By Chrispin Inambao
Though the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) has not yet started to operate at full throttle it has since its launch attended to hundreds of complaints with its agents probing 686 cases in 2006, while this figure shot to 831 last year, it was revealed.
ACC Director Paulus Noa revealed these figures at a workshop held in Windhoek last Friday by his office together with members of the Namibia Editors’ Forum (NEF).
Namibian Prosecutor General Martha Imalwa and Press Ombudsman of South Africa Joe Thloloe also attended the one-day workshop that was aimed at strengthening relations between various local media houses and the ACC as it embarks on its uphill task.
Eighty-five out of the 686 cases reported to the ACC in 2006 were closed due to lack of evidence or because the allegations were unfounded, explained the ACC chief.
While 145 of these cases were referred to other authorities for appropriate action, the ACC decided not to take action against 259 of those suspected of corruption when it transpired either the cases did not fall under its ambit or because other authorities were already taking action. And five of the 686 complaints had to be consolidated with others.
Last year the ACC was still digging deeper into 192 of the cases carried over from 2006.
Last Friday’s workshop was part of the agency’s five-point strategic plan – one of whose objectives is to develop a communications plan for the commission in its quest to combat corruption and to strengthen its relations with the various media houses.
“I have said you are our best vehicle to reach all parts of the country,” said Noa.
At the workshop it was resolved the local print media should possibly avail free space so that the ACC could run regular columns on the dangers posed by the scourge of corruption and likewise the electronic media could also possibly give free airtime to the ACC.
It was also resolved that the media and ACC should strengthen the existing rapport by ensuring there is two-way communication and that briefings on existing cases be held more regularly.
“The ACC values and appreciates the important role that the media plays in a healthy democracy. A strong and independent media is crucial in the fight against corruption.
“Media organizations help keep governments accountable and transparent and they unearth many instances of corruption in the public and private sectors,” he said.
The ACC cannot adopt a culture of blocking out the media because it regards the media as its partners in its fight against corruption and even when it comes to initial exposure, said Noa.
Even though speaker after speaker emphasized the media’s key role it was felt journalists should not be overzealous because some of the news reports have alerted the suspects, resulting in them destroying crucial evidence by the time ACC agents pounced.
“In order for the Commission and Namibia to succeed in fighting corruption, transparency in the transaction of public business needs to be embraced,” he said, adding: “It is only through you that accountability, fairness and justice can be achieved.”
Noa said the ACC is increasing its emphasis on preventive measures by educating the public of the dangers posed by this “cancer” that has ruined so many African countries.
Prosecutor General Imalwa also noted, “corruption is a disease – a disease which can not be cured if it is allowed to expand”. And though she said she embraces an open-door-policy she believes the way some journalists write affects the criminal justice system.
The prosecutor general said “premature reporting” has resulted in criminals changing their tactics while criminal cases have collapsed. But nevertheless she appealed to both the ACC and to the local media “to work together.” She also said plans are afoot to establish a court that would solely handle graft cases she described as “complex” because they are being perpetuated by scheming and very intelligent individuals.
Members of the public have been impatient with cases such as the N$3.2 million the Namibian Defence Force (NDF) “paid” in a shoddy firearms deal, while the Social Security Commission (SSC) “lost” N$30 million through Avid, and the Offshore Development Corporation (ODC) was swindled of N$100 million by a briefcase outfit ǟ