Thursday, October 22, 2020

Lawlessness, regulatory failure in DISS corruption

Investigations into corruption allegations at the Directorate of intelligence and Security Services (DISS) have turned up information of lawlessness and regulatory failure which has made the spy agency unaccountable for tax payers’ money. Sunday Standard investigations have revealed that the architects of the DISS wanted the spy agency to be insulated from oversight.

The controversy surrounding the introduction of the DISS through the Intelligence and Security Service Act (ISS) Act of 2007 however forced government to give in to demands of the dissenting groups by having both parliamentary and judicial oversight measures within the Bill, which were conspicuous by their absence in the initial Bill. Without the political will, the provisions of the ISS Act are not being enforced to such an extent that they are virtually non – existent. Investigations have revealed that the Parliamentary Committee on Intelligence and Security has never met since the appointment of new members in December 2014.

The Parliamentary Committee on intelligence and Security is tasked with “examining the expenditure, administration and policy’ of the DISS. The committee however does not have access to any operational information of the DISS and as such has never submitted a report to Parliament as mandated by the ISS Act. According to the Act, The minister responsible for intelligence is required by law, without fail, to table the committee’s report before parliament after satisfying himself that nothing in it is prejudicial to the discharge of the DISS mandate. Since its inception soon after the DISS came into being in 2008, there has never been a PCIS report tabled in Parliament. The ineffectiveness of the PCIS has led to Opposition MPs resigning from the committee in protest.  

For some time there was only one opposition MP (MP Bagalatia Arone) of the Botswana Congress Party (BCP) remaining in the committee. The committee had lost its credibility which was premised on credibility emanating from its inter-party posture. That was until December 2014 when Samuel Rantauana Buti Billy, Biggie Butale, Christian De graaff, Kagiso Molatlhegi, Ndaba Gaolathe, Shawn Nthaile and Ronald Shamkuni were voted in to the committee. Member of the Committee, also Member of Parliament for Francistown West Ignatius Moswaane confirmed to Sunday Standard that the committee has never met.  “What I can tell you is that as far as I know this committee has never met. If there are any cases or reports maybe they are known only to the secretariat because with this committee we have never met,” said Moswaane.

Moswaane also indicated that a few weeks ago he took the matter up with the Deputy Speaker of the National Assembly Kagiso Molatlhegi who is also a member of the committee. “The Deputy Speaker promised to find out why we have never met. It is worrisome to have a committee that never convenes and it’s a biggest challenge because the committee was expected to dig information that might help the society. This was also going to help the DIS and security organs in cases where they are wrongly accused.

Parliament could stand for them with the information that the committee have,” said Moswaane. On Thursday the Assistant Minister of Presidential Affairs and Public Administration Philip Makgalemele told parliament that since the enactment of the Act, the Intelligence and Security Service Tribunal and Parliamentary Committee on Intelligence were appointed thrice in 2008, 2009 and 2014 only two people brought their grievances before the Tribunal against security agents. Only two reports have been tabled before parliament in 2009 and 2010. Makgalemele acknowledged that there is an effect to National Security if the two Committees are not active.

Makgalemele was responding to a question asked by Member of Parliament for Boteti East Sethomo Lelatisitswe who questioned whether there was any effect on the national security if the two committees are not active. “Yes there will be because these are oversight bodies which ensure overall effectiveness and efficiency of the Directorate,” said Makgalemele. The parliamentary Committee on Intelligence and Security is made up of nine Members of Parliament, four members form the opposition and another four from the ruling Botswana Democratic Party. Ninth member is the Deputy Speaker of the National Assembly. During the 2013/14 budget debates Minister Mokgweetsi Masisi, under whose portfolio the DISS fell, was forced to withdraw his Ministry’s budget owing to MPs complaints against the DISS budget specifically. The controversy was linked to the concern that the DISS is unaccountable with its allocated funds.

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