Deliberate stalling of operationalization of
whistle-blower office loots state resources-PDM

Martin Endjala

Popular Democratic Movement (PDM) view the stalling in operationalising the whistle-blowers office in the country as continuing to loot state resources which negatively impacts the electorate.

The party also says it is inexcusable that the government continues to sing the old song of “insufficient funds” to operationalise this office despite the law being passed over five years ago. The only possible answer the party indicates, is that the government wants to aid and abet corruption, hence the stalling. “We say no to corruption! Not on our watch,” reads a statement. The party is giving the government 60 days to establish the whistle-blower offices or it will initiate take legal action against the government to ensure whistle-blower offices are established and corruption is brought to a halt in Namibia.

The party, in statement today, says very often information of improper conduct and nefarious dealings come to the attention of authorities through the actions of individuals who may have access to such information because of their employment and their daily interactions with the subject matter of the report. These individuals are often intimate with the subject matter of the report and are best placed to identify the corrupt practices and misconduct.

The Namibian Whistle-Blower Protection Act of 2017 provides for the establishment of a Whistleblower Office to investigate disclosures of improper conduct, and to investigate complaints of retaliation against the persons making the disclosures. “ Or at least we thought so, which sets out protections for persons making disclosures, said to offer no financial rewards, as is the case in other jurisdictions like the United States of America, which financially rewards whistle-blowers in terms of the False Claims Act.”

To this regard, the party believes that there are shortcomings in the Act, specifically as it relates to state agencies. The Act states that if the disclosure “principally involves questioning the merits of government policy, including the policy of a public body”, then the whistleblower may not be protected.

“Clauses such as, (i) where the disclosure is made in good faith in relation to the information disclosed. This is very vague as good faith is subjective and needs objective testing to prove authenticity. (ii) If the whistleblower has reasonable cause to believe the information/disclosure is substantially true.”

These limitations, the party says, are said to have an effect on the willingness of potential reporters of misconduct and corrupt practices, especially those employed or situated within official state agencies, to report wrong-doings. Which are often perpetuated under the guise of public policy and the implementation of strategic state objectives.

There is an overemphasis on punishment for false reporting in that, were anyone found guilty of making a false report, is liable to pay a fine of up to N$100 000 and/or a term of imprisonment not exceeding 20 years. As opposed to the lesser sentences imposed on persons who exact retaliation against whistleblowers. The issue of disclosures being vetted through the Commissioner or his investigators in the Whistle-Blower Protection Office also raises the spectre of possible intimidation of reporters of corruption. This is particularly of concern in matters where politically influential persons are implicated in corruption or suspected corruption the party opined, the party says.

By Observer