The Minister responsible for Defence and Security, Shaw Kgathi on Friday retracted a statement he made to parliament earlier this year regarding the declaration of assets by members of parliament as well as the, judges of the high court.
On March 24, Kgathi told parliament that cabinet ministers have been declaring their interests to President Ian Khama while judges were declaring to the Chief Justice Maruping Dibotelo same as Members of Parliament whom he said do so to Speaker of the National Assembly.
However on Friday Kgathi requested that part of his March 24 answer to a question by Gabane-Mmankgodi Member of Parliament, retired Major General Pius Mokgware be expunged from the Hansard as he said he has since established that members of parliament and judges are not doing as the ‘executive’ expect them to.
“I wish to retract my submission in relation to Members of Parliament and judicial officers as I have since established that this is not yet the case. My answear at the time was based on the expectation on the part of the executive that Members of Parliament would declare their interests to the Speaker and judicial officers to the chief executive”, Kgathi said Friday.
In his response to the Minister’s statement, Selebi Phikwe West MP, Ditlhapelo Keorapetse asked Kgathi to state the law or regulation that forces cabinet ministers to declare their interest to the president. Keorapetse also wanted to know whether if such law does not exist then ministers can snub the declaration and whether there would be consequences for doing such. Kgathi was later to respond by saying as a minister he was guided by the oath he took when he got appointed to the ministerial position. He also spoke of ‘general’ governance principles which he said guides the non-compulsory declaration.
The long-running debate around the promulgation of a law requiring public officials including cabinet ministers, judges as well as members of parliament to declare their assets has been ongoing for quite a long time now.
Responding to a question on slow criminal justice processes on the floor of parliament in March this year, Minister Kgathi said there was no need for a specific law as senior public officials were already declaring their assets to their constitutional principals.
The motion asking for declaration of assets by political leaders was first tabled by former Francistown Member of Parliament for Francistown Joy Phumaphi more than 12 years ago. However to date no law has been implemented despite numerous attempts by opposition parties legislatures to have it put into place.
Previously the former Member of Parliament for Gaborone Central and leader of Botswana Congress Party, Dumelang Saleshando, had highlighted that having leaders declare their assets and giving the public full access to the information would go a long way in insuring accountability.
Despite resistance by government to introduce assets declaration law, the business community has since declared their support and need to inact such a law. During the BOCCIM (Now Business Botswana) National Business Conference held in Maun late last year, members resolved to ‘propose’ to government to consider enacting a law that will make it mandatory for executive members of government and legislatures to declare their assets and liabilities.
The resolution was agreed after one of the presenters at the conference, Tymon Katholo, presented on a gap analysis of the difference between international best practices and Botswana existing laws with regard to corruption.
Katholo, who is the managing director of Tyedo Investments, said that in order for Botswana to win the battle against corruption, there was need to address the issue of impunity which produced secrecy thus resulting in corrupt practices.
The former Director of the Directorate of Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC) said that there was need to come up with declaration of assets act and leadership code of conduct which would basically focus on the values and principles for managing public resources.
At the end of the conference attendants of the bi-annual national business conference then agreed to draft the declaration of assets and liabilities as part of their resolutions.
The resolution followed a study by Afro Barometer in 2012 which revealed that a considerable number of citizens are in support of a law on declaration of assets and liabilities by the country’s politicians and top government officials.
Out of the 1200 Batswana interviewed by the Afro Barometer team, over 50 percent of those interviewed expressed support for declaration of assets and liabilities by cabinet ministers. The respondents prefer a disclosure of assets and liabilities to an independent body instead of the President as is currently the case.
From the study, 64 percent were in support of the law on asset declaration being extended to sitting Members of Parliament, heads of Parastatals and senior government officials.