By Chrispin Inambao
ACC agents repudiated the notion they only target small fish, when on Friday they cornered top parliamentary officials whom they arrested for fraud related to the misappropriation of public funds to hire a vehicle for private use.
The suspect in the career-defining arrest is Simon Nama Gaobab, the Secretary to the National Assembly, whose position is on par with that of a permanent secretary. His co-accused was identified as Abraham John George, the Chief Accountant.
One recent morning, Gaobab was found in a Mercedes Benz bearing official number plates and police said he appeared intoxicated. They said they could not arrest him as he was not driving at the time, though they temporarily impounded the luxury German sedan.
And obviously not used to unappetizing rations consisting of watery soup and the wafer-thin blankets normally issued to suspects, Gaobab promptly enlisted the services of a top legal eagle that lodged a lightning-quick bail application after his arrest on Friday.
After a brief court hearing was hastily convened on Saturday, he regained his freedom after he paid N$5 000 bail, but this came with several strings attached, among them that he is not allowed to go to his office in the course of the ongoing investigation.
Though Gaobab is out on bail, his co-accused spent the entire weekend in police custody.
The arrest of the two is linked to allegations that Gaobab, who gets an annual vehicle allowance of roughly N$84 000, abused his office and paid N$18 000 to hire a car from Budget Car Hire “for private use” this despite getting the handsome car allowance.
The chief accountant is also implicated in the dubious car hire scheme.
Director of the Anti-Corruption Commission Paulus Noa confirmed the arrest of the parliamentary duo, on charges related to the contravention of the Anti-Corruption Act.
“They abused their office. They procured money from finance to pay for a certain vehicle, which Mr Gaobab hired from Budget Car Hire for his own private business. The money he spent is more than N$18 000 and this car was being used for personal business, it was not for official business,” explained the ACC chief yesterday.
He also felt this was “not necessary” because Gaobab gets a hefty car allowance. He stressed the graft busting agency takes the latest transgression by Gaobab in a very serious light, because he has received information this practice is rife.
“I want to send across a message that the commission has now declared war against corruption and maladministration, because it is as a result of maladministration that corruption is taking place, and those who will make themselves guilty of these corrupt practices have to face the music,” warned Noa.
He sees it as a “big insult to the people of this country” that despite the establishment of the ACC there are still individuals who perpetrate these types of crime that consume public funds. “The Anti-Corruption Commission is not going to tolerate this. We are going to throw all those accused of corruption in jail,” said the top graft busting agent.
Gaobab could have gotten away with the latest accusation leveled against him, but shortly after his story appeared in the local media, a whistleblower from the National Assembly who was privy to the information on the scandalous car hire reported him to the ACC.
And when this was investigated, the agency says it unearthed receipts from the dubious car hire and it immediately arrested the two suspects on Friday.
Gaobab was spared the public humiliation of being arrested from his air-conditioned offices at the National Assembly and drove himself to ACC offices after he was summoned to the agency.
Noa once again appealed to all Namibians to report suspected fraud cases because they are obliged to do so, and that those who keep mum on suspected corruption could equally be arrested and charged once they are identified.