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It is no secret that at the time of his death, former President Sir Ketumile Masire was very unhappy about what Botswana had become under President Lieutenant General Ian Khama. That was the context in which a ruling-party stalwart, Daniel Kwelagobe, expressed desperate need for the country to “go back to the crossroads” from where it could reorient its path forward.
More than a year after his death, Masire is helping take Botswana back to the cross roads. At a time that Botswana was experiencing one of the world’s longest economic booms and Africa’s longest, the country was awash with money. Realising the risk that posed, Masire fatefully tightened up the public financial management system by commissioning British consultants to make it almost impossible to steal from public coffers without leaving an incriminating paper trail. Resultantly and as just one example, a civil servant travelling from Gaborone to Maun on the state’s dime has to get receipts for each and every purchase that he makes along the way. That is because s/he has to account for every thebe afterwards. Accounting for every thebe occurs across the board.
Part of President Mokgweetsi Masisi’s “back-to-the-crossroads” agenda includes an anti-corruption campaign which has made some powerful people very apprehensive about what side of prison bars their future might lie. Leading this campaign are the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime, the Financial Intelligence Agency and the Botswana Unified Revenue Services. Largely as a result of Masire’s decision to tighten up the public financial management system, the work of these oversight institutions is much easier because of the paper trail. When in his state-of-the-nation address, Masisi said that “out of concern for the speed of effectiveness by our institutions, government is doing all it can to support and enhance their operations” he was withholding a lot of information. The institutions are said to be unearthing astounding levels of corruption that has been occurring over the past several years and their targets include some current and past cabinet ministers.
Partly as a result of Botswana’s stringent public financial management system and institutions that are stronger than most on the continent, Botswana is – at least according to Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index, Africa’s least corrupt country.
Masisi wants to continue Masire’s legacy in his own way. His very first legislative agenda was to adopt recommendations long made by the Eastern and Southern Africa Anti-Money Laundering Group. It is rumoured by some that trusts, which were used by the Directorate of Intelligence Services and Security to launder money, are feeling the brunt of the strengthened Corruption and Economic Crime Act. Masisi also wants to introduce legislation on the declaration of assets and liabilities.