MPs missed the ball on ACC debate

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It is not only right and fair, but also understandable that the director general of the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC), Paulus Noa, would refuse to take punches from members of the National Assembly lying down.
After stinging attacks by some MPs, Noa came back fighting against the members who the other day had a field day in the August House against the ACC, albeit mostly for all the wrong reasons, bar one.

This one reason being the fact that in terms of the rule of law, which Namibia cherishes and adheres to obediently, everyone is innocent until proven guilty. Thus, until proven guilty no one should be ostracised just because she/he has been or is being accused of something.

Thus until proven guilty, one is entitled to all the freedoms and rights all citizens are entitled to, including his/her dignity not be stigmatised and indignantly dehumanised in any way. Hence, the understanding and sympathy for those members who may have come under the investigative purview of the ACC, resulting in the undue tarnishing of their good names and reputations in the process.

One can have full understanding for those who have been wrongly accused, but once such accusations have been proven unfounded and baseless, the blemish to their good reputations is, however, not undone.
The flip side of this is that all are equal before the law. Our honourable members, I suspect, are as much subject to a due process of law. In this regard the investigative machinery of the ACC must be and should be unleashed on them without fear or favour.

Something in the final analysis that seems to be the reason they may be visiting their wrath on the ACC may be the illusion that they are immune from the due process of law. Hence the barrage of criticism and attacks some MP directed at the ACC when the extension of the tenure of ACC’s two top officials came up for discussion.
Ironically, but perhaps not unexpected, most of those making shallow noises about the ACC, are the ones who at one point or another have been subjected to its investigative purview.

Others, in a strange camaraderie with their fellows, seem to have joined the chorus of impulsive and desperate defensiveness and reaction, perhaps to preempt their eventual arraignment at some point, as corruption seems the easiest route and way in Namibia nowadays.

Granted that some honourables may have been ostracised unduly, just for being fingered for investigation by the ACC, and proven innocent of the said charges against them – still, most seem to erratically miss the ball as to whether the ACC’s two top incumbents, should be given a second tenure, citing the ostracisation of accused members by the media.

But the MPs seemed oblivious to the ACC’s track record over more than ten years of its existence. The fact is that this track record has been far from satisfactory in the least, or commendable at best. While corruption, much to the denial of officialdom, has been becoming endemic to Namibia, and while one cannot point to any notable landmark case arraignment for any corrupt practices, compelling cases have even come to nought.

That the ACC has yet to undertake any major prosecutions and convictions seems to matter little or not at all to our honourables. Rather preoccupied, if not blinded by their own fear of the ACC – whose bite has as yet to prove harmful by any measure in the least, and venomous at best.

The debate regarding the second tenure of the two top incumbents of the ACC, to say the least, was a lost opportunity. Our lawmakers should have revisited the vexed question why corruption is as rampant as it seems. And why the ACC has recorded little, or no successes at all against corruption?

That the ACC has as yet to fulfil its mandate is an open secret. Even some in the upper echelons of government are on record regarding the unsatisfactory performance of the ACC. One them is the Erongo governor, who was quoted in the media as calling on the ACC “to start to act decisively against bigger corruption cases, as opposed to focusing on smaller cases,” as it seems to have been doing all along.

The hype, optimism and excitement with which the office was created by former president Hifikepunye Pohamba seems to have dissipated, if not evaporated altogether. Yet all that is echoing from inside the August House are non-substantive and egoistic arguments, based on self-protection and self-preservation, with little or no attempt at all to enhance the ACC.

On the contrary, all that our lawmakers seem to be clamouring for is a further reduction and weakening of the ACC. One cannot but also take issue with the current status of the ACC. The fact that its head is a mere DG, makes one wonder whether the incumbent, granted his/her courage and fortitude, may still have the audacity to take on his/her more superior suspects?

Also is it any wonder – in view of the nature of the evil of corruption that the ACC has, and is expected to deal with – that it has not been elevated to equal an office like the Ombudsman, at least constitutionally? The fallacy and farce of the DG’s appointment sanctioned by parliament, notwithstanding.

One cannot agree more with the director of Institute for Public Policy Research, Graham Hopwood, who once wrote about the pre-requisites for a successful anti-corruption strategy, and by extension also an anti-corruption culture. These are a political leadership, political will, public support, a broad-based action and a holistic approach.

If the recent debate in parliament regarding the ACC is anything to go by, certainly such political will is non-existent, or if it really exists, it has as yet to find proper rooting and voice.

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