… As IPPR pushes the targeting of corrupt officials
By Eliaser Ndeyanale
THE institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) has proposed new piece of legislation to deal with corrupt public officials.
The proposed new law dealing with “illicit enrichment” is being pushed by IPPR researcher Max Weylandt, who says that government can use it in cases where a public official’s assets have increased significantly, without a satisfactory explanation.
Illicit enrichment is criminalised under Article 20 of the United Nations Convention against Corruption (UNCAC), which defines it as the “significant increase in the assets of a public official that he or she cannot reasonably explain”, in relation to their lawful income.
Weylandt said that if a public official has more money than they are supposed to be earning from their legitimate income, they can be prosecuted if they cannot explain where the money comes from.
He, however, added that an illicit enrichment law cannot be viewed as a quick fix for corruption.
Weylandt said that Namibia first needs to seriously commit to fixing and expanding its financial disclosure systems.
He said that information on the financial interests of public officials can provide a useful baseline for investigators in corruption cases, and can also provide leads.
“Asset declarations need to be expanded to uniformly cover all senior public officials. Unlike now, their mandatory nature needs to be enforced across the board, and non-compliance punished. Declarations should also be audited, both to ensure the veracity of information supplied by officials, and to provide potential leads for investigators, should suspicious transactions be flagged,” Weylandt said.
He further suggested that lifestyle audits for high-ranking officials should become common practice.
“Privacy concerns will have to be considered, but as noted above, public officials implicitly agree to subject themselves to a certain level of scrutiny, when entering (the) public service. For practical concerns, these audits could be carried out on a randomly chosen subset of senior officials – and of course on those who are being investigated already.
“Authorities should aggressively use tax laws to prosecute corrupt behaviour, in cases where other crimes are difficult to prove. Hopefully, the soon-to be established independent Revenue Agency will have both the legal authority and human capacity to pursue cases of tax evasion and other tax crimes.”
In addition, the researcher said that lifestyle checks are a way of detecting illicit enrichment.
Last year, President Hage Geingob raised the possible introduction of lifestyle audits, to detect corruption, when he was interviewed on Voice of America’s Straight Talk Africa.
Lifestyle audits seek to determine whether the standard of living of a public official is clearly appropriate to their level of earnings. In the course of an audit, investigators examine not just their assets and spending, but also the activities of public officials.
Namibia does not have an illicit enrichment law, and institutions are mostly on the lookout for money laundering, fraud and similar crimes.
Confidente. Lifting the Lid. Copyright © 2015