The Aminuis farming community in the Omaheke Region is incensed by the alleged misuse of the funds of the farmers’ association, apparently by the previous leadership of the association.
The community has been clamouring to take the matter to the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC). However, the constituency councillor advised the community to first investigate the matter and then approach the ACC with concrete information. The community seems to have heeded this advice but for how long it is prepared to let the community and the association’s own internal mechanism take their course, is not certain.
Nevertheless, the position that the councillor took for the community to first exhaust its own internal mechanism is commendable. We must guard against flooding the Commission with every imaginable matter smacking of corruption. Not only that, but we must also be careful not to belabour the Commission with matters that are within our powers and that of our various organisations to solve and to allow our varied laws relating to such organisations to take their courses.
The question of what might have happened to the money of this association is well within the powers of the association itself and its leadership and the entire Aminuis community to investigate and solve. Certainly, the constitution of this association, or the laws through which it was established, must prescribe measures to be taken in such an eventuality and what disciplinary measures need to be taken against those found guilty.
I am sure such measures may vary from claiming the missing money from the offenders, should it be established that somehow the money has been misappropriated to reporting the matter to the police and instituting the necessary legal measures against the suspects.
Thus, measures may vary from own internal measures to ones involving the justice system. In this case, the valuable time of the ACC would be applied judiciously and optimally. Not only that, but the ACC would prioritise its energy and time on high profile cases of alleged corruption thereby shedding off its “trivial cases” or “small fish” image to concentrate on high profile systematic cases of corruption and thereby enhance its image.
This is not to say that the ACC cannot investigate such cases as the missing funds or suspected misappropriation of the funds of the farmers’ association. In fact, the Anti-Corruption Act of 2003 is clear on this. Section 17 (1) states: “Any person may furnish to the Commission information in connection with any matter which that person suspects on reasonable grounds concerns or may concern a corrupt practice.”
As much as the Act clearly articulates an open door policy, we should not carte blanche such a policy but help the Commission by taking responsibility for those matters that are within our wherewithal to deal with, lest we overload the Commission and in the process render it ineffective and inefficient.
In deciding whether to investigate any matter so referred to it, the Commission has to look, among others whether or not the conduct or involvement to which the allegation relates is or has been the subject of investigation or other action by any other appropriate authority for the purposes of any other law. My interpretation of this provision in the instance of the suspect misappropriation of the funds of the Aminuis Farmers’ Association is that the relevant authority is the association itself and its constitutive rules and regulations as well as the entire farming community.
Further, the Act provides that in deciding to investigate the Commission must consider “whether or not, in all circumstances, the carrying out of an investigation for the purposes of this Act in relation to the allegation is justified and in the public interest”. Again my interpretation of justification starts with the farming association itself and its community and that would first and foremost define public interest. Yes, the association may be a receiver of funds including taxpayers’ money but such money must certainly have been disbursed to the association with the expectation and trust that the association is a body that can take care of money so entrusted to it.
Taking care encompasses detecting and taking the necessary steps when funds are misappropriated.
The short and sweet of it is that we cannot all the time expect to abdicate our responsibilities to the ACC as much as we cannot expect the ACC to be everything to everyone. Today, it is the farmers’ association and tomorrow who knows what it may be – your kid for having stolen five bucks out of your wallet? Is that the way we want the ACC to go? Certainly not! So the first corrective steps start at our own doors.