WINDHOEK – The Katima Mulilo Town Council might have fallen foul of the country’s anti-corruption law by failing to report alleged bribes in its mass housing scheme, an offence that is punishable by a fine of N$500,000 or 25 years in prison.
This is according to Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) Chief of Investigation and Protection, Nelius Becker.
ACC is unhappy with the town council for failing to report corrupt transactions by council officials, who allegedly took bribes to allocate the mass housing units at the town.
“They are supposed to report these officials to the ACC. If you fail to report such corrupt transactions, then there is a penalty under Section 49,” Becker told New Era.
New Era reported last month that the Katima Mulilo Town Council had suspended three officials on allegations that they had corruptly accepted kickbacks ranging between N$10,000 and N$20,000 in exchange of top spots on the housing waiting list. The government’s Mass Housing units are allocated according to a waiting list of home seekers that the town council compiled.
It was only after the newspaper article that ACC was able to launch a proper investigation, although Becker said ACC had been receiving reports on the allegations. However, information was streaming in in dribs and drabs through its website, he said. ACC has now registered a case and has submitted a formal enquiry for the town council to respond so that a full investigation could be launched.
Because of this, Becker was yesterday adamant that the Katima Mulilo Town Council failed in its duty to report corrupt transactions, as required by Section 48 of the ACC Act.
He said any person convicted of an offence under any provision of this section is liable to a fine not exceeding N$500,000 or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 25 years, or to both such fine and such imprisonment.
Section 48 (1) of the Act states that a public officer to whom any gratification is promised, offered, or given in contravention of any provision of this Chapter must, as soon as possible, report such fact, together with the name or any other information relating to the identity of the person or persons concerned to his or her supervisor and to the Commission.
Section 48 (2) indicates that if any gratification has been demanded, solicited, accepted or obtained from any person in contravention of any provision of this Chapter, or if an attempt has been made to demand, solicit, accept or obtain any gratification from any person in contravention of any provision of this Chapter, that person must, as soon as possible, report such fact together with the name or any other information relating to the identity of the other person or persons involved to the ACC.
Prior to New Era’s article over the mass housing scam, the ACC says it had been receiving very limited information from the public on the matter.
“There were reports coming to our websites but the information was very limited. We kept the information and at some stage we discussed it and someone said there was a newspaper article. We took out the newspaper article along with the last website reports and decided to ask questions because if people were investigated then there is possibly some evidence. So, we wrote to the Katima Mulilo Town Council last week. We are waiting for their response. They must provide us with information about what their findings were,” Becker said.