Outspoken minister of finance, Calle Schlettwein, took time to stress his incorruptibility by plainly stating that he had never received a bribe while answering questions at an Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) budget overview event last week in the capital.
The minister was hit with questions over allegations of corruption at his ministry following claims that ministerial officials were taking bribes from ordinary Namibians for services.
He hit back to say that a few cases did not mean that the entire ministry was corrupted but he however disclosed that ten of his staff members had to be arraigned before the courts on charges of corruption last year and have since been booted out.
By July last year, the minister had kicked out one person from managerial position and six others from low level positions for lack of integrity and trying to “cheat the system”.
Said the minister, “There is a statement that whatever you want to do at the finance ministry you have to bribe them. I think first of all that is gross generalization. I have never been bribed or received a bribe. I am a member of the ministry of finance. So when you go and say everything that you have to do at the finance ministry you must bribe I think it’s wrong.”
The minister however turned the tables against those that complained of bribes saying that they are equally guilty for providing the kickbacks.
“There are cases of wrong doing but then you must report them instead of bribing them. If you bribe them, then you are guilty more than the person that solicited the bribe. So I don’t think it’s good to complain if you did something wrong and say I am ok I bribed but its only the one that received the bribe that is wrong,” he said.
He drew the line by stating that the only solution out was to have zero-tolerance to corruption.
“So I believe that if we want to solve this problem of corruption on both sides we must be sure that there is no tolerance for any of that. Whether you want to bribe or you want to receive the bribe. You are equally wrong and you are equally harmful to the economy,” said the minister.
He has called for those with evidence to bring it up so he takes the necessary steps to rid his ministry of malpractices.
“If you have evidence tell me who is it that you have to bribe but if you have bribed already I will charge both of you,” said Schlettwein to giggles in the audience.
But how bad is the situation when it comes to bribery in Namibia?
A July 2017 Namibia Corruption report states that while the country suffers from less corruption compared to other countries in the region, corruption remains common.
It says that the country's public procurement sector is particularly susceptible to corruption due to the monopoly of state-owned companies (parastatals).
“A range of legislation covers other corruption offenses; however, despite a strong framework for curbing corruption, enforcement of the legislation is inconsistent. Gifts and facilitation given or received as an inducement for an act are illegal under the Anti-Corruption Act, and there are few reports of gifts being expected. However, facilitation payments are common,” it says.
Judicial corruption is also said to present a low to moderate risk to companies in Namibia but goes on to say they face significant risks of corruption when interacting with public services.
On tax administration, the report says Namibian tax regulations do not represent a significant challenge for foreign companies, but corruption and demands for bribery payments by tax authorities are common.
Corruption by customs authorities is said to impede business in Namibia, “Import procedures are very burdensome and irregular payments and bribes are common. Businesses rate the efficiency of clearance procedures as poor (GETR 2016).”
While companies face a high risk of corruption in Namibia's procurement sector the report warns that they should be aware that Namibia's extractive industries offer huge opportunities for illicit enrichment, particularly through the granting of licenses for mining and fishing.
The legal framework for curbing corruption in Namibia is strong, but enforcement is inconsistent, says the report.