10 November 2017

Namibia: Noa Digs in On Fees Probe

ANTI-CORRUPTION Commission director general Paulus Noa has doubled down in saying there are still no compelling grounds to investigate the payment of UK-based lawyers by government.

Noa was responding to questions sent to him in the wake of finance minister Calle Schlettwein's statements in parliament this week, in which he said the UK-based lawyers had been paid N$35,4 million.

Attorney general Sacky Shanghala last year hired UK-based Namibian lawyer Anna Uukelo and British lawyers Dexter Diaz, Cameron Miles, Richard Reinolds and Paul Clark to research and review documents related to the 1904-1908 genocide in order to strengthen government's case for reparations in negotiations with Germany.

According to Schlettwein's statement on Tuesday, Uukelo received a once-off payment of N$16,3 million, and Paul Clark got a once-off payment of N$418 000.

Dexter Dias, Richard Reinolds and Cameron Miles received two payments each - Diaz received N$14,5 million and N$2,3 million; Reinolds N$385 000 and N$400 000; and Cameron Miles N$817 000 and N$167 900.

Schlettwein said N$3,4 million had been paid through the international relations ministry.

Noa told The Namibian on Wednesday evening that the ACC had in fact never investigated the matter because his office "has always been in the process of trying to establish reasonable grounds that justify investigation".

He said that an investigation depended on Schlettwein giving statements to the commission, laying out his explanations for suspecting invoices were inflated.

The finance minister has not provided such a statement, he added.

"Please tell me how the ACC will investigate the invoices without risking placing the government into legal suits for libel?" Noa asked.

He said the ACC would "gladly enquire about the invoices" once the finance minister has communicated his suspicions about the invoices in a statement.

Noa stressed that he closed the file on the UK legal fees' issue after treasury paid the lawyers, adding that no decision had ever been made for any ACC official to investigate the matter, and that his position would remain the same until statements calling for an investigation by relevant authorities, including the finance minister, were received by his office.

"You cannot enquire from the lawyers regarding their invoices, unless you have grounds to do so. What is so difficult for the minister to commit himself to his suspicion?" Noa asked again.

He added that the ACC was complying with the Anti-Corruption Act.

Schlettwein yesterday said that he had submitted all requested documents to the ACC.

He said if Noa says he will not investigate the matter, it was his position and his prerogative.

"That is his position. I do not agree with him that I did not give the documents he requested," Schlettwein told The Namibian yesterday.

The Namibian yesterday reported Schlettwein's response to the motion on the legal fees which was tabled for debate by Usutuaitje Maamberua of Swanu.

The headline of yesterday's report erroneously stated that the ACC had been ordered to reopen the investigation into the UK legal fees. According to law, the ACC cannot be ordered by anyone to investigate any matter.

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