Namibia: Critics Unimpressed With Director General's 17-Year Tenure

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RALLY for Democracy and Progress (RDP) leader Mike Kavekotora says the political allegiance of Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) director general Paulus Noa is among the reasons for the agency's failure to live up to its mandate 17 years after it was established.

Kavekotora believes the ACC has been more of an instrument to protect politicians, their cronies and business partners from prosecution.

Noa, who has been at the helm of the ACC since its inception in 2004, has been widely accused of blocking investigations involving politicians - allegations he has constantly dismissed.

This has resulted in hostility between Noa and some senior investigators.

In some instances, The Namibian reported that investigators had to wait for Noa to travel abroad to push certain investigations, which they feared he would block.

The frustration regarding investigations and complaints over salaries allegedly contributed to the resignation of the ACC's former chief of investigations, Nelius Becker, and top investigator, Hendrina Shikudule, in 2019.

During the same year, investigators had reportedly called for the creation of an internal committee to advise Noa on investigations.

Under Noa's spell, Kavekotora says the agency has instead been preoccupied with "irrelevant things", which have made little to no contribution to the fight against corruption.

He says the ACC's failure to finalise high-profile cases involving politicians, their cronies and business partners, shows that Noa has been "protecting his masters".

"There is a lot of corruption cases that have been reported, but have not been completed, including from the oil storage facility, the GIPF, the army contracts and all these other issues. This will cumulatively have a significant margin on the development budget of this country. I have really lost hope in anything coming from this government," Kavekotora says.

The Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) has also criticised Noa's reign at the anti-graft watchdog over the years.

In 2019, the IPPR concluded in its blog that several key corruption cases have either collapsed in court or seen the prosecutor general decline to prosecute, "suggesting shoddy investigations by the ACC".

The diminishing public trust in the ACC's work, the IPPR said, also suggests that the agency has failed in its mandate to "take measures for the prevention of corruption in public and private bodies".

Political commentator Ndumba Kamwanyah has mixed feelings about Noa's performance.

He says the ACC director could have done more to transform the agency and give effect to its existence.

For the most of his tenure, Kamwanyah says, Noa has been reactive and defensive, justifying why the ACC cannot make arrests or investigate certain cases.

"If you look back, there are many major scandals that have happened under his watch as the chief of the ACC, but we have not really seen concrete action taken. It is only with the Fishrot scandal [after it was exposed by the media] that we are seeing a bit of light," he says.

REFORM APPOINTMENT SYSTEM

President Hage Geingob last week extended Noa's contract, which came to an end in December last year, with another six months.

The extension will allow for the process of nomination and appointment of a new ACC head to be concluded, Geingob said.

Noa has not indicated whether he wants to continue with the job for the next five years.

He said this week he would rather leave that decision to the appointing authority.

Kavekotora says to improve the public's trust in the ACC, the responsibility of appointing its director general should be removed from the Office of the President and completely left to parliament, assisted by the judiciary.

He does not trust anyone appointed by the current administration to the ACC's top job to deliver in the fight against corruption, Kavekotora says.

This is because "the president has proven that he is also not in a position to fight corruption", he says.

The Anti-Corruption Act states that the president nominates a candidate to head the ACC ,while the National Assembly makes the appointment for a five-year term.

The IPPR in its 2019 blog said the process of appointing the ACC chief was open to abuse, suggesting that Swapo "can essentially appoint anyone they think will protect the party's top figures and financial backers from investigation and prosecution".

"If the head of the anti-corruption agency is effectively given the job by the head of state, inevitably the appointee has an incentive to defer to the will of the appointer. International best practice suggests that the appointment and removal of anti-corruption agency heads should be the joint responsibility of several stakeholders, including the executive, legislature, and non-state actors," the IPPR said.

Kamwanyah is opposed to the reappointment of Noa for the next five years.

He proposes that a term limit of 10 years should be introduced.

"This should be the practice for other similar positions like the prosecutor general, the ombudsman and the auditor general, among others," he says.

Economist Salomo Hei says the evaluation of Noa's tenure at the ACC is relative.

He says the fact that the body exists shows the government's commitment to the fight against corruption.

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