Sunday, July 3, 2022

DIS / DCEC relationship at tipping point

It was only a matter of time before the seething behind the scenes relationship between the Directorate of Intelligence Services, the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC) and the Botswana Police Services (BPS) boiled over and spiled out into the open.

Sunday Standard has turned up a lengthy and detailed savingram by DCEC Director Tymon Katlholo addressed to Permanent Secretary to the President Emmah Peloetletse, titled” Inter-agency cooperation.”

It emerges from the document that a meeting was called and chaired by the Minister for Presidential Affairs, Governance and Public Administration Kabo Morwaeng aimed at discussing issues of concern related to inter-agency cooperation/collaboration which was premised on collaborative partnership and information sharing.

The meeting was also attended by among others, the Minister for Defence, Justice and Security Kagiso Mmusi.

Also, in attendance were: Peloetletse, the Director Generals DIS and DCEC, Commander Botswana Defence Force (CDF), Commissioner of Police (COMPOL); Attorney General. 

In his letter, Katlholo states that there was concern that the collaborative partnership was not operating in the manner that it should, especially among three agencies, namely DCEC, DIS and Police.

Katlholo revealed that the agencies were given an opportunity to give their respective perspectives.

He said the DCEC raised a number of concerns which were not resolved and were to be addressed at another meeting to be arranged by the PSP within a short period of time.

“To date such a meeting is yet to be convened, but the concerns which were intended to be addressed at the said meeting continue unabated, albeit with an element of impunity which really worry us as an oversight institution,” said Katlholo.

He said there is now a public outcry that the DCEC has abdicated its mandate on the prevention and combating of corruption; and further that the Directorate on Intelligence Services (DIS) has now usurped the powers to investigate corruption from the DCEC.

“While we do not believe that we have abdicated our mandate, we find ourselves hamstrung to respond to this public outcry because the DIS is on record saying they are investigating corruption,” he said.

He added that, “The DIS is on record arresting and detaining people on allegation of corruption. Further, the DIS is on record cancelling tenders on the basis of corruption, under the pretext of national security.”

Katlholo says he pointed at the “above referenced meeting, that no entity, other than the PPADB (Public Procurement and Asset Disposal Board), has the authority to cancel a tender unilaterally – let alone arbitrarily.”

He further indicated that a tender cannot be cancelled on the basis of issues that are outside of its compliance structure.

“Notwithstanding the foregoing the DIS is now targeting the DCEC and is on record issuing demands warrant against the DCEC, under the guise of the National Security Act, demanding corruption investigation files of the DCEC,” said Katlholo.

He further states that the “DCEC is a legally established entity, under an Act of Parliament, therefore it is not only absurd but disconcerting that its activities could be construed as national security threat.”

Katlholo said if the DIS has intelligence on certain officers of the DCEC having abused their power; it must share such intelligence rather than portraying the DCEC as a national security threat.

“There are intrinsic mechanisms within the Corruption and Economic Crime Act intended to hold officers of the DCEC accountable for their official conduct and also constraining the DCEC, as an institution, to lend itself in the realm of national security threat, by limiting what it can or cannot legally do,” said Katlholo.

He said the mandate of the DCEC, as provided by CECA, is too narrow to be construed as manifesting into a national security threat.

“It is therefore worrisome for the DIS to demand classified investigation files from officers of the DCEC and even go to the extent of summoning and keeping such officers at their facilities until wee hours of the morning ostensibly to interview them on their conduct of DCEC investigations without reference to the Director General of the DCEC, who is by law the custodian of such information, in total disregard of all established Inter-Agency Protocols,” he said.

Katlholo said the DCEC is currently seized with investigations of allegations of corruption by some high-ranking officials of the DIS, present and past.

“Some of such investigations are at advanced stage and are under consideration for prosecutions. I must point out that such demands outside the established protocols and what is permissible under CECA, irrespective of who is involved, are illegal and tantamount to abuse of office, which is crime under CECA,” he said.

