14 May 2018

Namibia: Swapo Cause of Corruption - Researcher

The government is the biggest contributing factor to the scourge of corruption in Namibia's private sector, according to an Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) paper released in Windhoek last week.

The study titled 'The Role of the Private Sector in Tackling Corruption' was produced by IPPR associate researcher Johan Coetzee.

In his presentation, he said government is the common denominator in corrupt activities, and that government monopolies are one of the major contributing factors to sustaining a corrupt environment.

Coetzee stated that there was little motivation for public sector reform, as Swapo enjoyed a two-thirds majority in parliament, and was secure because no opposition party was strong enough to topple it from power.

"If the political and public office-bearers who are responsible for drafting, approving and implementing legislation, policies, regulations and by-laws tolerate bribes, the private sector will most certainly offer bribes to increase their profits," he said.

Significant public sector reforms would probably also make the ruling party unpopular, as many public officials directly or indirectly benefited from the ruling party through institutionalised patronage, nepotism and favouritism, he added.

According to Coetzee, politically connected and incompetent officials were a large proportion of government officialdom and in other sectors of the economy, such that reforms would have a severe negative impact on the ruling party.

Public officials, he noted, were thus tempted to take bribes, partly because of the culture of ingrained corruption, a sense of entitlement, political connections, and relatively low salaries, to mention some factors.

He said if public servants would refuse bribes and instead report such practices to the appropriate authorities for investigation, and provided that all aspects were addressed, "bribery would not take place".

Coetzee recommended that the private sector and civil society should unite and use the media to mobilise public support for access to public information and documents to reduce corruption.

He furthermore advised the private sector to initiate civil as well as criminal cases regarding corruption, and urged that there should be pressure on the government to reform hot spots, as well as strategic or key institutions to reduce corruption.

Hannu Shipena, the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC)'s permanent secretary, agreed that the government has a role to play in tackling the current environment that is ripe for corruption.

Shipena said the ACC law was being amended to make it effective, while Essie Herbst from the Namibian Institute of Professional Accountants said small cases cost so much in the long run and affect so many people, especially those who are poor and in need.

Herbst gave the example of how the country lost billion-dollar funding for a health initiative after a junior clerk stole some money from the project.

According to Herbst, accountants and auditors have a huge role to play in tackling corruption as they see what happens, and can also detect it.

RDP secretary general Mike Kavekotora agreed with Coetzee that corruption continues to be rampant because of weak opposition parties and the tendency of people to vote for Swapo, despite the lack of service delivery.

He said Namibia has a corruption culture that has become institutionalised to the point that even the common man on the street expects it.

Kavekotora said this had been fuelled by the reward and punishment system, which rewards those who do what they are told, and economically punishes those who choose to be upright.

Swapo secretary general Sophia Shaningwa said corruption happening in government must be an issue of concern for all individuals, and should not just be a Swapo problem.

She urged institutions and individuals to all be part and parcel of tackling this social ill.

"Let us not point fingers. Is this not our government?" Shaningwa asked rhetorically.

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