Investigative journalism a ‘critical apparatus’ in flagging corruption

Media first to expose many cases
Cooperation between the ACC and media can go a long way to expedite the successful conclusion of matters of corruption in the country.
Adam Hartman
ACC Deputy Director-General Adv. Erna van der Merwe says that the media in Namibia are a crucial apparatus in the exposure of corruption, and a key partner of the corruption watchdog.

Van Der Merwe made these remarks during the annual briefing with the Erongo that took place in Swakopmund on Thursday.

According to her, everywhere in the world where governance is built on strong pillars, media has played a key role, adding that Namibia is fortunate to be amongst those countries which enjoys freedom of the press. “The media is the link between the citizenry and the public institutions because media is the platform through which the citizenry can demand accountability and transparency and thus good governance,” she said adding that investigative bodies such as the ACC would have difficulty to, without collaboration with the media, successfully unravel corrupt conduct.

The Deputy Director-General said that, when necessary and at the appropriate time, the ACC will continue to share information with and through the media, recognizing the fact that many of the corrupt practices that have, and are being, investigated by the commission, were first reported in the media. Because of this ‘breaking news’, the ACC has the legal mandate, in such instances, to initiate an investigation on condition, of course, that the information of such stories would justify a probe on reasonable grounds.

She emphasized that fighting corruption requires a multifaceted approach, and does not just entail investigation, but education, and awareness raising on conduct that constitutes corruption, as well as on the measures to be implemented to prevent corruption. “Corruption is a menace that requires stakeholder participation. It is a shared responsibility and we must all join hands if we are to succeed in our quest to curb and root out this menace,” she said, adding that this was in line with the national commitment set out in a National Anti-Corruption Strategy and Action Plan for 2021 to 2025.

The strategy is all inclusive of the media, civil society as well as regional councils and local authorities, and also states that the ACC is amongst those institutions that bears the responsibility to annually conduct public education, and seminars on corruption for media houses; and to enhance partnerships with media houses in the fight against corruption.

This partnership also involves training for investigative journalists on anti-corruption related issues as a priority. Investigative journalism remains a critical apparatus in flagging incidences of corruption in both public and private institutions, and its negative consequences on the economy, resources and the people. Investigative journalists have both a duty and responsibility in the fight against corruption.”

Trusting relationship

When asked about how the media and the ACC van work closer together, Van der Merewe suggested that it all comes down to trust. “One cannot embark on close interaction with a journalist that cannot be trusted. Through the years, we have learned this the hard way,” she told Erongo 24/7. “If you have a trusting relationship, as to what can be made public, or what is merely for intelligence, such a relationship could speed up an investigation.”

In the meantime, the meeting revealed that the three investigators and one police officer for the ACC in Erongo (which has the second most cases in the country) has had 315 cases since 2012. Of these 74 are active cases that include matters that are not finalised, or pending PG decision.