Monday, September 21, 2020

Government must renew its commitment to fight corruption

Over the years, the Botswana government has gone to extraordinary lengths to strengthen the public institutions of democracy.

That is indeed commendable given that Botswana chose such a path at a time when many other African countries were going entirely different routes that, in many instances, led to the plunder of their otherwise promising countries and economies.

Just as democracy found its roots in Botswana and flourished so did the country’s economy.

It would be dishonest to say Botswana is where it is today because of its mineral resources.

The people managing those resources also played an important role in ensuring that such resources did not become a course as had happened in many other African countries.

As we all know, many African countries endowed with far greater mineral resources than Botswana have actually been reduced to ruins.

As a country and people, we should always be grateful for the route and the solid foundations that our people laid for ourselves.
While Botswana’s economy is among the most envied and sophisticated in the region, there cannot be any room for complacency.

Far bigger challenges face this country than was the situation 40 years ago.
Unlike the situation in the 1960s, immediately after independence, when there was almost nothing to steal, there is today a lot of things and money that can be stolen in Botswana.
That has of course increased the temptation among public officers who, by and large, manage the multi billion Pula economy that is Botswana’s economy.
Given that scenario it is no wonder that official corruption in Botswana is on the rise.

Rules, Regulations and laws are circumvented as a matter of routine.
The economy of Botswana has not only grown, it has also become more sophisticated and interlinked to the global economy.

It will not take us far to continue banging our horn that we are the least corrupt country in Africa.
We should not rely exclusively on the statistics and conclusions reached by Transparency International, especially when the reality on the ground points to different directions.

Believing Transparency International would be akin to one saying they are feeling hungry only to be told by a self-styled expert that it could not be true that they felt so hungry.
Ordinary Batswana are saying corruption in their country is on the march.
Transparency International is resolute in its assertion that it cannot be true that corruption in Botswana is on the rise.

Many Batswana feel helpless and alienated as they see year in year out the government procurement budget is divided among the same companies who are owned by families of the well connected.

While it is true that corruption in Botswana manifests itself in many strands and formats, by far the biggest rot is official, white collar corruption.

Which is why, as we have so often pointed out, it is very important that the DCEC (Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime) should be reformed.
The DCEC reforms should not just be organizational, but should also look at enhancing the mandate of the DCEC.
There are pervasive perceptions which, unfortunately, cannot be dismissed off hand that DCEC is under the stranglehold of the Office of the President.

Critics use this perception to discredit DCEC, and use that as a reason why, after so many years in existence, the organization is still to prosecute a senior politician.

Capacity is a serious issue at DCEC. Until this handicap is addressed, many critics will continue to look at the Directorate as just an extension of the Police Service.
This in itself is not good, not least because of image and Public Relations purposes.

DCEC is supposed to be a premier, corruption-busting organisation that has the organizational intellect and capacity to fight sophisticated white collar malfeasance.
Popular opinion today is that the organisation is not living up to that mandate.

We urge government to renew their commitment to fighting crime by equipping DCEC with crack detectives.
More importantly, DCEC should have resources to hire chartered accountants, senior lawyers, auditors and forensic auditors.

Like we say, corruption is becoming more and more sophisticated.
And when the scourge is not honestly and sincerely tackled it can easily degenerate into a national security crisis.

Our memories are still fresh how institutionalised corruption in Kenya metamorphosed into a powerful establishment that literally went as far as to decide who won the general elections and ultimately went on to run that country.

We should not allow corruption in Botswana to get that far.
To stop that from happening, government needs to renew its fight against corruption, even if it means taking head on some of the country’s most powerful that look at themselves as the sacred cows.

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Sunday Standard September 20 – 26

Digital copy of Sunday Standard issue of September 20 - 26, 2020.