Accountability on a litmus test

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Much has been written and said about the events at the SME Bank, where nearly N$200 million might have disappeared for good if fears expressed by the Bank of Namibia are anything to go by.

This week, police chief Sebastian Ndeitunga, speaking to New Era, also raised suspicion that organised crime might be at the centre of the ongoing saga. Ndeitunga’s words cannot be taken lightly, especially when South African authorities, including that country’s national prosecution authority, have also assisted in investigating the trail of the dodgy transactions.

The High Court’s decision to provisionally liquidate the bank has divided opinions across the length and breadth of the country. To some, it is a punishment to Namibian workers who were told by liquidators yesterday that their employment has been terminated.

Others feel closing down the bank is correct, instead of pumping in N$360 million as recapitalisation of the institution that is said to have not a dime left in its purse.

The closure of the bank must be seen in the broader context of its manifestations, including the fact that small and medium enterprises, seen as a key catalyst to economic growth of any developing country, would look elsewhere for help.

Other banks in the country have highly commercialised SME divisions, which keep at bay many start-ups.

This string of events puts accountability to great test. Enough has been said about the government’s supposed commitment to good governance and accountability. While, in all fairness, good governance seems to pick up some tempo, accountability still trails in the smoke.

The country, after successive controversies and high-profile incidents of looting, has no record of having decisively held anyone accountable for their misdemeanours. It reflects badly on our institutions and integrity of government.

In order to appropriately protect and promote the public interest, it is important that the means available to the people as the masters of society are indeed such that they can maintain their supremacy.

Accountability goes beyond just reporting back to the people. It also means holding accountable anyone that lays their filthy hands on national resources meant for every citizen.

Effective governance is the first of the five pillars in President Hage Geingob’s landmark Harambee Prosperity Plan. The reputation of that pillar now hinges on how institutions are going to handle the full-blown drama at SME Bank.

Our call is not for a trigger-happy approach where people are hauled over the coals without adequate basis to do so. But high-level investigations must be rolled out and anyone found to have stolen from the citizenry must face the appropriate sanctions as provided for in law. Simply put, this is a call for justice.

Enough has been stolen from the public and this vile practice must no longer be entertained. We must be seen to be serious in our anti-corruption drive.
Success in holding people and institutions accountable will, in the final analysis, depend largely on the degree to which the relevant principles have been effectively applied in practice and to serve the public interest. The SME Bank saga is a sad tale, but therein lies an opportunity to set an example by dealing with this matter in a way that would deter all and sundry from replicating the same.

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