Saturday, May 30, 2020

DCEC says it’s still focussing on corrupt small fish

For the first time since its formation, nobody can credibly make the claim that the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime is not focussing on big fish. For the first time ever, a new charge can be made against the Directorate: it is not paying enough attention on corruption by junior civil servants that involves small sums of money, some of that corruption directly connected to a decade-long salary freeze.

However, the DCEC spokesperson, Lentswe Motshoganetsi, contends that assertion by stating that “the DCEC gives equal attention to all matters pertaining to corruption regardless of whether some are high profile or low profile.” It turns out though that in the past two years, it was the high-profile cases that required significant commitment of DCEC’s already inadequate resources. Top of that list will be the National Petroleum Fund case in which some big names have been implicated. What is alleged to have happened is that P250 million was tricked out of the NPF and into the pockets of senior government officials, including senior ruling-party politicians. The paper trail has led investigators abroad. Countries that have been named during court proceedings include South Africa, Israel and Italy. Motshoganetsi says that more investigative resources have had to be apportioned to high profile cases.

He adds: “Therefore, a lot of our investigation resources – which are inadequate – were diverted to deal with these matters which are currently at an advanced stage.” That notwithstanding, he notes that “the remaining resources have been posted optimally to deal with the day-to-day reports and investigation needs.” Corruption by junior civil servants that involves small sums of money would fall under the latter category. This corruption involves sums of money as low as P8000 but given that this corruption is historically rampant and when all those sums are added up, the government is losing billions of pula. As all other types of corruption, this one also involves a cut for someone from the procuring department, supplies, finance and in some cases, the middleman (insider or outsider) who connected the supplier with the procuring department.

To clothe itself with legality, in some cases this corruption takes the form of officers inviting marks to bid for jobs whose suppliers they have already decided on. Once these marks have been duped, the scammer-officers typically don’t even bother providing feedback about the outcome of the bidding process. In the event, DCEC sniffers pick up scent of corruption, the marks’ bids will be used as evidence that official tendering procedure was followed. A government source at the Public Procurement and Asset Disposal Board says that the most worrying thing about corruption by junior civil servants that involves small sums of money is that it is now operated by system-wide, scratch-mine-I-will-scratch-yours syndicates that can encompass as many as six different government departments.

Some explain the corruption in question in terms of a wage freeze that occurred under the previous administration. With the cost of living going up, survival instinct that activate criminal behaviour in some civil servants kicked in.  

Since taking over the reins of power last year, President Mokgweetsi Masisi has launched a historic anti-corruption crusade that may likely nab his predecessor, General Ian Khama, under whom corruption reached unusually high levels. As a direct result of this crusade, for the first time in Botswana’s history, big guns are not only being targetted but prosecuted as well. 

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Sunday Standard May 24 – 30

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