Despite rhetorical claims, nothing much has changed on the ATI or anti-corruption fronts since the last International Anti-Corruption Day, writes Frederico Links.

This year’s International Anti-Corruption Day (IACD) is marked under the theme ‘Recover with Integrity’ to reflect the call that corruption should not derail responses to the COVID-19 pandemic that has wreaked such havoc through 2020. Unfortunately, corruption has become a prominent concern around the world as COVID-19 has ravaged countries and societies, with numerous reports having emerged of the pandemic having provided cover for some to benefit unduly and illegally from COVID-19 emergency procurement spending.

This is why the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) has noted in marking the 2020 IACD, that: “Corruption thrives in times of crisis and the ongoing global pandemic has not been an exception either. During the COVID-19 health crisis, fighting corruption can mean the difference between life and death; adequate food or hunger; having a roof over one’s head or becoming homeless.”

Sadly for too many, this is exactly what the pandemic will come to mean to them. With the global and local recoveries still a matter of uncertainty by 9 December 2020, Namibia could ill afford to lose what little state resources it had to prop up its long-teetering healthcare system to pandemic related corruption, waste and mismanagement. This is no small matter, for the signs are there that some corruption might have infiltrated Namibia’s COVID-19 response efforts, as default public procurement rules were set aside to fast-track the state’s COVID-19 responses.

That is why there needs to be a comprehensive and transparent accounting for how state resources were allocated and spent once the COVID-19 crisis has subsided. With COVID-19 following hot on the heels of the grand-scale Fishrot corruption scandal, that surfaced in November-December 2019, one would have thought that Namibian authorities would have been sensitive to corruption further blighting the country’s reputation.

But not much has changed in the year since this scandal broke publicly, for the fact is that Namibia remains under-armed in its anti-corruption responses. Despite rhetorical commitments from the presidency, we still don’t have an access to information law by end 2020; and the whistleblower and witness protection laws, four years after enactment, have still not been operationalised. So, on this IACD, we once again call on Namibian authorities to enact the Access to Information Bill that is before parliament, and to fully operationalise as a matter of urgency both the whistleblower and witness protection laws.

In this way commitment to anti-corruption would be demonstrated and such actions would ensure in some way that we ‘recover with integrity’.