The ACC director has once again raised hopes by his vow to bring to book all those involved in the SME Bank missing N$200 million. Noa, who is known to target soft targets such as government drivers and those who would have helped themselves to a few dollars, wants to ﬁsh out the big ﬁsh. But some analysts believe that Noa does not have the guts to act like a heroic ACC boss.
The Villager asks too: Can Noa be a man this time around or he just trying to be strong in the face of his critics?
The Anti-Corruption Commission managing director Paulus Noa has this time seemingly waded into the SME Bank case uninvited after his recent vow to deal with everybody involved. Noa’s comments made at Omuthiya Tuesday about the ACC having made progress with investigations into the missing N$200 million seems to contradict his deputy Advocate Erna van der Merwe’s comment to The Villager.
Noa made the comments during a meeting where stakeholders discussed the National Anti-Corruption Strategy and Action Plan. Last month, Noa said the ACC would be happy to work with the police if invited. In the past, Noa had brushed off cases saying that the organisation can only probe when somebody approached them with a complaint. The SME Bank case is already being investigated by the Bank of Namibia and the police have also said they are on the case.
According to Noa, the ACC will track down the suspects and that this time they will spare anyone. The SME Bank, he said, doesn’t have many transactions involving Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe and this will make it easier for the ACC to probe.
According to Noa, some managers who exploited loopholes they created in the system siphoned the N$200 million. “What happened is that some managers failed to report to the board where they had invested the money,” he said. Three of SME Bank top managers ﬂed the country end of February this year when the Bank of Namibia moved in to manage. But Noa said the ACC knows where the managers are in Zimbabwe.
Noa charged that even those who were not directly involved in the saga would be asked to account for their actions. “We will know who led to the state of affairs and where those managers are,” he said. Noa accused unnamed ofﬁcials of having been part of the whole scam.
“I am not saying someone has to speak for others. Everyone has to be answerable,” he further charged. The ACC boss said people must desist from saying that those suspected of involvement in the disappearance of the money will be left to walk free. The Villager could not reach Noa for comment after the meeting.
Some of the big shots who have been involved with the SME Bank are the former Secretary to Cabinet Frans Kapoﬁ and the current one George Simataa. Another is the minority shareholder, the Zimbabwean businessman Enock Kamushinda who has strong ties to Zanu-PF and President Robert Mugabe.
President Hage Geingob, who spearheaded the creation of the bank when he was trade minister, has since distanced himself from the scandal. Addressing a press conference last month, Geingob said he chose not to intervene in the SME Bank issue because it was subjudice. “Let me make use of this opportunity to clarify that the SME Bank was never a “Hage” project as portrayed by some.
“The formation of the SME Bank came about as a result of a Cabinet resolution to convert the former credit guarantee scheme into an SME Bank. “Since the matter resorted under the then Ministry of Trade and Industry and I was the Minister, I swiftly attended to the execution of the resolution,” he said Geingob also pointed out that the government had asked the Bank of Namibia for more time to allow him to take up the SME Bank matter with his political counterparts in South Africa and Zimbabwe.
“It is regrettable that since then, the bank has been put under provisional liquidation and that ordinary Namibians have lost their employment,” he said, adding that he regrets the loss of jobs. This is the ﬁrst time Noa has spoken about the SME Bank issue and his desire to bring to book all those involved.
Since then, the Bank of Namibia has been involved in the investigations, while the police came in a while later. Van der Merwe, however, said they were just assisting when required. “I can conﬁrm that this is a police investigation and so they are leading it.
“We are assisting when required. The Director did not say that we are investigating, but he also did not deny that we are assisting,” Van der Merwe told The Villager on Wednesday. When asked if the police asked them to help, she said: “No, that we will not be able to say.
That will be revealing information which is supposed to be kept conﬁdential. Unless the person has permitted us to reveal the identity, we will not be in a position to do so,” she said. Van der Merwe also said depending on the kind of information they receive; the ACC will have a deﬁnite lead.
“But if there is a high-level person involved, of course, that person will not be spared. “Why would we do that? There is nothing different about that person from any other person when it comes to the criminal investigation; you have to investigate whoever is involved,” she said.
The Bank of Namibia said on Wednesday that they are not aware how the different agencies are cooperating on that case. Although police Inspector General Lieutenant General Sebastian Ndeitunga told The Villager on Wednesday that he was on leave, he has in the past said they were concerned with possible contravention of the prevention of organised crime.
Ndeitunga has also revealed that the police have been to South Africa and that there has been some progress in the investigation.
“We made a lot of progress. The police members, who are part of the team, visited South Africa and gathered necessary evidence that could be valuable to our investigation,” Ndeitunga told The New Era newspaper last month. Joseph Diescho does not think Noa can make any change this time around judging from his record and that of the ACC. “It is unlikely that they will catch up with high proﬁle politicians under the current circumstances and given the background of the ACC.
“It is unlikely that they will bite, they would have bitten before. The SME Bank issue is complicated for them to unravel and complete and I do not think they are sophisticated and independent enough. I feel sorry for them,” Diescho said.
According to Diescho, Noa and the ACC are incapable of the duties expected from an Anti-Corruption Commission like in South Africa. He said the people at the ACC (should) have their allegiance to the Constitution and not the people who appointed them.
“We have a compromised system. They are all governed by fear. They look at the men involved and say “Eish”. This matter involves jurisdictions of states - Zimbabwe, South Africa and Namibia.
“The people we see on the surface (implicated in the saga) are just carriers of suitcases who answer to powerful people behind them who sit on a lot of money. “The starting point is, did Kapoﬁ and Simataa violate the law of corruption? They did. They beneﬁted from loans at the bank,” Diescho said.
Graham Hopwood said the ACC should be the one to investigate the SME Bank case because it falls directly within their ambit.
“Money has disappeared, and somebody has to be held accountable. In the past, they have been accused of letting go of certain people, but they need to demonstrate to the public that they can handle this matter,” Hopwood said.
Tara Shaanika, however, said the ACC had done well before. “The ACC and the police have been successful in certain cases involving high proﬁle people. I do not see why they should fail this time,” he said.