Political Perspective

Political Perspective

AS expected, a deafening silence met the news this week that the two top officials of the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) had received double salaries and 13th cheques they were not entitled to.

The issue isn’t about the incident itself – which was not of their own making (and because accidents like this can happen, especially in a bureaucracy!) – but rather the somewhat hazy circumstances surrounding the matter and the question as to why they didn’t immediately pay back the full amounts to the State, rather than do so in interest-free instalments over a year or more. IT is an important case for a number of reasons: The two officials in question, ACC Director Paulus Noa and his Deputy Erna van der Merwe, were given the important task of being the official corruption watchdogs in Namibia.They had just passed through a process of screening and interviews in which one imagines, the questioning ranged far and wide as to their knowledge about graft.One presumes – even though there was scepticism in several circles at the time about the choices – that they’d passed the test! In December 2005 they were appointees of the Ministry of Justice, where both had been employed in different capacities, until their transfer in January 2006, to the ACC which was to resort under the Office of the Prime Minister.December then, should have seen their last payments from Justice and in January, their salaries would have come from the OPM budget.So, a mistake is made and both Justice and OPM pay them.When approached, Noa was less clear than Van der Merwe, who was far more forthcoming.Noa vaguely remembered a double salary payment; she clearly remembered it was January and maintained she had immediately informed the relevant salary office.It is at this point things become vague.It is the fault of the employer if a double payment is made, or an under-payment for that matter.That’s not in dispute.But most employees will notice if they’re paid even a few dollars less than usual, so they’re sure to notice when its substantially more.If, as Ms Van der Merwe maintains, she’d IMMEDIATELY informed the salary office thereof, why did she (and Noa for that matter) not pay the money back without further ado? It was, after all, money they were not entitled to, and they would have known this better than anyone! Yet we gather they started making repayments, interest free, last August only! Then came the issue of 13th cheques.Neither of the two was entitled to these payments, but again, on their birthdays (Government pays 13th cheques at this time of year to employees), they received additional amounts.Again, from what we gather, they either didn’t notice or if they did, had already spent the money, because, as far as we can gather, repayments on these amounts has not yet commenced.What we really do need to know, in order to put the issue in context, is whether or not Government alerted them, or vice versa, about the double payments.Here there is a discrepancy because sources claim they informed the of?cials in question; while the ACC’s Deputy Director said she had alerted them! We need to know this in order to be able to judge the level of honesty/dishonesty on the part of the ACC duo.Again, I must emphasise it’s not their fault that the double payments happened.But it certainly is dishonest, yes, even corrupt, if they kept silent about money they knew full well they were not entitled to.I fail to understand why both of them, who have made a number of public appearances and speeches, didn’t exercise absolute transparency, and publicly declare these occurrences at some point during their tenure to date.They could have used this example to warn others that they would be committing fraud if they used/spent money they were not entitled to, even if it was paid into their bank accounts in error.It is not enough now to say that they are paying or are going to pay back all the money and sweep the matter under the table.Because of who they are – the anti-corruption watchdogs – the Office of the Prime Minister needs to clarify this matter to the public, and if they are found wanting, they must leave their posts.People in such positions cannot afford the slightest whiff of scandal.I would therefore urge the Prime Minister and/or the ACC top brass themselves to clear this matter publicly once and for all.The people, who are counting on this office to be zero tolerant of corruption, have the right to know.IT is an important case for a number of reasons: The two officials in question, ACC Director Paulus Noa and his Deputy Erna van der Merwe, were given the important task of being the official corruption watchdogs in Namibia.They had just passed through a process of screening and interviews in which one imagines, the questioning ranged far and wide as to their knowledge about graft.One presumes – even though there was scepticism in several circles at the time about the choices – that they’d passed the test! In December 2005 they were appointees of the Ministry of Justice, where both had been employed in different capacities, until their transfer in January 2006, to the ACC which was to resort under the Office of the Prime Minister.December then, should have seen their last payments from Justice and in January, their salaries would have come from the OPM budget.So, a mistake is made and both Justice and OPM pay them.When approached, Noa was less clear than Van der Merwe, who was far more forthcoming.Noa vaguely remembered a double salary payment; she clearly remembered it was January and maintained she had immediately informed the relevant salary office.It is at this point things become vague.It is the fault of the employer if a double payment is made, or an under-payment for that matter.That’s not in dispute.But most employees will notice if they’re paid even a few dollars less than usual, so they’re sure to notice when its substantially more.If, as Ms Van der Merwe maintains, she’d IMMEDIATELY informed the salary office thereof, why did she (and Noa for that matter) not pay the money back without further ado? It was, after all, money they were not entitled to, and they would have known this better than anyone! Yet we gather they started making repayments, interest free, last August only! Then came the issue of 13th cheques.Neither of the two was entitled to these payments, but again, on their birthdays (Government pays 13th cheques at this time of year to employees), they received additional amounts.Again, from what we gather, they either didn’t notice or if they did, had already spent the money, because, as far as we can gather, repayments on these amounts has not yet commenced.What we really do need to know, in order to put the issue in context, is whether or not Government alerted them, or vice versa, about the double payments.Here there is a discrepancy because sources claim they informed the of?cials in question; while the ACC’s Deputy Director said she had alerted them! We need to know this in order to be able to judge the level of honesty/dishonesty on the part of the ACC duo.Again, I must emphasise it’s not their fault that the double payments happened.But it certainly is dishonest, yes, even corrupt, if they kept silent about money they knew full well they were not entitled to.I fail to understand why both of them, who have made a number of public appearances and speeches, didn’t exercise absolute transparency, and publicly declare these occurrences at some point during their tenure to date.They could have used this example to warn others that they would be committing fraud if they used/spent money they were not entitled to, even if it was paid into their bank accounts in error.It is not enough now to say that they are paying or are going to pay back all the money and sweep the matter under the table.Because of who they are – the anti-corruption watchdogs – the Office of the Prime Minister needs to clarify this matter to the public, and if they are found wanting, they must leave their posts.People in such positions cannot afford the slightest whiff of scandal.I would therefore urge the Prime Minister and/or the ACC top brass themselves to clear this matter publicly once and for all.The people, who are counting on this office to be zero tolerant of corruption, have the right to know.

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