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

05 March 2020 | Columns

Johan Coetzee - Justice delayed is justice denied.

The Teckla trio case, in which a former Public Service Commissioner and her two Chinese business associates were alleged to have participated in tender fraud, after several delays in the judicial system since 2008, was dismissed by the High Court during 2019 based on technical oversights. After 11 years and a considerable amount of taxpayers’ money spent, the High Court ruled that documents pertaining to the summons and investigations by the ACC had been technically incorrect.

This and other cases raises questions regarding the slow speed of the judicial system and the competency of the ACC. Such questions do not resonate well for citizens’ trust in the judicial system.

The Caprivi High Treason case stretched over more than 15 years and some parts of this case are still pending.

The increasing level, scale and/or magnitude of corruption in the public sector contributes to a baclog in courts. Because of a resulting erosion of private sector confidence in the judicial system, it is highly unlikely that the private sector and investment community will in the short to medium term have more trust in the judicial system.

THE ROLE OF THE PRIVATE SECTOR

Does the private sector contribute to reduce corruption? What role can they play?

It is necessary to focus on corruption in the private sector. Statistics about corruption in the private sector are not available.

What is available, is the contribution of different sectors and the public sector towards the Gross Domestic Product (GDP). The public sector contributes 26.5% to GDP.

Services contribute 65.6%, industry 29%, mining 11.5%, and agriculture 5.5% (CIA World Fact Book, 2017).

Since the private sector makes the biggest contribution towards GDP, this sector have a significant influence, if not the most, in tackling corruption (Coetzee). The private sector has the ability to strong-arm government to reduce corruption by insisting that government put checks and balances in place to penalise corrupt officials and increase the performance of the public sector.

Most money for political campaigns usually comes from the private sector.

In Namibia, we have a privatised liberation economy and a corporatised liberation economy (Du Pisani) where the ruling elite and the ruling party compete with the rest of the private sector for public tenders.

For example, Kalahari Holdings, the holding company of the ruling party does have an interconnected network of businessmen and politicians in which the boundaries between business and public officials have fused in a “mesh or web” with conflicting and compromised interests that are seldom declared at board meetings, especially by nominated public officials sitting on SOE boards as required by the Namibian Code of Corporate Governance and the King IV Report on Corporate Governance.

Government recognises the Namibia Chamber of Commerce and Industry (NCCI) as the only spokesperson of the business community. Attempts to form a more comprehensive umbrella for the private sector that include SMEs and SOEs have been unsuccessful when the leaders of the new umbrella association have been compromised in terms of their conflicting leadership role in the NCCI and Enterprise Namibia during 2017/18.

Decisive leadership against corruption are also required from big businesses such as Olthaver and List, Pupkewitz, the Frans Indongo Group, Trustco, Woermann and Brock, Wecke & Voigts etc. When will we see this leadership and insistance that government put checks and balances in place to reduce corruption?

Banks and the Institute of Bankers must also be more outspoken. Just complying with the law and not doing something extra to halt corruption is not adequate to reduce corruption.

Professional organisations such as the Institute of Certified Accountants, the Namibian Institute of Professional Accountants and the Institute of Corporate Governance must take professional action against members, for example those implicated in Fishrot. If they do take action why not state it publicly?

With a lack of strong leadership to bring the private sector together, not much can be expected from the private sector to hold government accountable for reduced corruption, increased performance and/or to resist the temptation of bribes by public officials and the private sector not offering bribes themselves.

MEGA OPERATORS

From analysing corruption cases in Namibia since 1998, it seems that there are the mega operators (also known as sharks) that operate in numerous industries, e.g. fishing, mining, and electricity, in the public and private sector.

Mega operators are instrumental in initiating legislative changes and putting systems in place to institutionalise corruption legally.

Then there are professional operators. These professionals may include lawyers, certified accountants and auditors. Uncouth professionals can operate under the radar and channel bribe money via trust accounts and property development to legalise money illegally gained (money laundering).

References

Coetzee, J.J. (2018). The role of the private sector in tackling corruption. Institute for Public Policy Research, Briefing Paper, 9 May, Windhoek. Available at: https://ippr.org.na.

Du Pisani, A. (2019). The Coming crises of Democratic Legitimacy in Namibia. Article in The Namibian, 13 August, p.7.

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