Gangster's paradise

Transactions involving N$9.2 billion, allegedly the proceeds of tax evasion, fraud, corruption, drug trafficking and illicit wildlife trading, are being investigated by the country's law-enforcement agencies.

18 April 2019 | Government

President Hage Geingob has revealed that 329 red-flagged financial transactions, involving N$9.2 billion, have been referred by the Financial Intelligence Centre (FIC) for further investigation by the country's law-enforcement agencies.





The head of state, who delivered his 2019 State of the Nation Address (SONA) in the National Assembly yesterday, said: “According to the Financial Intelligence Centre (FIC), 7 813 reports were submitted during the period under review, of which 329 cases were referred to law-enforcement agencies for further action.

“The value of these cases was N$9.2 billion, involving the top five offences of tax evasion, fraud, corruption, drug trafficking and illicit wildlife products.”

Geingob, who used sections of his speech to paint a picture of an administration that was taking a hard line against corruption, also revealed that the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) had investigated 701 cases in 2018, of which 156 have been referred to the prosecutor-general with recommendations to prosecute. A total of 49 of these cases have been finalised.

“In addition, practical measures have been taken to enhance transparency and mitigate corruption, including the promulgation of the Public Procurement Act of 2016. Regulations and guidelines to the Act were passed and relevant institutions operationalised. Since commencement, the Central Procurement Board of Namibia has awarded 15 contracts to the value of N$1.74 billion and has issued 46 extensions of contracts and price variations, to the value of N$4.32 billion,” Geingob said.

He also made reference to letters he had issued to ministers in 2018 following reports of maladministration and alleged corruption.

“This was done to provide fair opportunity for those concerned to give their side of the story. Based on the responses, the letters were referred to the Anti-Corruption Commission for a determination whether further investigation was warranted.

“In all instances, and contrary to demands to see the 'big fish' caught, a due legal process must be followed and permitted to run its course.”

Geingob said contrary to widespread perceptions that government was not doing enough to fight corruption, a “principled decision” was taken to cancel the Hosea Kutako International Airport upgrading tender, which had been inflated from N$3 billion to N$7 billion.

“This was despite the urgent need to upgrade the airport. We also launched an investigation into alleged irregularities in the implementation of the National Oil Storage Facility.

“The contract was denominated in US dollars instead of Namibian dollars, thereby exposing the project to currency fluctuations. Those implicated were subjected to disciplinary hearings.”

Geingob also made reference to lifestyle audits that started in 2017/18 to determine possible tax evasion, money laundering and illicit proceeds, which were broadened during the reporting period.

“Of the 26 cases handled, 19 have been completed and a total of 40 entities (individuals and companies) have been reviewed to date. Of the N$49.8 million assessed to be due to the Receiver of Revenue, N$12.8 million has been recovered to date.”



Wage bill

Geingob also touched on the thorny issue of the civil service wage bill.

“The government is currently the largest employer and I should caution that in an environment characterised by high levels of unemployment, attempts at downsizing should be treated with utmost care.

“It would be unreasonable to downsize overnight, as rapid reductions in the public service would only exacerbate the already high unemployment rate in the country.

“However, contrary to popular belief, the total wage and benefits of political office-bearers represents N$160 million out of the N$29 billion wage bill. Said differently, this is 0.06 percent of the public service wage bill, including both houses of parliament,” Geingob said.

In order to lead by example during these trying economic times, he said political office-bearers should agree to a one-off, voluntary salary contribution of 2% of their net salaries for this year.

“If parliamentarians, who are being consulted, are agreeable, contributions will be deducted as a payroll deduction, with the potential to raise the sizeable amount of approximately N$3.2 million. The funds will be channelled towards identified social programmes, as a demonstration of our personal commitment.”



Poverty and drought

Geingob also claimed that the Swapo-led government had reduced poverty to 18% in 2016 from a baseline of 70% in 1994.

“In terms of social mobility, we have lifted 400 000 Namibians out of poverty since independence.”

He also mentioned other interventions to reduce inequality and income disparities, pointing out that the government's N$557 million for drought relief over the past year had reached 622 444 people, with additional resources to be allocated in the coming season.

“We are assessing the situation, which is expected to worsen, with a view to declaring a national drought emergency.”

He said the food bank, established in 2016, had registered 17 260 households in seven regions in the past year “translating into a broader impact, reaching 77 910 food-insecure Namibians each month”.

Geingob also mentioned the sustained school feeding programme, which in 2018 reached 377 521 learners, up from 330 000 in 2016.

Access to drinking water, he said, had increased from 50% to 95%, and those who needed to walk to their water source had water available “within a radius of 2.5 kilometres”.

Sanitation, according to Geingob, is also on a much better footing.

“Of the 1 856 bucket toilets that existed in 2016, 65% have been replaced with 1 213 functioning units” and 2 153 rural toilets were constructed in 13 regions.

Housing remains a major challenge. According to the president, 10 584 houses have been handed over since 2016, of which 1 885 were financed by the Government Institutions Pension Fund (GIPF) and 8 699 by the government.

“In addition, 14 694 residential plots were serviced countrywide.”





JEMIMA BEUKES

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