3 December 2012

Namibia: Goabab Verdict Set for January

THE verdict in the corruption trial of former National Assembly Secretary Nama Goabab and parliamentary accountant Abraham George was again postponed in the High Court on Friday, and is now scheduled to be delivered early next year.

The judgement in the two men’s trial was due to be handed down by Judge Marlene Tommasi on Friday, but was postponed to January 11 since part of the trial record had not been typed in time for the judge to prepare her judgement.

The verdict had initially been scheduled to be delivered on November 15, but was then postponed to Friday.

The judgement could be important in providing clarity on the question whether a public official who derives a personal benefit, even if only temporary, from his or her public office could be found guilty of corruption in terms of the Anti-Corruption Act of 2003.

Goabab (55) and George (51) are jointly charged with two main counts of corruptly using an office or position for gratification, which is an offence under the Anti-Corruption Act, and alternative charges of fraud and theft.

The charges are based on allegations that they had rented two cars at Government’s cost for Goabab’s private use during March and April 2007.

The cars were rented at a Government rate, which is lower than the rate Goabab would have had to pay if the vehicles had been rented strictly in his own name and on his own account.

The total cost of the vehicle rentals is alleged to have been N$23 552,20, of which N$18 497,20 was actually paid by the National Assembly.

Goabab paid this amount back to the National Assembly four days after he and George had been arrested by the Anti-Corruption Commission in June 2007.

Goabab alone is also charged with a third count in connection with allegations that he had unlawfully used a Government car on May 25 2007 while he was receiving a motor vehicle allowance as part of his salary.

Both men are denying that they are guilty of the charges.

The relevant section of the Anti-Corruption Act under which the two men were charged, reads: “A public officer commits an offence who, directly or indirectly, corruptly uses his or her office or position in a public body to obtain any gratification, whether for the benefit of himself or herself or any other person.”

Goabab has testified that the arrangement all along was that he would pay the money which had been spent on the rentals back to Government. He also claimed he had a discretion to decide to use a Government vehicle for work-related purposes while his private car was not available.

George testified in his own defence that he was only following instructions from Goabab when he helped to arrange the two rentals and the use of National Assembly funds to pay for the second of those.

The first rental was never paid, the court has heard.

Judge Tommasi initially acquitted both men on the main counts of corruption, but placed them on their defence on the alternative charges, in August 2010, after the close of the prosecution’s case against them.

That ruling was overturned on appeal by the Supreme Court in June this year, and the trial then continued in the High Court with the hearing of the accused men’s own testimony.

Goabab has been represented by defence lawyer Lucius Murorua. Zagrys Grobler is representing George. Chief Prosecutor Danie Small is representing the State.

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