While finance minister Calle Schlettwein is blaming ACC director general Paulus Noa for reportedly refusing to probe perceived corruption claims regarding money paid to UK-based lawyers working on the genocide case, the anti-corruption watchman has hit back saying Treasury was supposed to ensure that the money was accounted for before being disbursed.
Government is said to have paid over N$36 million to the UK-based lawyers for legal services on the ongoing genocide negotiations. The amount has resulted in a huge public outcry, with many accusing the attorney general Sakeus Shanghala of having ulterior motives.
Shanghala has however given an explanation in parliament in an attempt to clarify the matter, but even that was seemingly not enough convincing enough to silence critics.
After learning that ACC had closed the probe on the disputed funds, Noa decided to hit back saying Treasury disbursed the funds knowing very well that ACC was probing the matter.
Noa said documents presented to ACC regarding the case did not provide substantive evidence of corrupt dealings between the Attorney General and the UK based lawyers.
“If there is any such evidence, whether real or circumstantial evidence that potentially suggests that the Attorney-General corruptly used his office for gratification, I request you or any official in your Ministry to provide such evidence, which ACC shall consider and if found to be relevant and substantive, the Attorney-General shall be accordingly investigated and brought before court,” he said.
At present, said Noa, ACC has no proof of criminal wrongdoing when a decision was made to contract the legal services of foreign lawyers. “ACC is not privy to the discussions and decisions of both the Cabinet Committee and the Technical Committee on Genocide negotiations. ACC was not furnished with any document indicating what the total costs of lawyers involved in a Genocide matter was expected to be.
In the absence of such information or evidence, we are unable, Honourable Minister, to probe the matter based on possible over-pricing,” he said. Noa says ACC should not be allowed to embark on witch-hunting exercise against any person, irrespective of his/her status, just to satisfy public opinion.
He also seemed perplexed regarding the fact that Treasury maintains reasonable suspicions of ‘criminal’ wrong doings in the manner the services of these lawyers was procured and at the same time finds justifiable reasons to authorize the payment of the bill of the same lawyers.
“Such payment was made while ACC was still probing the allegations.
While Treasury knew very well that we were seized with the matter, you found no iota of reason to inform ACC that you have, nevertheless, decided to pay the bill.
How are we expected to continue with the investigation when the authorities are doing just the opposite?” he questioned.
According to explanation by Honourable Nandi-Ndaitwah, her Ministry did not have sufficient funds to honour the bill, said Noa.
He therefore asked Schlettwein “from which budget vote did Treasury get the money to pay the bill? Were the correct appropriation procedures followed before Treasury authorized the payment? With due respect, Honourable Minister, there are questions that call for answers regarding how money was finally found to pay for ‘unprocedurally procured services’.”
Noa says closing a docket at the ACC has never been an indefinite decision.
“We have numerous examples of dockets which had been reopened after evidence surfaced against the suspects.
If you have information or evidence that support your suspicions of possible corrupt dealings in this matter, kindly share that information with ACC and we shall demonstrate to you and the general public that the Attorney General is not above law.
However, your mere general concern that “the services appeared over-priced” without substantive evidence is not sufficient in law to conclude that an act of corruption was committed.
We have hitherto not obtained any helpful information leading to such conclusion,” he said.