Namibia: Noa Pleads Not to Be Replaced

ANTI-CORRUPTION Commission (ACC) director general Paulus Noa pleaded to be reappointed for five more years, claiming his departure could affect ongoing high-pro le corruption cases.

Experts and politicians, however, rubbished this claim.

Noa motivated his plea in a letter seen by The Namibian and sent to, among others, president Hage Geingob as the appointing authority and the National Assembly (NA) earlier this month.

"I trust I remain the preferred choice for reappoint-

ment," he wrote, listing his achievements. Noa appears to have gotten his way. This week, prime minister Saara-Kuugongel-

wa Amadhila tabled Noa's reappointment in parliament.

After being approved, Noa will clock up 20 years in charge of the ACC by 2026.

Noa lobbied to be reappointed on the grounds that he felt he could prove vital to the successful prosecution of ongoing cases.

"Due to my involve- ment in leading, super- vising and issuing of summons[es] served on suspects and potential witnesses, my possible premature departure from the commission may jeop- ardise the outcome of court proceedings," he wrote.

Noa is deputised by Erna van der Merwe.

During his time at the helm of the anti-graft body, Noa said, he had submitted 699 corruption dockets to prosecutor general Martha Imalwa.

He said 249 of these dockets are still pending in criminal courts.

Noa said as he had authorised these cases, the court may want him to testify to explain and justify the cases.

"Given the role I have played in supervising these corruption investi- gations . . . it is not ideal that the current acting director general and dep- uty director general are relieved from the service of the commission at this critical moment," he said.

Noa, who was appoint- ed as the founding ACC boss in 2006, declined to comment on his let- ter yesterday, citing that parliament was still dis- cussing the president's recommendation.

"I cannot comment on a matter pending in par- liament, but in this case, there are only two ap- pointing authorities - the president and the National Assembly," he said.

He said this had avoided unnecessary legal costs resulting from lawsuits because of negligent con- duct by investigators.

"Namibia has, through- out my term of of ce, maintained her position as one of the least corrupt countries in the SADC region, Africa and the rest of the world, accord- ing to the Transparency International Corruption Perception Index," Noa said.

Presidential spokes- person Alfredo Hengari said the Presidency does not have records of Noa's plea.

In his letter, Noa said over the past 15 years he had ensured that the high standards of the ACC were upheld at all times.

POLARISING

Noa has cut a polarising gure during his 15-year tenure as Namibia's top graft buster.

To some, he is a hard- working, competent cor- ruption buster.

To others, he is incom- petent and was placed at the ACC to shield the political elite.

Institute for Public Pol- icy Research executive di- rector Graham Hopwood called for transparency

in the appointment of the ACC head.

"The fact that the ACC is dealing with high- pro le and complicated cases cannot be used as an excuse for keeping people in their posts in perpetu- ity," Hopwood said.

He said the current re- cruitment process is open to abuse.

"A clear and transparent process for appointing a new DG and deputy should have been put in place at the end of last year when the terms of of ce ran out," Hopwood said.

He added: "Unfortu- nately, the Anti-Corrup- tion Act is de cient in this regard, and such decisions are left to the whims of politicians."

Political analyst Hen- ning Melber said the manner of Noa's reap- pointment is likely to erode public trust.

"Given the recent shifts in political sup- port, the Presidency and party might be well advised not to rule by virtue of the power still vested in them, but by confidence building and taking others on board in search of the best solu- tions," he said.

Political commentator Ndumba Kamwanyah said it is a blunder on the part of Geingob and the ruling party to support Noa's reappointment.

"Show me evidence that the ACC under Noa has made a dent in terms of delivering on the man- date of an anti-corruption organisation in a country that has sunk so deep into corruption."

A TALE OF 15 YEARS

When former president Hifikepunye Pohamba launched the ACC in 2006, he hoped the institution would be a corruption buster.

Pohamba, who came to power amid reports of massive losses of state funds, proclaimed anti- corruption, good govern- ance and transparency among his main objec- tives.

He entrusted his then prime minister Nahas Angula to lead the process of nding the country's anti-corruption tsar.

The two ACC top posi- tions were advertised.

The recruitment panel included Markus Kam- pungu, Dave Smuts and Nangula Uaandja.

But there was a prob- lem: The panel found that most applicants were not suitably quali ed or experienced, Angula told the National Assembly in 2006.

At his insistence, the panel ranked the appli- cants interviewed on a scale of ve points.

The names were then forwarded to Pohamba for review and consideration, and Noa emerged as the preferred candidate.

It was a remarkable rise to power for Noa, who was 42 at the time.

He had worked as a mag- istrate at Eenhana from 1996 to 2000. From 1993 to 1996, he was a magistrate for the Ondangwa magisterial district.

Noa's appointment as the head of the newly established ACC was greeted with fanfare.

It came at a time when the country was rocked by two major corruption scandals: The disappearance of N$100 million from the Offshore Development Company, and the N$30 million lost by the Social Security Commission in a botched investment deal with a politically connected company.

It was not long before the new corruption body was tainted by allegations of deal- ing with petty cases instead of tackling sophisticated high- level corruption.

A few years later, Namibia Liquid Fuel (NLF), then under investigation by the ACC for a multimillion-dollar fuel ten- der, announced that the ACC had cleared it of corruption.

The ACC declined to say how the investigation was conducted.

NLF was controlled by the then president's chief econom- ic adviser Leevi Hungamo, Sacky Shanghala (adviser to the then justice minister) and businessman James Ha- tuikulipi.

Noa accused the media of criticising the NLF because it was run by "black Namibians".

Despite public complaints, Noa continued to be reap- pointed by Namibian political leaders.

Law-enforcement colleagues have complained about Noa's apparent resistance to taking on cases involving prominent Namibians.

They allege he deliberately undermined some high-pro le cases.

The ACC said it started looking into allegations of the now infamous Fishrot scandal, following reports in The Namibian in 2014.

Yet, action was only taken in 2019 after calls for him to resign.

There are concerns in some quarters that the Fishrot case could be diluted if Noa is left in charge.

Early last year, stakeholders in the Fishrot investigation decided to enlist assistance from the United Nations Of ce on Drugs and Crime and the International Anti-Corruption Conference (IACC) af liated with Interpol.

Sources said these institu- tions offered experts to be seconded to the case and equipment to assist with the investigations.

It included an expert pros- ecutor to assist in building the state's case.

The ACC allegedly told stakeholders at a meeting in February 2020 that as the lead investigating agency, it was not overwhelmed by the investigation.

The prosecutor general's of ce, the police, the Finan- cial Intelligence Centre and the Ministry of Justice were all represented at the meeting when the ACC told repre- sentatives of the said bodies that their assistance was not needed.

This is said to have angered a number of those present.

The ACC allegedly received tip-offs about potential corrup- tion at the now defunct SME Bank as early as 2014 Noa is accused of failing to act on that.

In 2019 a dossier was said to be forwarded to the ACC on this matter.

It took the graft-busting body less than a week to decide not to pursue an in- vestigation into corruption allegations.

Individuals said to be close to Geingob reportedly bene ted from money stolen from the SME Bank.

This year, he unannounced that Swapo did not bene t from the Fishrot scandal - despite evidence pointing to Geingob's ruling party campaign being funded by money siphoned from the national shing company, Fishcor.

For many, the jury is out on Noa.

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