By Surihe Gaomas WINDHOEK Public officials, who deliberately delay or prolong the process of disciplinary hearings against employees, must be ready to face prosecution by the Anti-Corruption Commission. This was said by the Director of the Anti-Corruption Commission, Paulus Noa, during a public lecture at the Polytechnic of Namibia recently. Noa said as a corruption-busting agency, the ACC has the powers to prosecute any official, who purposefully delays disciplinary hearings for a long time. “I will not opt for disciplinary hearings, but for prosecution. If officials take their time to react (on disciplinary hearings), then they will have to face the music themselves”. He was reacting to public concerns about the lengthy process of disciplinary actions at several companies and public offices. Currently, the ACC office is reviewing the system so that there could be limitations placed on it for speedier disciplinary processes. The Anti-Corruption Act of 2003 empowers the Commission to prosecute culprits guilty of corrupt practices. During the public lecture it transpired that laws and policies do not in any way help to speed up the process of disciplinary action against employees implicated in mal-administration or corrupt practices. Sometimes it takes close to three to four months or even a year before any action is taken against an accused. “This is slowing down the process and other corrupt practices creep in like bribery, and, at the end of the day, the person is off the hook”, was a concern raised from the handful of people present at the public lecture. The ACC Director voiced concern about the mounting incidents of abuse of government vehicles by employees and alleged ‘kick-backs’ from law enforcement agents when issuing traffic tickets and vehicle licences. There are reports almost every day from the public on such cases to the ACC, and the director and his deputy will review them and take appropriate action. Noa noted that as a result the public was becoming more vigilant about government vehicle abuse. He said once prosecutions start, he would make such culprits examples to the nation. “On the abuse of government property, people are now more aware of this. I am telling you, I am serious. I am going to make many of these people examples to the Namibian nation to know that there is no joke about corruption in this country”, warned Noa. Throughout his speech, Noa talked about the dangers of corruption and how it has a damaging and corrosive effect on society and the country as whole. This campaign was in line with opposite – namely having good corporate governance and an ethical public service. “Corruption starts affecting the administration of a country and goes right down to all the other branches within the society. So if we are talking about good governance we must not then despair of arresting the cancer of corruption”, he added. Ethical behaviour was central to the maintenance of good governance, and public officials who have been entrusted with taking charge of management must ensure that public resources are not wasted. Noa concluded by saying that once a nation allows corruption to take over, it will not have a promising future. Therefore, a collective effort was needed in the fight against corruption. Schalk Walters of Pricewater-houseCoopers said corporate governance was central to an ethical public civil service. He said there was need for a change of mindset to root out corrupt practices in spheres of society. “Doing the right thing, is the right thing to do, that’s the mindset we should have to become good corporate citizens”, said Walters. The characteristics of good corporate governance are amongst others transparency, accountability, independence and discipline. The public lecture at the Polytechnic of Namibia was held under the topic: “Building an Ethical Public Service for Improved Service Delivery in Africa.” The lecture is in line with the build-up to Africa Public Service Day on June 23. This day is celebrated every year across the continent and Namibia, as the co-ordinator of the 2006 Africa Public Service Day for the SADC Region, organised the latest public lecture.
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