Wednesday, October 20, 2021

DIS boss given blank check

Directorate of Intelligence and Security Services, Isaac kgosi has been given a free hand to run the spy agency at his whim and spend millions of its budgeted money as he wishes without accounting to anyone ÔÇô it has emerged this week.

All oversight organisations which were set up to make the spy agency accountable have either collapsed or non dysfunctional. It emerged this week that the DIS has never been audited since it was set up in 2008, although the Auditor General has been mandated to conduct regular annual audits on the agency.

This is not an isolated incident, but part of a pattern: The Parliamentary Committee on Intelligence and Security (PCIS) which was task with ensuring that the DIS operates within its mandate has also been dysfunctional since the spy agency was established.

The DIS Director General told the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) this week that it was not his fault that the Auditor General is not doing her job.

“As the DIS Director, I assume the Auditor General is an independent organisation and I cannot wake up one morning and bash their doors pleading with them to come and audit the DIS; just like I cannot go to Parliament to say come and do this and that at DIS,” he said.

He added that “We haven’t been physically audited but I am thinking that the Auditor General do audits whenever financial documents from the DIS are submitted to her.”

Kgosi argued that if there are concerns about his organisation not being audited and the Auditor General feels that something needs to be done, “it is within her mandate to inform the DIS that she will be auditing or investigating them.”

“It s a matter of the Auditor general informing us at the DIS that they have an issue that they need to follow and on any particular date and time we will be ready to allow them to conduct  an investigation as per their mandate,” said Kgosi.

However, Kgosi cautioned that ‘terms and conditions apply’ for Auditor General.

“What we will not allow is a situation whereby we see people thronging our offices without us having knowledge of where they are coming from and what they came to do. We have so many people masquerading as officers from government departments, we do not want to fall prey to that,” said Kgosi.

The Parliamentary Committee on Intelligence and Security on the other hand has been moribund for some time. It emerged in Parliament last year that the Committee had never had a Chairperson since 2014 when its then chairperson, Kagiso Molatlhegi was appointed Deputy Speaker of the national Assembly in 2014. It emerged then, that the Ministry responsible for DIS did not even know who the members of the Parliamentary Committee on Intelligence and Security were.

Asked by Parliament who the committee members were, the then Assistant Minister of Presidential Affairs and Public Administration Dikgang Makgalemele named MPs Ndaba Gaolathe and Shaun Nthaile as some members of the committee, although the pair had declined to sit in the committee.

Lesego Tsholofelo’s research paper titled “A Critical Evaluation of the Intelligence Oversight Regime in Botswana” also found that PCIS has never laid a report before Botswana’s National Assembly since the inception of DIS saying the Committee is ineffective.

The researcher says the ineffectiveness of the PCIS is demonstrated by their failure to deliver on their obligations as spelt out in Intelligence and Security Service (ISS) Act.

“An inference could be drawn here that such lack of confidence probably explains why, after five years of existence, the Tribunal is yet to adjudicate over any case…In the five years of DIS’s existence there is no case over which the Tribunal has adjudicated,” says Tsholofelo.

Either way, he says, such a scenario does not inspire confidence in the DIS and the judicial oversight mechanism in place.

The researcher says that the fact that no known investigations have been carried out, despite numerous allegations reported in the local media, not only perpetuates a negative perception about the DIS’s credibility, but also casts aspersions on the effectiveness of the Tribunal as an oversight mechanism.

Tsholefelo also found that missing from the PCIS’s functions is the oversight on the activities or operations of the Directorate.

“Without access to at least some operational information, the question arises as to how the committee ensures the DIS’s activities are consistent with their mandate. While it is acknowledged that there are inherent dangers with exposing intelligence matters to parliamentary scrutiny, it cannot be overstated that in a well-functioning liberal democracy no area of government is a “no-go” for the legislature,” he said.

On another issue, Kgosi confirmed to the PAC that the DIS was responsible for VISA and permits vetting. The DIS boss however said he the spy agency was being unfairly blamed for delays in processing visa and permit applications.

“The delay is not because of DIS. We have a time limit of four days for any VISA and permits application and we take everything back to immigration,” said Kgosi.

“All the involved entities have got a duty to play and we play ours accordingly and in time.  I can invite this committee anytime to be the judge of what we do as far as the VISA/ permits application is concerned,” he said.

RELATED STORIES

Read this week's paper