Thursday, June 4, 2020

BDP MPs should know that they are accountable to the electorate

We read with trepidation recent media reports that the ruling Botswana Democratic Party’s Member of Parliament, Kagiso Molatlhegi, intends to table a motion blocking the discussion of the report of the Parliamentary Accounts Committee.

Molatlhegi’s decision comes in the wake of disturbing reports that procedure was flouted when the Directorate on Intelligence and Security was created. The PAC report states that millions of taxpayers’ money, which was meant for the National Disaster Relief Fund, was wrongfully channeled to an organization that is by all intents and purposes not accountable to anyone. We cannot sit back and preach national security when it is clear that national funds are being abused by officers who in the end do not account to anyone.

It is even nauseating when the BDP sits back and refuses to account to parliament and the nation on why procedure was not followed when the DIS was set up.
We are not against the DIS.

What we are against is the flagrant flouting of procedure and the irresponsible manner in which public accounts are put in danger of abuse, by not instituting checks and balances to monitor those who are given responsibility of using taxpayers’ money.

What was the hurry in establishing the DIS? Why was procedure not followed?

Why put the lives of thousands of innocent citizens at risk by tapping into disaster relief funds?
Because they are generally viewed with suspicion, intelligence agencies should strive to redeem their image and allow for checks and balances by setting up institutions through which they can account for the funds appropriated to them.

As a democracy, we should be seen to be embracing accountability and corporate governance. Thus intelligence agencies should at least account to someone.

In fact, the lame excuse that DIS should not account to anyone because of security concerns is an insult to our intelligence and a shameless desecration of our democracy.

Failing this, corruption and nepotism will creep in. The end result will only be theft and abuse of funds. Whatever happened to Botswana parliament’s Standing Committee of Parliament on Intelligence. It is clear that DIS views this committee with disdain, and there are no indications that such an organ actually exists.

The DIS and the PAC aside, we learnt on Friday that the BDP used its numerical strength to quash a motion tabled by MP Botsalo Ntuane calling for a commission of enquiry into the operations of the task force that was assigned to help Botswana reap benefits from the 2010 South Africa World Cup. Only a bunch of myopic MPs who have misled themselves into thinking that they are in parliament to represent the party and not to protect the interests of their fellow party members can commit such an unbelievable act.

Well, they are wrong.

They must remember that they went to ordinary Batswana to campaign to be elected to parliament so that they represent the interests of Batswana, not of the BDP or their fellow MP. They are responsible and accountable to Batswana, the electorates, and no one else. So for them to defeat a well meant motion that would eventually shed light on exactly what happened to the funds that were allocated the task force, which funds are not from the BDP coffers but from ordinary Batswana’s pockets, is quite shameful.

We remember very well how Presidential Affairs and Public Administration Minister Lesego Motsumi and her fellow BDP MPs scuttled a motion tabled by Gaborone Central MP Dumelang Saleshando calling for declaration of assets. Motsumi came up with a lame excuse that she will table an alternative motion in the near future.

We are still waiting for that motion. And Vice President Mompati Merafhe, a seasoned politician and long serving public servant, also joined the childish charade, saying the BDP cannot allow opposition parties to steal their limelight.

Batswana are concerned about the misuse of public funds, and also aspire to institute checks and balances that would ensure that our legislators and cabinet ministers do not fall prey to the lure of corruption while running this beloved country.

For a man of Merafhe’s stature to say he does not want the opposition to steal the limelight from the ruling party is regrettable. This is not the time for political posturing and stage acting. It is time for our elected representatives to prove that they have not been using their esteemed positions to feather their nests.

This is a time for our leaders to stand up and be accountable to the people who put them in parliament, not to be pushing and shoving for the limelight. In any case, what brighter limelight is there than to be appreciated by the electorate for your outstanding performance in parliament and your dedication to protecting the interests of ordinary Batswana and the democratic ideals of this country?

It is clear that cabinet ministers, CEOs, members of parliament and top civil servants are using their esteemed positions to leverage their business interests. There are many cases in point; they do not need to be mentioned. Why then are we still fighting for the limelight instead of fighting corruption? Minister Motsumi and her colleagues in the BDP had ample time to table such a motion, why did they not?

Let the BDP be warned that the electorate is watching. It is becoming increasingly clear that BDP MPs are using their numerical strength in parliament to further their own interests and undermine democracy, accountability and corporate governance in Botswana.

Let them be warned that we are aware of their shenanigans, and we will not hesitate to remove irresponsible elements from our parliament and rope in honourable men and women who will work to make this country a better place. The political spectrum in Botswana is changing by the day, and it is almost funny how the BDP and her parliamentarians are working day and night to make us lose faith in them.

At this rate, the opposition does not even need to campaign. We made the BDP the majority in parliament because we believed that they could promote our democratic ideals.
It is now clear that we were wrong.

But then, let them enjoy their limelight while they can, because come 2014, some of them will be residing in a very dark room where there is no limelight.

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