Namibia: N$160m Needed to Implement Witness Protection Programme

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21 September 2020

The Ministry of Justice has rubbished claims that it is purposefully delaying the implementation of the Whistleblower Protection Act of 2017 and the Witness Protection Act of 2017. The legislations, which were signed into law in 2017 by President Hage Geingob, could not be implemented due to budgetary constraints. However, the decision not to make the important legislations operational was seen as government's way of doing little to tackle corruption in the country. According to justice minister Yvonne Dausab, it would cost government approximately N$160 million per year for the full implementation of the witness protection programme alone.

However, the ministry was only allocated a budget of N$7 million to operationalise the two legal frameworks for the current 2020/21 financial year.

Dausab explained research and comparative studies have shown that the implementation of these legislations is an expensive exercise that requires huge financial input and cooperation from all relevant stakeholders. As such, the ministry will look into other forms of funding such as donations to support this programme in the future.

The budget allocated for 2020/21 will be used for setting up of branch offices headed by Witness Protection Officers as provided for in the Witness Protection Act.

The budget allocated will not only be utilised for salaries, but also for the rental of office accommodation, setting up of offices with the necessary furniture, IT equipment, cell phones and other necessities.

The process for the procurement of these goods and premises is already underway and will also be completed by December 2020.

Dausab further explained that the amount allocated will not be sufficient to do more during the current financial year.

Financial constraints are not the only thing that hindered the implementation process, Covid-19 pandemic caused a delay in time as the country's budget was only published in July.

"Any allegations that the Ministry of Justice is willfully delaying the implementation of this legislation or intending to divert the funds to cover for other expenses are unfounded and regretted as the successful implementation of the legislation will be a milestone achievement not only for this ministry, but for Namibia as a whole," said Dausab.

According to the ministry, the process to implement the legislation is cumbersome and has to be carried out meticulously in an effort to ensure its efficacy and success.

"The Ministry of Justice remains steadfast in its quest to ensure Namibia's compliance with its domestic and international obligations. Primarily, the ministry must ensure that our key justice imperatives such as access to legal services, fair and reasonable procedures and effective institutional service delivery are met," the minister noted.

The Whistleblower Protection Act provides for the establishment of a whistleblower protection office, which provides for procedures for disclosure of improper conduct, the investigation of disclosures of improper conduct and protection of whistleblowers. It also provides for investigation of complaints of detrimental action, the review of certain decisions and the remedies for persons against whom detrimental action is taken.

Whilst the Witness Protection Act establishes the Witness Protection Unit that protects and assists witnesses and related persons.

Dausab said the ministry will inform the public in January 2021 on the progress made in the implementation process.

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