Fighting corruption

Regional conference
The Institute for Public Policy Research hosted the first of four Regional Anti-Corruption conferences at Walvis Bay.
Nikanor Nangolo
The Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR), through its Integrity Namibia project, is hosted a regional anti-corruption conference at Protea Hotel in Walvis Bay to mark International Anti-Corruption Day (IACD) 2022.

The Integrity Namibia conference at Walvis Bay is the first of four regional conferences organised by the Institute for Public Policy Research on anti-corruption themes. Attendees discussed corruption risks in fisheries, oil and gas, public procurement and the formation of a national anti-corruption movement under the Integrity Namibia banner.

Speaking at the event, the executive director of the IPPR, Graham Hopwood, said that corruption is a major impediment to peace, security and development. "From education to the environment, from business to sports, from gender equality to access to justice, and more – corruption undermines all areas of society’s development." Hopwood emphasised that tackling corruption is the responsibility of everyone. "Only through the cooperation and involvement of each and every person and institution can we overcome the negative impact of this crime. This means government, the private sector, civil society, law enforcement officers, media representatives, faith-based organisations, labour movements, academia, the youth, and the broader public all have key roles to play."

The 2022 International Anti-Corruption Day (IACD) also marks the start of efforts to mark the twentieth anniversary of the UN Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC). Namibia’s implementation of UNCAC is currently under review. Hopwood encouraged the government to act quickly to close gaps in the implementation of UNCAC by for example by immediately implementing the access to Information law as well as laws on whistle-blower and witness protection.

Impediment

The governor of the Erongo region, Neville Andre, said in a speech delivered on his behalf by the Walvis Bay rural constituency councillor Florian Tegako Donatus, that the commemoration of IACD with ‘Recover with Integrity as theme this year, takes place at an appropriate time. "We are recommitted to fight corruption, which is fast becoming one of the impediments to service delivery, economic development and the overall development of our country and its people. The IACD is celebrated annually on 9 December in recognition of the United Nations Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC), which was signed in Mexico in 2003. Namibia is one of the signatories to the convention and ratified it in 2004. This means that all our anti-corruption legislation must fall in line with UNCAC."

Andre said that corruption is a complex social, political and economic phenomenon that affects all countries. "Corruption undermines democratic institutions, slows economic development and contributes to governmental instability. Corruption attacks the foundation of democratic institutions by distorting electoral processes, perverting the rule of law and creating bureaucratic quagmires whose only reason for existing is the soliciting of bribes. Economic development is stunted because foreign direct investment is discouraged and small businesses within the country often find it impossible to overcome the 'start-up costs' required because of corruption."

Impacts

He emphasised that corruption also has negative impacts on every aspect of society. "It is profoundly intertwined with conflict and instability, jeopardises social and economic development and undermines democratic institutions and the rule of law. Corruption not only follows conflict but is also frequently one of its root causes. It fuels conflict and inhibits peace processes by undermining the rule of law, worsening poverty, facilitating the illicit use of resources, and providing financing for armed conflict.'

The governor acknowledged that fighting corruption is not an easy task. "The fight against corruption should be carried out tirelessly, as criminals are always plotting new ways of carrying out their evil deeds. Those who are beneficiaries are also fighting back and will do anything possible to ensure that they do not account for their actions. Sometimes whistle blowers are victimised, with some losing their jobs, business contracts and, in certain instances, their lives. However, we should not be deterred, but form a united front, working with the ACC and law enforcement agencies. We must forge a partnership of anti-corruption crusaders and reclaim our country from greedy, self-serving individuals. We cannot allow a minority of criminals to dictate the agenda of multitudes of good-willed Namibians."

Making strides

According to the mayor of Walvis Bay, Trevino Forbes, the municipal council of the harbour town is trying its best to curb corruption within the local authority. "In June this year, the Ant-Corruption Commission handed the municipality of Walvis Bay its Corruption Risk Assessment report containing a variety of mechanisms that the municipality can use to estimate the likelihood as well as the impact of corruption risk within the organisation. Council launched its strategic plan for the next five years around the same time, and I am pleased to say that we are working hard at aligning the two to get optimal results."

Forbes acknowledged the commitment of the Institute for Public Policy Research and the office of the governor to reduce corruption in all sectors within the region. "Ongoing efforts are commendable. With programs and events such as these, we will see those involved and committed in this cause, moving from strength to strength."

Role

The ACC's senior public education and corruption prevention officer Lienette de Jager explained the role of the ACC in the Erongo region. " We focus on receiving or initiating investigative allegations of corrupt practices, take measures to prevent corruption in public bodies and private bodies, disseminate information to the public about the functions of the ACC and solicit support from the public to combat corruption."

De Jager said that president Hifikepunye Pohamba in no uncertain terms promised a zero-tolerance policy towards corruption and inefficiency in his inaugural speech on 21 March 2005. "He said that the government is committed to addressing corruption with a sledgehammer. The ACC embraced this. Fighting corruption is indeed not a stagnant circumstance but rather a continuous process. It will also be with us for many years to come but if efforts increase to prevent corruption in Namibia and its citizens will reap the benefits of less corruption in years to come."