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N$160m needed to set up Witness Protection Unit

The Minister of Justice Yvonne Dausab says at least N$160 million is required to fully operationalise the Witness Protection Unit, while an additional amount will still be needed for the Whistleblower Protection Office.

However, a budget provision of N$50 million was allocated to the Ministry of Justice for the current financial year to operationalise the Witness Protection Unit and Whistleblower Protection Office. 

Dausab further revealed that they have appointed Dr John Shimaneni as the Acting Director of the Unit, who serves as the Ministry of Justice's Deputy Executive Director, to facilitate the setting up and establishment of the Witness Protection Unit, effective 1 September. 

"The current overall estimated costs stand at N$830,000 annually for the Commissioner, and N$767,000 for the Chief Investigator. Going forward, an additional N$6 million annually will be needed in order to complete the staff complement over the next couple of years." 

"For an overall picture and to express the mammoth task facing the Ministry, the Witness Protection Unit will require approximately N$160 million per annum.

The entire budget appropriated for the Ministry for the current financial year stands at just under N$600 million. That amounts to over a quarter of the Ministry's budget just for the Witness Protection Unit," she said. 

She added that the Unit requires infrastructure, human resource capacity, and an individual of high calibre who inspires trust in the office, the public and potential whistleblowers, to head the office.

"We have, accordingly, committed to start with the financial resources that have been made available this year. The policy and legal frameworks are in place. However, given the capital-intensive nature of the institutional arrangements, the operationalisation of the two pieces of legislation since it was promulgated, was delayed," explained Dausab.

Dausab said she regrets the delays, and such a situation should not be construed as a lack of political will. 

"The major factor that has caused the delay for operationalising the two laws and the consequent setting up of the Whistleblower Protection Office is primarily related to the lack of adequate budget allocation. But the aspect of protecting whistleblowers is not entirely absent. Under section, 52(1) of the Anti-Corruption Act 8 of 2003, although not adequate, there is provision for the protection of those that blow the whistle," she explained. 

Further reiterating that "we acknowledge the delay but having done some costing and benchmarking with South Africa and the United States, setting up such an important office requires diligence and time, to ensure it is done right the first time. The nature and the work of such an office is rather sensitive and once the law is operationalised and the office set up, it must instil public trust”.

"People that blow the whistle and therefore need protection must feel safe to do so. They must feel that they have been heard and that the role they played has made a difference." 

After consideration of all factors, Dausab said it was pertinent to initially set up the Witness Protection Unit. 

"In view of this, the plan is to procure office accommodation, finalise the Regulations, Directives and Rules for the Witness Protection Act, 2017, and once completed, the commencement notices to operationalise the Act is scheduled to be Gazetted during the week of 9 to 13 October 2023," she said.






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Last modified on Monday, 18 September 2023 11:53

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