Call to Protect Whistleblowers

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By Surihe Gaomas WINDHOEK With the increase in incidents of corruption and fraud in the country, the Director of the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC), Paulus Noa, has called for a law that would give more protection to whistleblowers and informants. Despite the Anti-Corruption Act, there is still a need for a new law that would encourage Namibians to come forward to expose corrupt wrongdoings in the public and private sectors. Speaking at a recent presentation on corruption in the capital, he said that as much as many incidents of corruption are reported to the ACC, there is still the fear of victimization. “It has been established on a number of occasions that some people are willing to come forth with information – but for fear of victimization, especially by their employers, they do not,” said Noa, adding that the protection of whistleblowers cannot be compromised since the success of the Commission depends on information from the public. He encouraged the public to expose corruption without fear. “The public is the eyes and ears of the ACC,” he noted, lamenting that without the public’s assistance the work of the Commission would be a huge challenge. In essence, the fight against corruption is essentially aimed at preventing the misuse and mismanagement of public funds at the expense of the nation’s interests. New legislation should be in place that outlines “deterrent punitive measures” that in turn punish those “found guilty of victimizing the whistleblowers”, said Noa. It becomes apparent that in every government ministry, private institution and non-governmental organisation where corruption occurs, there is at least someone who knows what is going on and sometimes wants to blow the whistle but that individual does not know whether he or she would suffer reprisals for doing so. Although Namibia does not currently have a law in place to protect informants, President Hifikepunye Pohamba previously said that the government would do everything in its power to protect such people. “Those who intimidate whistleblowers or attempt to do so are hereby warned. The state will use everything available at its disposal, within the framework of the law, to deal with such culprits,” said President Pohamba when he officially inaugurated the ACC this year. Insisting that “corruption must be fought with an iron fist”, the Head of State said that whistleblowers, officials and employees of the ACC – who may also become targets of intimidation and threats from racketeers, organised crime kingpins and other criminals – will all fall under the protection of the government. This would further help them carry out their duties in what President Pohamba said should be a “deliberate and straight-forward manner”. Globally, there is mounting concern that those experiencing corruption and wrongdoing must be given a safe environment to enable them to expose these evils. Although Namibia is one of those countries that were considered “clean” when it comes to corruption, this image has changed. Recent corruption indices from Transparency International (T.I) reveal that while for some time Namibia was regarded as one of Africa’s cleanest countries, second only to Botswana, it is now perceived to be among corrupt African states. With indices of 10 being the cleanest and 1 completely corrupt, in 1998 Namibia’s score was 5.3, in 2002 it stood at 5.7 and then later took a downward turn of 4.7 in 2003 and 4.3 in 2004. In addition, statistics from the Namibia Institute of Democracy’s (NID) Report of 2005 based on media reports on corruption indicate that there were 467 cases of corruption recorded in that year. According to the NID, this is a substantial number for a small economy like Namibia’s and must therefore not be ignored. The report revealed that most cases of corruption involve government offices since this is where more resources are available and where controls are the weakest. The picture is also gloomy when looking at figures from the police. Based on statistics received by the ACC from the Office of the Inspector-General of Police, there have been 1 356 cases reported in the year 2003 alone. The numbers stood at 1 182 reported cases in 2004 and 1 255 in 2005, all in connection with corruption. With the ever-changing face of corruption and fraud, along with general crime, there’s been a noticeable change in the way investigations are being conducted by different bodies, besides the ACC. The police are no longer the sole investigators of crime, but also the Office of the Ombudsman, the Namibian Financial Institutions Supervisory Authority (Namfisa), the Office of the Auditor General and the Presidential Commissions of Inquiry, amongst others.