud and corruption, particularly at SOEs that raised questions about the efficiency and effectiveness of control mechanisms at these institutions and further pointed to a lack of internal fraud prevention mechanisms at the affected organisations. Questions were raised, such as: Where is the country leading? Are we concerned about this state of affairs and what is being done about it? How come such fraud was not detected much earlier by either internal or external auditors? Many felt, after all, this was the very reason why company books were being audited. In one of relatively recent corruption cases, one of the suspects who also committed suicide pilfered millions from the Namibia Airports Company (NAC), over a period of time while living an extravagant lifestyle. At the Social Security Commission, top managers were paid entitlements which they were not supposed to get. In addition, it was established by the Presidential Commission of Inquiry into the Affairs of the SSC that some insiders, in conjunction with insurance brokers, milked the organisation of millions of dollars in commission payments in return for kickbacks. The list goes on, not to mention the corruption at the Road Fund Administration (RFA) and the Roads Authority (RA). Outgoing Ombudsman Bience Gawanas stated before leaving for the African Union (AU) that her office was in daily receipt of complaints of unethical behaviour and instances of corruption that “prejudice ordinary Namibians of millions of dollars that could be utilised efficiently to address national development challenges”. Officials who receive excessive “hospitality” from Government contracts and benefits in kind such as scholarships for their children, and those who contract Government services through front companies and “partners” are also corrupt, Gawanas stressed, adding that “ghost appointments” which are created to pad payrolls or the creation of fictitious service providers for access to state funds were also among the main evils of corruption. Two weeks after his inauguration as President, Pohamba held a consultative meeting with his Cabinet and reiterated his call for efficient service delivery to the nation without fail. Pohamba’s blunt message to his Cabinet was that the honeymoon was over and it was now time for hard work. “Let us put effective surveillance measures in place in order to monitor and decisively deal with corrupt practices in our offices, ministries, agencies and State-owned enterprises,” he had urged his Cabinet. “It is up to the public to report suspected and suspicious corrupt practices. As such, the commission can investigate these concerns,” he urged. Pohamba is reported to have instructed the commission last week that becomes operational in January 2006 that its doors should be open to the public and should root out corruption as the latter distorts economic and social development and translates into the poor being deprived of their due in terms of efficient and effective public service.