Katlholo revealed that most recently, on 8th of December,2021 at night, he received a call from the DCEC Deputy Director Operations to the effect that she had been called by DIS officials that they wanted to interview two DCEC officers in the name of “(names withheld for legal reasons) in connection with an investigation that the two officers undertook in the past and that they wanted the two officers that very same night.”

He said he told the Deputy Director the procedure was that any information from the investigation file was protected by law and “the best approach would be for DIS officials to come to the office the following morning and they would be facilitated in the spirit of the signed MOU.”

“Subsequent to my conversation with my Deputy, I received a call at around 2130hrs, from someone who identified himself as (names withheld for legal reasons from DIS Sebele. He reiterated the conversation I received from my Deputy Director-OPS.”

He added that: “I repeated my conversation with my Deputy and tried to prevail upon the said officer on what I thought was the easiest and most acceptable way to facilitate him in his investigation, if he required official information from the DCEC.”

Katlholo said the officer told him in no uncertain terms that he was not interested in all I was suggesting to him, “but I should make sure that the officers attend his interview that very night asked him about the legal authority under which I was obliged to make the officers available for his interview, especially during such odd hours.”

According to Katlholo, on 15th December 2021, he received a Savingram dated 14th December, 2021, from DIS asking him to release four DCEC officers named in the Savingram “immediately upon receipt of this letter”.

He said he called the Acting Director General DIS at the time, Tefo Kgotlhane, and “assured him of our utmost cooperation, but indicated to him that what he was asking for, to release the officers upon receipt of his correspondence was probably above board, because apart from the fact that the rest of the officers were scattered all over engaged in official business, one of them was on sick leave.”

According to Katlholo, “We seemed to agree that the officers will attend the interview the following morning. In the mean time I had an opportunity to inform the officers about the DIS call. I also promised to dispatch a letter to confirm my conversation with the DIS”

Katlholo said in the afternoon, around 1600hrs his Deputy Director General-Ops came to his

office to inform him that she had received a telephone call from DIS to make herself available for interview at DIS Sebele and that she must bring along with her the rest of the officers.

“I told her that we had agreed with the Acting DIS Director General that they will be available the following morning, but if she was free from what she was doing then she could go and attend,” he said.

Katlholo said: “It was around 1800hrs, when I received a call from Deputy Director General Operations that the DIS officials were insisting that they wanted the officers like immediately.”

In response, Katlholo said he informed the DIS agent that it was within his power to follow those officers if he felt they had done something contrary to the law, but otherwise he had agreed with Kgotlhane that the officers would be available for interview the following morning.

“Notwithstanding, I understand that (one of the DCEC officers) was followed to his house that very same evening and was taken to DIS Sebele where he waited briefly and was released without interview, and told to go back home and come the following morning.”

He said on 16th December 2021, in the morning, the two DCEC officers left for DIS Sebele at 0800.

“I am told they arrived at 0830hrs. By 1100hrs (one of the DCEC officials) called my office to say that they had not been attended to since they arrived at 0830 hrs. I called the Acting Director DIS, who then told me that the DG was around and suggested that I call him,” said Katlholo.

Katlholo said at 1123hrs, “I called the DIS DG. We spoke and I briefed him. He assured me that he will attend to the matter and will revert. It was at 0230hrs, hours of 17th December,2021 that the two officers were released.”

“Even then the DG never had the courtesy to revert to me despite my several calls to which he did not see the need to return. To date the DG has not responded to my calls very much against the spirit of inter-agency cooperation or the MOU,” said Katlholo.

He said it must be clearly understood that DG DIS has an obligation in terms of Section 5 of the ISS Act to share Ministerial Intelligence Information with respective accounting officers on matters concerning national security, related to such Ministries/Departments.

He said DIS also has an obligation to regulate and coordinate, in cooperation with any Government Ministry or Department or Agency entrusted with any aspect of the maintenance of national security, the flow of intelligence and security.

“In my view inter-agency cooperation is premised on the provision of this particular aspect of the law,” Katlholo said.

He noted that by virtue of being mandated to combat corruption, DCEC is entrusted with an aspect of the maintenance of national security with respect to corruption and in this regard, DIS must work with the DCEC or any other ministry/department, not coerce them.

