Namibia’s anti-graft strategy needs tweaking

15 June 2017 | Crime

A number of flaws identified in Namibia’s anti-corruption strategy and action plan have raised questions about the effectiveness of the plan, which could further dent the already low trust Namibians have in the authorities to effectively fight graft.

A recently published expert analysis said the 2016 to 2019 Namibian anti-corruption strategy and action plan, which was launched last year, has been issued at a time “when the fight against corruption seems to have stalled”.

The briefing paper, compiled by the Institute of Public Policy Research (IPPR) and the Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa (OSISA), warns that in recent years public sentiment has increasingly become pessimistic about the rise of, and the fight against, corruption in Namibia.

The IPPR report includes a number of recommendations that advise on how some tweaks to the current strategy could boost the potential of the strategy to improve anti-corruption measures and restore public trust.

“While the anti-corruption strategy and action plan contains many worthwhile initiatives and ideas, its implementation is far from guaranteed,” the IPPR cautioned, listing several elements in the current strategy that could weaken or render the plan worthless.

A major concern is that “the strategy does little to inspire faith that it will be effectively monitored and evaluated,” Max Weylandt, author of the briefing paper, wrote.

He said the lack of a monitoring and evaluation strategy in the plan “raises concerns that progress will not be thoroughly assessed, and implementation therefore hampered.”

The briefing paper emphasises the critical need for the people in charge of implementing the strategy to “know what is working and what is not, so they can adjust the plan for maximum efficiency.”

Moreover, the absence of baselines against which progress can be measured, could hamper a realistic overview of the success of the plan.

Contrary to UN guidelines, the plan was drafted without first analysing the current corruption levels in the country.

“A lack of analysis hampers the strategy from the beginning,” Weylandt wrote.

The analysis also indicates that “neither the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) or the steering committee tasked with implementing the strategy have much real power to ensure the strategy is carried out effectively.”

There are “serious concerns” whether the institutions tasked with carrying out a number of actions in the plan “will carry out the tasks they are supposed to. Many were not involved in the process of drafting the document, and therefore have little ‘buy-in’ from the get-go.”

The ACC assured the IPPR that the institutions involved are “are under obligation to implement the strategy” because the anti-corruption policy mechanism was approved by Cabinet.

The IPPR, however, points out that this argument has been specifically addressed by the United Nations anti-corruption experts, after many countries based their anti-corruption campaigns on the “assumption that high-level support from the head of government would suffice to ensure effective and coordinated implementation of the strategy.”

This strategy has rarely been successful in the long term, the UN found.

Moreover, the briefing paper stresses concerns around the unrealistic timelines contained in the action plan.

“The current document condemns actors to failure. Several deadlines have already passed, and it seems more will follow. This risks that the entire process will soon be untethered from the schedule, threatening to unravel further.”

Public trust declines

According to a 2014 Afrobarometer survey, 63% of Namibians felt corruption had increased “a lot” and Namibians indicated that they increasingly believe that “government cannot stem the tide in the fight against corruption”.

A 2012 Afrobarometer survey also found that 43% felt that the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) “avoids politically important suspects”.

ACC’s own survey from 2016 found that only 31% of Namibians “though that corruption had decreased since the inception of the authority”.

To-do list

While the IPPR found the anti-corruption strategy document “is a solid document” in many regards, the concerns raised could be addressed in a number of ways.

The steering committee must create a monitoring and evaluation plan as a matter of urgency, the briefing paper suggests.

Moreover, the IPPR recommends that because cabinet has signed off on the plan “it should not be too difficult to convince ministers and heads of agencies and offices to publicly agree to carrying out the plan.”

The IPPR has also appealed to civil society and the Namibian public to take ownership of the plan and to help ensure the success of the plan by acting as watchdogs and calling on government to implement the plan properly.

JANA-MARI SMITH