Namibia: ACC Investigations Chief Removed

Prime minister Saara Kuugongelwa-Amadhila has cancelled the appointment of the Anti-Corruption Commission's chief of investigations, Phelem Masule, a week after the announcement of his promotion.

Masule, a former police detective was promoted to that position as from 1 August 2020 to replace Nelius Becker who rejoined the Namibian Police last year.

The position of chief of ACC investigations and prosecutions will include responsibilities such as investigating the Fishrot scandal.

This move comes a week after the appointment of Tylvas Shilongo as the commission's executive director.

The Namibian understands that Shilongo - who served as senior general manager at the Namibia Central Intelligence Service - started work yesterday.

Cabinet secretary George Simataa in a statement yesterday confirmed the nullification of Masule's appointment saying the process to appoint him was flawed.

According to Simataa, one of the applicants who lost out to Masule complained to the prime minister about alleged irregularities regarding the recruitment process.

Up to 19 applicants showed interest in the position of chief of investigations and prosecutions, the prime minister's office said.

Only nine of the 19 met the requirements while about five contested for the position at interview level, Simataa said.

"Upon completion of the interview process, the candidate who scored the highest points in the interview was not recommended by the interview panel. Instead, the ACC recommended the second candidate," Simataa said.

The premier's office said the recruitment process used by the ACC was flawed and lacked administrative fairness.

"... Therefore, the process should be declared null and void in order to start afresh," Simataa's statement reads.

According to Simataa's statement, the recruitment process by the ACC contravened the provisions of the Public Service Commission staff rules in that "the commission deviated from its own advertised requirements/conditions".

"Secondly, the ACC shortlisted candidates who did not comply with the advertised requirements and interviewed them. It was on this basis that the prime minister ... issued the notice to the recommended candidate that the process will be nullified to restart afresh," Simataa said.

He added that Masule has been given a 14-day opportunity to make a written submission to the prime minister if he is aggrieved by the decision to revoke his appointment.

ACC director general Paulus Noa yesterday refused to comment on Masule's removal.

"I do not appoint people. You can confirm with the Public Service Commission. These appointments are made in line with the Public Service Act. So, I do not know why I should comment on this," Noa said.

Masule has been an investigator with the ACC since its inception in 2006. He holds a law degree.

Kuugongelwa-Amadhila's office has in recent months been involved in key appointments to positions vital in the investigation of the Fishrot scandal.

Her office was allegedly involved in the appointment of Swapo-connected individuals to the National Fishing Corporation of Namibia (Fishcor) board.

The same office was also involved in appointing a spy as administrative head of the ACC.

Masule was not reachable for comment yesterday.

Sources said there is high suspicion among government officials on who is appointed to key positions involved in investigations into the Fishrot scandal.

Masule has for years worked under the shadows of Becker, one of Namibia's renowned detectives who has been parked at the National Forensic Science Institute of Namibia (NFSI).

Sources speculated that few know who Masule is. This, sources said, was a massive risk to take at the time of the Fishrot scandal.

Masule has been involved in several high profile corruption cases such as that of former education minister Katrina Hanse-Himarwa.

In fact, lawyer Sisa Namandje accused him in court of using his power as investigating officer to push personal vendettas against Hanse-Himwarwa.

Masule replied that as an investigator, he knew that "most of the time when an accused person is cornered, they try to justify their actions".

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