“Thus, if the DCEC officers concerned are involved in any activities that are considered subversive to national security, it is only proper, in accordance with the above provisions, that such acts are brought to the attention of the accounting officer,” said Katlholo.

He said he finds it absurd to suggest that investigations by DCEC, carried out in conformity with the law, could constitute a national security threat.

“That line of thinking defies logic,” he said.

Katlholo said: “Right or wrongly so, the DCEC has a strong believe that there seem to be quest on the part of the DIS to either micro manage the DCEC or the DIS deliberately wants to administratively destabilise the DCEC.”

He said “such a believe can only be disabused through the awaited meeting.”

He cited as an example, an incident in which the DIS issued vehicles to some officers of the DCEC for personal use without taking the Director General of the DCEC into its confidence on its activities with regard to such officers, save for unprocedural demand of resources of

the DCEC to foster such activities.

“Recently, the DIS hand-picked some officers of the DCEC, and through the office of the PSP, the DCEC was asked to release the named officers to the DIS to undertake an urgent operation,” said Katlholo.

He said his agency finds “it quite disturbing that under those circumstances, it was not supposed to have an appreciation of why it should release the officers concerned.”

According to Katlholo, attempt to seek clarity from the DIS, “as per PSP’s letter, was met with arrogance, negativity and little regard for accountability on the part of the DIS, as if all that

was expected was for the DCEC to blindly follow the instructions.”

 He argued that collaborative partnership is all about mutual understanding and respect.

“I do not expect the DCEC to give DIS instructions on the deployment of its resources, neither do I expect DIS to do the same to DCEC, save for where there is mutual understanding, as regulated by the MOU and by and large, the respective statutes,” said Katlholo.  

He said since the DIS increased its footprints on the internal administrative affairs of the DCEC, the DCEC has experienced unprecedented leakage of investigation files.

“The recent letter of complaint against me by one of my Deputies and the previously leaked tape recording of the meeting that was convened to discuss evidence in the so called “Butterfly” case bear testimony to such concerns,” said Katlholo.

He said it must be recalled that while the DCEC is not an intelligence agency but an investigative agency, it has processes and procedures of managing the conduct of an investigation which must be adhered to at all times by its personnel to protect the integrity of such an investigation, hence no investigation undertaken by an officer of the DCEC will be regarded as lawful unless it was authorised by the DG in terms of CECA.

“Similarly, no officer of the DCEC has the authority to disclose any information on investigation undertaken by the DCEC to any other person, unless sanctioned by the DG DCEC. All these principles need to be observed when dealing with information emanating from the DCEC investigations,” said Katlholo.

Therefore, he called on Peloetletse to “convene the long-agreed meeting to resolve the foregoing.”

“The DCEC kindly wishes to bring it to your attention the existence of Inter-Agency Cooperation Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the following Agencies: DCEC, DIS, Botswana Police Service, Botswana Unified Revenue Service, and Financial Intelligence Agency,” said Katlholo.

He said the MoU states that the cooperation will be in accordance with the relevant national

laws and within the framework of the respective agencies’ mandates.

“The MoU states its purpose as the exchange of intelligence with specific focus on effective and efficient law enforcement, amongst others, and proceeds to state that when a Member of the MOU receives or is investigating a matter which does not fall within its scope and jurisdiction it may refer it to the relevant Participant,” he said.

“It is in view of the issues raised above that we plead with your office to intervene and have

the above issues discussed and addressed,” he informed Peloetletse. In her response, Peloetletse informed Katlholo that, “the issues you raised are not much of a departure from the deliberations made in the September 10th meeting convened by the Hon. Minister for Presidential Affairs, Governance and Public Administration.”

She said; “In view of the allegations you raised, which in my range of vision appears to be drifting towards irremediable levels, I have taken a decision to call for a meeting between yourself and the Director General, Directorate of Intelligence and Security (DIS).”

She said, “It is important that the roles and responsibilities of the two entities as well defined by the statutes are further clarified and contextualised.”

“In this regard a meeting will be arranged as soon as both parties are available,” said Peloetletse.

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