…. ‘The minister answered all our questions’-Noa
• Shifeta pleads innocence
• NTB takes legal route to recover money
• Geingob talks of corruption free Namibia
The Anti-Corruption Commission says Environment and Tourism Minister Pohamba Shifeta has provided it with answers to the questions it demanded he answer relating to the so-called ‘Kora Money’ amounting to N$24 million that vanished under his watch. Anti-Corruption Commission Director General Paulus Noa told this publication by telephone yesterday that Shifeta answered all the questioned posed to him and that the matter is now in the hands of the courts.
“There was a legal agreement between NTB and the organisers. The Minister provided us with the necessary documents which dictates how payments were to be made. As the ACC we will now watch how they [NTB] go about the process to recover the money,” said Noa.
The anti-graft body demanded that Shifeta answer whether there was any Cabinet decision that commit the Government of the Republic to the hosting of the KORA All African Music Awards in Namibia and provide proof thereof, the exact amount paid to the organizers and whether there was there any legally binding contract entered between your Ministry or NTB and Ernest Adjovi. Shifeta was also asked to confirm his earlier sentiments that no penny from Government would be spent on the event.
“The allegations are that the money paid is from the Ministry of Environment and Tourism and NTB is merely used as a conduit to justify the payment of millions to Adjovi’s company. Kindly provide the Commission with the correct information if what is alleged is not correct?” questioned Noa on 26 April 2016 in a letter sent to Shifeta.
ACC’s head of investigations Neels Becker confirmed this week via email that the matter was registered although he indicated that Noa has not given him a mandate to investigate the Minister. “It was not reported by any person to us but I decided to register the matter out of own accord as it was prominent in the media at the time. The case was then presented to the Director-General of the ACC in order for him to decide if the Directorate of Investigation and Prosecution should investigate,” said Becker.
Becker said Shifeta met with Noa at the ACC headquarters last week, adding that: “But I wasn’t provided yet with any documentation.” Shifeta, who is also a trained lawyer and serving his first term as Minister, has been under pressure over the missing taxpayers funds with several sections of the public calling for his prosecution. As is evident the Directorate of Investigation and Prosecution wasn’t yet mandated to conduct a full investigation pending answers to the above, Becker said.
Over the years the power and effectiveness of the ACC has been under scrutiny, with public perception often questioning whether ACC is capable of hunting down senior Government officials accused of plundering State resources.
Many of the questions seem directed at scoring political points, rather than any criminal liability because some of the questions should be investigated by ACC itself instead of passing the buck to Shifeta.
Shifeta last week sent out a letter titled “Clarification on Kora All Africa Music Award” which he said was meant to correct “misrepresentations of Kora All Africa Music Awards as reported in the media lately”.
The minister said in the letter that his ministry still does not know why the awards that were scheduled for 20 March 2016 did not materialize. “Accepting to host Kora was purely based on international exposure Namibia was going to gain, as presented by the organisers.
Hence a Service Agreement was entered into between Namibia Tourism Board and KORA with the involvement of the Office of the Attorney General, for the procurement of a Platinum Tourism Promotional Package valued at N$23.5 million to use it as a platform to market Namibia as a tourist destination to the rest of the continent,” Shifeta said in the letter.
He also denied allegations that the money was a donation. “Suffice to say no donation was given by Government towards KORA and no other Government institution was party to this agreement,” said Shifeta.
After the awards failed to take place, Shifeta said the tourism ministry instructed NTB to recover the money. “To that effect, NTB has already started the process to institute legal action based on the terms of the Agreement which allows KORA to pay back the money within 60 days after breach has occurred which last lapsed on 20 May 2016,” he said. Media reports have it that NTB has taken legal action against Kora Awards founder Ernest Adjovi and that summons will be served on Mundial Telecom SARL. Despite being part of the Service Agreement entered into, Attorney General Sakeus Shanghala yesterday said this office is not part of the legal process undertaken to recover the money. “NTB instructed their own lawyers to take up the matter, our office is not involved in this,” said Shanghala.
Corruption free Namibia
Investigations into the missing Kora money is just one of the many corruption acts being investigated by the ACC. Namibia’s public sector has long been marred by corruption with several public officials appearing in courts for their corrupt deeds. The investigation is taking place at a time when President Hage Geingob described corruption as a manifestation of human greed which needs to be rooted out and exposed at all levels. “While all corruption is destructive, it is important for us to distinguish whether corruption is endemic or not. We aspire for a corruption free society but we are mindful that in any society, there will always be those who seek dishonest means of self-enrichment,” Geingob said on Tuesday when he opened the 6th Annual General Meeting and Conference of the Heads of Anti-Corruption Agencies in Commonwealth Africa at Swakopmund.
Geingob vowed that: “We will however enforce zero tolerance for corruption as isolated corruption, which if not dealt with, can quickly gain momentum and become systemic corruption.
This type of systemic corruption requires weak leadership, weak institutions and a weak democratic culture. Systemic corruption increases the daily cost of living and negatively impacts on service delivery in many ways, including misplaced spending priorities and inflated costs.” Geingob is also worried that when quality input goods in the construction process get substituted for lower quality goods which shortens the life span of infrastructure, and therefore inflates maintenance costs. “Such corrupt practices also have negative macroeconomic consequences. One such well documented consequence is capital flight that in turn, puts strain on the balance of payment positions of our countries. It is estimated that US$14 billion, that could have been used to develop our countries, leaves the continent due to corrupt practices,” he said.