The Anti-Corruption Commission(ACC) says it has in the past alerted President Hage Geingob of cases it is investigating.
Established by an Act of parliament, ACC should in actual fact only report to the legislature, not the executive. Instead of taking corruption allegations against four of his cabinet ministers-Health minister Bernard Haufiku, Justice minister Sakeus Shanghala(then attorney general), Economic planning minister Obeth Kandjoze(then mines and energy) and Agriculture minister Alpheus !Naruseb(then works and transport)- to the ACC, Geingob wrote to the ‘accused’ ministers compelling them to respond to corruption allegations levelled against them.
Critics feel Geingob is either treating the ministers with soft gloves by failing to report the allegations to the ACC. They also feel his fight against corruption is mere rhetoric.
“What I know for certain is that if the President finds that such allegations warrant criminal investigation, he will not hesitate to refer them to the investigation institutions. He has on several occasions referred allegations of corruption to ACC for investigation. Equally, ACC has also, mostly through the Minister of Presidential Affairs, brought to his attention some of the allegations of corruption under investigation which we felt necessary to bring to his knowledge,” said ACC director-general Paulus Noa.
It is not known why Noa would choose to inform the executive of his work – eyebrows have also been raised because it is unprecedented for the ACC to share information with third parties until a case has been finalized.
Noa has often come under scathing attack from lawmakers over the ACC’s track record.
Leader of the Official Opposition McHenry Venaani was against ACC’s approach of informing Geingob about its investigations.
“ACC cannot be a reporting agency to the president. They must report to the legislature. This is a big joke,” said Venaani yesterday while commenting on the matter.
‘Too harsh on my boss’
Attorney General Dr. Albert Kawana accused the media and the public of being “too harsh on my boss”.
“When he acts on claims of corruption then people complain, if he keeps quiet it is a problem again. We must remember that the President is acting within the confines of the Constitution and we must also remember that everyone is innocent until proven guilty,” he said.
He added: “On the one hand you say fire that one, but in a democracy it does not work like that therefore he asked the ministers to tell their side of the story. That procedure is correct to give them a platform to explain themselves,” said Kawana.
Kawana said it is “for their[ministers] protection that the President is doing this and also for him to comply with the supreme law.”
He said no one should be penalised on rumours.
“What the President is doing should be commended instead of being condemned. He must get the information so that he can be well informed in order to take the correct decisions. In a democracy both sides of the story must be heard,” Kawana explained.
On why Geingob did not report the allegations to ACC to investigate, Kawana responded: “One element the public does not understand is the fact that ACC does not have to wait for the President to say they must investigate otherwise he will be accused of interfering.”
Following Geingob’s revelations last month that he has asked some of his ministers who were accused of corruption to explain themselves, Noa applauded Geingob for the decision to probe the allegations.
Noa lauding Geingob raises more eyebrows when it comes to the proximity of ACC to the executive.
In December 2017, Geingob defended Noa from public onslaught saying Noa is unfairly targeted because the public is yet to see a big fish being convicted for corruption.
“Poor Noa is being attacked. It is not good just to condemn people, we must do things properly,” Geingob said at the time.
“In his speech, the President refers to allegations of corruption but, rightly so, did not give the details of the allegations. It could be that some of those allegations are as well already reported to ACC and are under investigation. It could be that they are not reported to ACC.
It is difficult to provide you with a definite answer in the absence of details of such allegations,” Noa said.
Noa said “if the Office of the President refers the allegations to ACC, we shall accordingly look into each allegation.”
ACC and the media
Noa made it clear that: “The one other thing the public need to keep in mind is that ACC as an investigation agency will not allow itself to be used by the media to advance sensational media reports.
ACC adheres to the principles of legality when taking decisions to investigate and also during the process of investigating every case. ACC cannot be agitated to run amok, neither by the media not by the public.
The Commission fully subscribes to the principle of fairness expressed by the President in his speech that those accused would be afforded an opportunity to rebut the allegations against them. It is not every media report that merits investigation by ACC.
Every allegation is considered on its own merits,” he explained.
Asked whether media reports allegations warrants a probe into officials, Noa’s response was in the affirmative.
“Indeed media reports sometimes are worthy of investigation. ACC has initiated investigation of numerous cases after they were reported in the media.
The one example among many such cases is the allegations on payment for UK lawyers on the genocide assignment.
You might recall that this matter was reported in the Windhoek Observer newspaper. ACC initiated a preliminary investigation with the objective to find out whether there was evidence on the basis of which the allegations may be investigated further by engaging the foreign jurisdiction (UK) through mutual legal assistance process,” he said.
Noa said ACC on its own initiative wrote to the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of International Relations and Cooperation requesting for certain explanation. Copies of correspondences between the relevant ministries including the Office of the Attorney-General were obtained.
“Despite that this matter attracts public concern, no person has yet come forward with reasonable information suggesting that the lawyers corruptly inflated the bill or they did not render the legal services as per the contract. Payment was ultimately made to the lawyers. ACC is still waiting for any person to come forward and provide us with an affidavit on such alleged corruption. What is clear beyond doubt is that the last payment made was not budgeted for. That aspect of payment, regard had to the explanation given, is an administrative matter and not a subject of criminal prosecution by the Prosecutor General,” he explained.