Moving spy to ACC 'sinister'

Independence of anti-corruption agency compromised

31 July 2020 | Crime



The appointment of a top spy as the new executive director of the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) has raised eyebrows among analysts, who say that key moves at the anti-graft agency and the police, amid the Fishrot investigation, are “sinister and highly suspicious”.

Institute for Public Policy Research executive director Graham Hopwood said he believes that, for the sake of the ACC's independence, the commission's head should not be a political appointment by the prime minister.

He was reacting to an announcement made last week that Tylvas Shilongo, a senior manager at the Namibia Central Intelligence Service (NCIS), would be replacing Hannu Shipena as the executive director of the ACC, and that Shipena would be moving to the National Council for Higher Education, among other changes to government's top structure.

Like ECN

Hopwood said the ACC's status should be the same as the Electoral Commission of Namibia (ECN), and it should not be led by an executive director.

John Nakuta, the head of the department of public law and jurisprudence at the University of Namibia, said the move has raised eyebrows as much as Commissioner Nelius Becker of the police crime investigations directorate replacing Dr Paul Ludik at the National Forensic Science Institute of Namibia from 1 September.

The announcements were made just nine days apart.

Suspicious and dubious

“Shipena's move is just as suspicious and dubious as Becker's. We will not let ourselves be led astray by other announcements. This is just a ploy to make Shipena's move less conspicuous,” Nakuta said.

He added there are various aspects that are critical at agencies like the ACC, which include political, functional, operational and financial independence.

“This is to allow anti-corruption agencies to operate without favour or fear. Political appointments have no place if we want the independence and impartiality the constitution envisages,” he said.

Political decisions

It worries Hopwood that appointments at the ACC have largely been political ones. “Years ago, there were talks that positions would be advertised to depoliticise the process, but this was never implemented.”

He said the ACC should be making these appointments.

What further worries him is that the NCIS has been accused of corruption.

Blowing the whistle

The country's spy boss Philemon Malima was unsuccessful in court about two years ago while attempting to have the media muzzled when it wanted to expose alleged irregularities regarding the purchase of farms and other property for former spies and their families.

The Patriot published a story relating to property transactions that cost taxpayers nearly N$65 million.

“Do we need spies within the ACC? Do we need someone to blow the whistle on the whistle-blowers?” Nakuta asked.

“Whatever the reasons, this move will discourage people from reporting corrupt practices. It must be condemned in the strongest terms,” he said.

In line with legislation

Meanwhile, Secetary to Cabinet, George Simataa, said the appointments are in line with the Public Service Act, which gives the prime minister the authority to move executive directors.

Simataa said the newly-appointed executive director of the ACC is responsible for its administration.

“The ACC is independent and it has never been government's intention to interfere with its operations. Therefore, the executive director is the administrative head who takes care of matters such as finances, staff, logistics and other administrative issues,” he said.