IPPR takes graft fight to new level

Windhoek ∙ Jan-Mari Smith
The Institute of Public Policy Research (IPPR) is taking matters into its own hands with the creation of an online reporting platform as a result of government's failure to establish a safe haven for whistle-blowers four years after the law was passed.

IPPR's Graham Hopwood announced this at the launch of Integrity Namibia, a US embassy-funded three-year project that will bring together non-state actors from a broad swathe of Namibian society to create a national anti-corruption network. Integrity Namibia is geared to tackle corruption over the next three years, and will involve national mobilisation campaigns alongside a series of research-based interventions. A key component of the project is the whistle-blower reporting platform.

“We are launching the whistle-blower platform because government has delayed this for so long and shows no sign of actually implementing the whistle-blower protection system in the short- to medium-term,” Hopwood said. He added that various excuses, including arguments of the prohibitive costs, “seem like too easy an excuse for government just to put this off for years and years. So, we are setting up this whistle-blower platform because of this frustration. We have to say enough is enough. We need to act now. Those outside of government, if we can do something, we should”.

Hopwood emphasised that it is time for Namibian society to act against corruption and not to leave it in the hands of others. “People feel that corruption is now at a serious stage in Namibia and we can’t leave it just to politicians or a few agencies, there has to be a broad societal commitment to tackle corruption, of holding those in power to account."

Stand up

He said Namibia’s corruption situation “has become so grave that we need the different sectors of society to stand up. We need the private sector to stand up; we need lawyers, we need churches, we need civil society, and academia to stand up” and noted that while corruption is serious, it is not yet a hopeless situation. Nevertheless, he warned that Namibia is “clearly on a slippery slope downwards” as demonstrated by several high-profile corruption cases that have either stalled, not yet resulted in arrests or are subject to drawn-out court procedures.

Moreover, the IPPR, which has for two decades kept a close eye on corruption and the various policies established to curb it, has highlighted the frustrations inherent to policy reforms in Namibia. “Perhaps the most frustrating is the case of the Whistle-Blower Protection Act, which was passed in 2017 but has not yet been implemented. Civil society has also been campaigning for the past 10 years for an Access to Information Law .... Now that the bill is in Parliament, we are concerned that it may face the same fate as the whistle-blower law once passed.”

Safe and confidential

The platform will offer whistle-blowers a safe and confidential avenue to report corruption if they choose not to approach state-run offices. The modalities are still in the early stages, but a team of experts is already in place to ensure a high-quality platform will be created to ensure confidentiality and security. “Our prime concern is to have secure communication with potential whistle-blowers and to ensure confidentiality and protection of whistle-blowers,” Hopwood said. He underlined that the whistle-blowers will be consulted closely on what avenues they would like to take to investigate and expose the information.