'More talk than action on corruption'

Namibia has ranked 53rd out of 180 countries globally, and fifth in Africa, in an index measuring perceptions of how corrupt countries are.

27 February 2018 | Crime

Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) director, Graham Hopwood, says “there seems to be more talk than action on corruption in Namibia” and “when action is taken it can often be delayed or ineffective”.

He also said it is his perception that large sections of the public have lost faith in the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC).

Hopwood was responding to the recently released 2017 Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) in which Namibia ranked 53rd out of 180 countries globally and fifth in Africa.

Transparency International (TI) has published the CPI since 1996, annually ranking countries “by their perceived levels of corruption, as determined by expert assessments and opinion surveys”.

The CPI generally defines corruption as “the misuse of public power for private benefit”.

Hopwood told Namibian Sun that Namibia is “flatlining on the index”, as its score was only slightly worse than the year before, and has remained constant over the years.

“This is an indicator that while things may not be getting dramatically worse, we are making little progress in the fight against corruption.” He added the methodology of the index is somewhat questionable.

“It is based on a survey of existing surveys and reports, some of which are out of date, but it still gives a general sense of how we are doing in our anti-corruption efforts.”

Hopwood said a good example is asset declarations of parliamentarians, which should happen on an annual basis. “I sense that large sections of the public have lost faith in the ACC, while several of the most high-profile cases have been dragging on in the courts for years - in the case of Avid, for more than a decade. Sometimes the delays are inexplicable. For example, why has the Hijarunguru/Air Namibia case only gone to trial now, when the PG took a decision to prosecute in 2012?”

According to Hopwood there are lots of challenges that Namibia needs to tackle, in order to see it rising in the CPI rankings.

“We need to clean up political financing by ensuring a law is put into practice and that parties publish their accounts. We need a state-of-the-art access to information law. It would be helpful if all ministers were instructed to declare their detailed assets, in the manner the president and the first lady have, within the next three months. Lastly, we need a more honest review of the court system and why it fails to resolve cases within reasonable timeframes.”

Namibia's CPI ranking remained the same as in 2016 when 176 countries were ranked, however its overall score worsened with one point compared to 2016, when it scored 52 points on the index.

The index uses a 100-point scale to show the perception of corruption levels. A country's score indicates the perceived level of public sector corruption on a scale of 0 (highly corrupt) to 100 (very clean).

Namibia's score has been stagnated since 2015 when it scored 53 on the index. The country averaged 48.21 points from 1998 until 2016, reaching an all-time high of 57 points in 2002 and a record low of 41 points in 2004.

ACC director Paulus Noa said even though Namibia's score had decreased, it remains among the countries that are ranked above 50, and considered as being the least corrupt.

According to him the index is based more on a country's economic performance and not on how it is fighting corruption.

He said developing countries are ranked higher on the index, ahead of African countries.

Noa said the index is based on perceptions and that Transparency International has never been to Namibia to do a survey, get information or advise on how policies can be changed.

He, however, said this does not mean that Namibia should be complacent when it comes to corruption. “We must stamp out corruption.”

According to the index, despite being the worst-performing region as a whole, Africa has several countries that consistently push back against corruption, with notable progress. “In fact, some African countries score better than some countries in the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).”

It says specifically that Botswana, Seychelles, Cape Verde, Rwanda and Namibia all score better on the index, when compared to OECD countries like Italy, Greece and Hungary. Botswana emerged as the highest ranked country in Africa with a score of 61 followed by Seychelles (60), Cape Verde (55), Rwanda (55) and Namibia (51).

ELLANIE SMIT

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