A former private secretary to the Director of Extension and Engineering Services in the Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Forestry (MAWF) accused of embezzling N$121 749 from government was acquitted of the charges in the Windhoek Magistrate’s Court on Friday.
Joyce Daphne Zussino, 29, was due to plead to the charges in January this year, but instead Prosecutor Henry Muhongo informed Magistrate John Sindano he had received instructions from the Prosecutor General to withdraw the pending court matter.
Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) agents nabbed Zussino on March 5 last year and she made her routine first court appearance on the same day. She stood accused of having defrauded the MAWF of N$121 749. The matter was remanded numerous times. The State decided to re-open the charges on June 29 this year.
Zussino faced nine charges of contravening Section 36, read with sections 46, 49 and 51 of the Anti Corruption Act of 2003, namely corrupt acquisition of private interest by a public officer, alternatively contravening section 43 (1) of Act 8 of 2003, corruptly using office or position for gratification.
Zussino owns a printing company called Tuahafa Zussino Creations CC, that performed work for the ministry. While delivering the judgment Magistrate Ruth Herunga said there is no evidence before court that Zussino abused the public office or her position or had the intention of persuading or influencing senior officials to obtain work from the ministry.
The court heard a letter of recommendation was even forwarded by her superior recommending Zussino to perform work for the ministry.
“Senior management, especially our accounting officers, should be proactive and vigilant in their duties to request officials in public institutions to declare their private interest to avoid conflict of interests,” Herunga said.
“I find it unacceptable that the senior management, including the permanent secretary, participated by encouraging Zussino to perform work for the ministry only to report her later on to the Anti-Corruption Commission,” the magistrate added.
“I am unable to find at the end of the State’s case that the State made out a case that Zussino corruptly, directly or indirectly acquired a private interest in contract in which she served as an employee,” Herunga added.
Herunga further noted “the ministry should first get its house in order before expecting the ACC and the courts to clean up after them.”