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Stop corruption, free DCEC

Publishing Date : 30 July, 2019

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Once again Botswana has been ranked as one of the least corrupt country in Africa by Transparency International. We are yet to pass the Declaration of Assets and Liabilities law and it is a good thing that it is before the law making body. There are signs that there is political will to fight corruption, but Batswana are yet to be convinced.

However 52 percent of Batswana are of the view that corruption has worsened in the last 12 months. This is because they continue to witness acts of corruption, read about corruption, see corruption manifesting in their localities etc. It must be noted that legal provisions alone would not make Directorate of Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC) efficient; of critical importance is the need to set the DCEC free and make it an autonomous body that reports directly to Parliament and not the Executive. 

DCEC is faced with a daunting challenge from public officials who are currently not obliged by law to declare their assets and liabilities. We agree that a law requiring that public officials make periodic disclosure of their assets will deter unjust enrichment and will provide investigators and auditors with a powerful instrument to detect corruption by detecting the existence of unexplained wealth.

It is known that the main objective of declaration of assets is to enhance transparency and the trust of citizens in public administration, by disclosing information about assets of politicians and civil servants, showing they have nothing to hide. This law would also help heads of public institutions prevent conflict of interests among their employees and to resolve such situations when they arise, in order to promote integrity within institutions.

A Declaration of assets law could also help to monitor wealth variations of individual politicians and civil servants, and would dissuade them from misconduct and protect them from false accusations. This law also works in their favour, as it does protect those in government. 
DCEC’s investigations have been finding it difficult for the agency to detect corruption from those who hold public office and become rich overnight. While the general belief is that politicians are the most corrupt, senior government employees could be far much worse, more especially that they evade the attention of the media most of the time. 

On the other hand, we hold that the Whistle Blowers law will protect people who report corruption in the public sector. Protecting whistleblowers from retaliation is a tool used by most countries with proper comprehensive anti-corruption laws to promote and ease the efficient exposing of corruption, while also enhancing openness and accountability in government.

One of the challenges which the DCEC is facing is liaising with Directorate of Public Prosecution (DPP) which is accused of handling high profile cases negligently. DCEC has complained that in the past, it has thoroughly investigated cases involving high profile figures and handed them to DPP for prosecution, only for them to walk free after winning cases on technicality.

These concerns raise doubts of whether government lawyers are competent or just lack commitment in some cases. We understand that government is losing its skilled lawyers to the private sector, as they decide most of the time to pursue private practice. Perhaps it time for DCEC to have its own lawyers who are remunerated handsomely in order to attract and retain the skilled lawyers.  

Botswana could be losing over P1 billion to corruption on yearly basis due to unattended corruption cases.  For instance, in 2010 alone, the courts in Botswana had tried corruption cases involving a total of P500 million, effectively leading to more money losses considering the prevalence of unreported cases of corruption due to the reasons presented.

We must not as a country be blinded by international accolades when compared with other African countries and become complacent. We are not even the best when compared with the rest of the world. Although ranked the least in Africa, we are not even in top 20 least corrupt countries in the world. Countries like Denmark, Finland, New Zealand and Sweden enjoy higher ranking because of their approach toward the fight against corruption. We must compete with the world and not Africa alone. The fight against corruption is a continuous process and we need in place proper laws and ensure that we make the DCEC autonomous.



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