Saturday, December 3, 2022

Botswana’s corruption getting ‘more sophisticated’ – DCEC boss

From 1174 to 544 in 2021, the number of cases of suspected corruption reported to the Directorate of Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC) might lead one to think that corruption is declining but that is far from being the case.

In explaining this situation to an MP (Wynter Mmolotsi, Francistown South) who had requested figures for corruption cases over five years, the DCEC Director General, Tymon Katholo, said that the number of cases is decreasing because Botswana’s corruption is becoming more sophisticated.

“Our corruption is graduating from petty corruption to grand corruption,” said the DCEC boss, adding much later that the Ministries of Local Government and Rural Development as well Transport and Public Works are the most corrupt.

While Katholo used “grand corruption” in throwaway fashion, the term actually has precise technical meaning that has been developed by Transparency International (TI), the Berlin-based international corruption watchdog. TI defines “grand corruption” as the abuse of high-level power that benefits the few at the expense of the many.

“Through grand corruption, vast amounts of public money are systematically siphoned off to the accounts of a few powerful individuals, at the expense of citizens who should actually benefit. Financial institutions and other enablers assist those involved in laundering the proceeds. When grand corruption and state capture happen, high-level officials may also use control over legislative and regulatory powers to legalise their activities and to weaken oversight and enforcement functions. Typically, those involved in grand corruption benefit from impunity by interfering directly with the justice system and stymieing enforcement in order to thwart being held to account. Using the levers of state control, they may also suppress independent efforts by civil society and the media to investigate and expose corruption.”

Katholo’s back-and-forth with the Committee never got to a point where he detailed how grand corruption plays itself out. In private conversations, some powerful politicians have been fingered as suspects in the grand corruption that TI describes. With regard to the sophistication element, what Sunday Standard has learnt from good sources is that the cost of multi-million-pula government tenders are egregiously and routinely inflated and the tender documents made so technically sophisticated that it is near-impossible to detect this crime. Having taken years to form, the cartels doing this are said to have entrenched themselves in the civil service and almost impossible to legally get rid of.

Sebina/Gweta MP, Paulson Majaga has pointed the finger of blame at another group: mid-level managers in the civil service. He said that in March this year during a debate on the budgetary allocation for the Ethics and Integrity Directorate. Majaga described mid-level managers as “the most corrupt in the civil service,” adding that while some of them might earn a monthly salary as low as P6000, “they are building houses that cost as much as P4.2 million in Gaborone North, houses that we as MPs can’t afford to build.” During the same debate, Bobonong MP, Taolo Lucas, said that African presidents and vice presidents are routinely lavished with expensive gifts of evidently corrupt nature.

“This has happened in Botswana,” said Lucas, who had earlier asserted that as a group, African presidents “pose the biggest threat to the economic security” of the respective nations they lead.

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