Corruption - A social disease (Part 167 a): Can Namibia be the least corrupt African country by 2020?

26 February 2020 | Columns

Johan Coetzee - President Hage Geingob has declared 2020 the "Year of Introspection", 2019 the "Year of Accountability" and 2018 the "Year of Reckoning".

If Namibia did improve its accountability in terms of governance and reduced corruption, the evidence is not available. The verdict is so to speak in the outcome of the Fishrot scandal of 2019 that received considerable media attention in the aftermath of the 2019 elections.

In the Harambee Prosperity Plan (2016), the President has envisaged that Namibia should be the least corrupt country in Africa by 2020. Can we achieve this target?

In order to answer the question posed, this article takes stock of Namibia’s Transparency International corruption and governance rating since 1998 and provide context and perspective in order to explain to some extent contributors (however incomplete) for the current state of corruption in Namibia.

One of the most popular indices used by investors to provide them with an indication of the level of corruption in a country as a decision-making indicator for investment purposes is the Corruption Perception Index of Transparency International (TI) (Coetzee). The TI Index on corruption and good governance is compiled annually. In the 2019 index, 180 countries were rated.

By focusing on TI ratings, the author is not implying that it is the most valid and reliable indicator and/or approach to evaluate corruption and good governance in Namibia. One challenge with international indices is that they are simplistic and do not perceive and tackle corruption from a holistic or systemic perspective.

TI ratings are based on perceptions by means of a tick-box assessment that are not supported by in-depth evidence. Nevertheless, TI ratings provide some general indication of corruption in a country, but it needs to be combined with in-depth investigation and interviews with key role players.

De Klerk (2017) of ISG Risk Services said, “Although Namibia fares fairly well in fighting corruption as perceived by a tick-box international assessment, we are not competitive on a global scale ... The fish rots from the head. I definitely witness a trend in increased corruption. Where Avid Investments was a huge scandal of N$30 million 17 years ago, ‘billions’ now seem to be in the order of the day.”

By providing a brief and incomplete analysis of corruption ratings from 1998 to 2019, it is possible to make some deductions over the period of two decades.

UNDERSTANDING TI INDICES

Countries are classified as open, Western-style economies or closed economies. Countries are rated out of 10, with 10 being a perfect score, indicating no corruption and perfect good governance.

The position of a country is reflected based on the number of countries that participated. This implies that a country with the same rating out of 10, year on year, can move up or down in terms of their position out of the total number of countries that are rated. The latter rating of countries is by implication of less importance than the rating out of 10.

When analysing TI ratings for Namibia the overall trend is stable. Since 2004, the "darkest year" with a rating of 4.1 out of 10 the sub-trend until 2019 has been positive, slowly but surely rising, with a rating of 5.3 in 2015 and 2018.

Namibia has mostly been one of the top six least corrupt African countries. During 2019, with a rating of 5.2, Namibia was rated the sixth least corrupt country in Africa. Namibia is overall in the 56th position.

The African country rated as the least corrupt in 2019 is Seychelles with a rating of 6.6 and an overall position of 27th. Can we achieve the number one position by 2020?

A rating of mostly below 5 since 2003 is not satisfactory. We remain on the verge of facing endemic corruption. A rating of below 5 may be adequate for our African context with a very low baseline, however it is not adequate to be the least corrupt African country.

Two reasons for the improvement during 2017 and 2018 is most likely because parliament approved the Whistleblower Protection Act, and an indication by the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) that lifestyle audits would be executed (no official information released by the ACC on such cases yet).

The rating of 5.3 reduced to 5.2 during 2019. This rating was done prior to the Fishrot scandal that became public mid-November.

The average rating over 22 years is 4.8. The previous 10 years, 2010-2019, the average is 4.9 and for the first decade, it is also 4.9. This implies that in the middle of the 22 years Namibia’s rating reduced significantly and for an extended period of years below 5/10, namely 2003-2014, a 12-year period.

MORE CORRUPT THAN NOT

What is the most valid and representative value of corruption over 22 years?

The mode, meaning the value that occurs the most is 4.5 (2007-2009) and the value that is in the middle, the median is also 4.5 (2008-2009). The mode and the median are more meaningful than the average, because the average is an equalisation of distributed values over 22 years.

Since the mode and the median are the same, it implies that the rating of 4.5/10 is the most significant and reliable value that represents the state of corruption in Namibia. It also implies that Namibians (not foreigners) operating in investment, academia and business, perceive Namibia as 55% corrupt. It also implies that Namibia is perceived by Namibians as more corrupt than not corrupt.

Within the context of the 2019 rating of 5.2, it is possible to deduce that because the 4.5/10 is a more valid indicator of corruption in Namibia, the level of corruption is more negative than positive. Namibians need to be more concerned by corruption based on the most statistical representative and reliable value of 4.5/10 than just focusing on 5.2/10 (2019) that can provide a false sense of satisfaction.

REFERENCES

Coetzee, J.J. (2012). Systemic corruption and corrective change management strategies: A study of the co-producers of systemic corruption and its negative impact on socio-economic development. Unpublished PhD dissertation. Stellenbosch: University of Stellenbosch.

De Klerk, E. (2017). The role of ISG Risk Services in tackling corruption. Interview, 14 August.

Transparency International. (1998-2020). Corruption Perception Index. Available at: www.transparency.org.

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