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

06 March 2020 | Columns

Johan Coetzee - The reluctance of the executive to get rid of the rotten and invested wood in their ranks is an indication that the corrupt is still being empowered under the pretext of “empowerment, inequality and development”.

How often these words are uttered by the executive contrubutes to the hollow ring to it, especially given the so often reference to “inclusivity”, a hallmark of the Harambee Prosperity Plan.

Mega operators stand to risk exposure in terms of diamonds, gas, data, electricity and water.

No decisive decision, amidst the biggest water crisis in our history has been made to alleviate the increasing reliance on outdated alternatives such as boreholes, dams and channels, instead of seriously considering investing in a thermal desalination power plant to bring water from the coast to areas in Namibia with reverse osmoses. Such crises of delaying long term decisions in respect of water, echoes problems in the health industry where a shortage of medicine exists, especially since 2018/2019, due to the lucrativeness of creating such crises for “emergency deals” of massive proportions to bypass tender procedures and rely on quotations which includes justified “inflation” and withholding such information from public oversight.

INEFFECTIVE WATCHDOGS

Transparancy International (TI) released its annual Global Corruption Barometer Report during the second half of 2019.

It found that 78% Namibians felt that corruption increased and 65% is of the perception that the government has not done enough to reduce corruption.

The Director General (DG) of the ACC responded by saying: “I was laughing when I saw it at first . . . We are able to give factual data and information that are assessment fact-based” (Kahiurika). From the response, it can be deduced that the DG did not understand the purpose of perception studies. The DG defended the state of corruption in Namibia and has been very critical about Namibians’ perceptions about corruption. The Ombudsman questioned the sources of TI and their methods to collect information.

TI collected the perceptions of Namibians based on a representative sample of 2 000 Namibians that represented all regions, all constituencies, and all ethnic and cultural groups. Their findings were within a 95% confidence level and within a three percent plus and/or minus error parameter.

How the DG of the ACC can question a scientifically valid and reliable perception survey executed in 37 African countries and on all continents is beyond comprehension. From the responses of the Offices of the ACC and the Ombudsman, it can be deduced that the drive for reducing corruption will not come from these offices.

It seems to me highly unlikely that NAMFISA, the regulator of financial institutions, BoN and the FIC, supposed to detect money laundering will be able to lead the fight against corruption considering the cases of the SME Bank and the Fishrot scandal.

WHAT TO EXPECT?

From interpreting the long-term trend of corruption during the previous two decades, it is possible to synthesise that Namibia is not improving.

With a rating of 5.2 in 2019 and the sixth least corrupt country in Africa, it is highly improbable that Namibia can improve from 5.2 to more than 6.6 in one year and maintain such rating sustainably.

In the aftermath of the Fishrot scandal and three ministers that resigned due to corruption during 2019, the planned regulation of the social media, the excessive and increasing dominance of the legislative by the executive, the absence of strong leadership in the private sector to leverage their influence on government to put checks and balances in place to improve the investment environment, ineffective watchdogs and professional organisations that are reluctant to penalise members that participate in corruption, it is expected that corruption will increase during 2020 and that the 2020 rating by TI, will reflect Namibia as a country with increased unsustainable governance, and an increase in an already uncertain business and investment environment.

A projected rating below 5/10 for 2020, will further deteriorate Namibia’s prospects to attract much-needed foreign, portfolio and local investment to stimulate the private sector for increased job creation.

SOCIO-ECONOMIC OUTLOOK

Not addressing corruption amidst a world and local recession can mean that investor confidence will further deteriorate.

Policy uncertainty exists about the new Economic Empowerment Bill (NEEEB) that seemingly will be made applicable to all businesses without clear indications how it can reduce unemployment, an expected increase in poverty, unemployment and inequality; the unresolved urban and commercial land issue; the reduced credit rating of Namibia by Fitch, not to exclude an expected increase in unemployment; and an increase in our public debt to GDP ratio to peak at 53% and the private debt level of N$2 billion currently. Alle these factors can contribute to an increase in corruption.

It will be not be a surprise if Namibia’s TI corruption rating reduce to below 5/10 during 2020 and stays there for years to come.

Namibia will most probably not achieve the target set in the Harambee Prosperity Plan to be the least corrupt country in Africa by 2020. “Salvation from corruption” will not come from political leaders, they are not committed to reduce corruption. Civil society can and should play a role.

It is worthwhile to conclude with the cliché “God is in the principle and the devil in the detail” and the words of an African poet and advocate: “Tell them we have tried.” (Nwkolo)

References

Kahiurika, N. (2019). Noa dismissed corruption barometer findings. Article in The Namibian, 18 July, Windhoek.

Nwkolo, C. 2018. The Bribe Code. Lagos. Author of 7 books about African literature and Chairman of Project Consortium Africa, Lagos.

Jcoetzee.nust.na

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