ACC must man up

22 November 2019 | Columns

The Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) is an enigma that continues to evade our understanding.

It is this exact mystery that has helped inspire the continued looting of public resources.

Perhaps the ACC is not the problem. Maybe it is the system from whose womb this body was conceived. The fact that the appointment of the ACC director-general is a one-person prerogative, instead of parliament's, creates a tricky situation that forsakes impartiality, nurtures intimidation and creates as sense of indebtedness to those appointing of the ACC chief. This situation creates space for the ACC to turn a blind eye to certain corrupt activities, as acting on them may have them step on dangerous toes. If the ACC can conveniently ignore certain scenarios of illegal activities, the whole existence of this body then comes into question. Another issue making the impartiality of the ACC improbable is the political allegiances of those leading it. While it is their constitutional right to be affiliated to political formations of their choice, and actively participate in political activities, there remains a natural obligation of restraint where such participation compromises perception.

Our concern is cemented by recent revelations that the ACC had known, for example, about the Fishrot scandal for five years, but did nothing to stop the looting. While the matter has been on ACC's radar since 2014, the alleged illegal activities continued unabated until 2018. That's five years of grand-scale thievery exacerbated by ACC's decision to sit on the matter.

Even when the matter surfaced in the media a week ago, ACC first said that videos are not evidence of corruption. This arrogant and insensitive posture worries us greatly. Also, the perpetual attitude of ACC that those complaining of corruption must produce evidence shines a bright light on the institution's reluctance to pursue graft with vigour and fortitude. The responsibility to get evidence is the ACC's. Anyone volunteering further evidence should be a bonus, not an obligation. The current mood in the country must get the ACC to ponder its role and relevance.

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