Wednesday, November 29, 2023

Morwaeng insists DCEC is independent as BDP rejects Keorapetse’s Bill

At a time when Director General (DG) of the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC) Tymon Katlholo sits at home for reasons only known to the Office of the President (OP), Minister for State President Kabo Morwaeng insists that the corruption buster is “independent”.

Katlholo’s suspension has again thrown into the spotlight the issue of DCEC DG’s security of tenure and the independence of the corruption busting agency. The suspended DG has personally expressed concern about the vulnerability of his office when addressing questions from the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) a day before his suspension. 

“We have been advocating for the security of tenure for the office of the DG because that would protect the Director General unfortunate reprisals,” Katlholo told PAC.

The DG had earlier indicated in court papers that the agency was investigating the Director General of the Directorate of Intelligence and Security (DIS) Peter Magosi and his juniors for corruption involving multi-million Pula government tenders.

His office was sealed by the DIS following the revelations. “What crime or allegation rendered the office of the DG a crime scene? Who committed such a crime, is it the Directorate as an institution, or the DG himself? What evidence was being preserved by ceiling the office of the DG and the staff officer,” Katlholo said during his appearance before the PAC shortly afterwards. In their communique announcing the suspension the OP did not explicitly state reasons for the suspension. “The decision to suspend Mr Katlholo is necessitated by the fact that in the course of his official duties, he has misconducted himself and exhibited behaviour that is incompatible with the conduct of a public officer. In this regard, established disciplinary procedures will be followed to the letter”, stated government spokesperson John Dipowe.

Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) Member of Parliament Dithapelo Keorapetse recently proposed a bill calling for the independence of the DCEC. In response to the proposed bill Minister of State President Morwaeng stopped short of trivializing the proposed bill, calling it a deeply entrenched paranoia by UDC MPs.

“It is in their nature to be suspicious of each other, the government, ministers, civil servants, and everyone else. Morwaeng said the DCEC was “legally” and “operationally independent”.

Keorapetse had said in his presentation that the UDC questions autonomy of the DCEC. He said the agency does not operate in a “milieu” of high level of political commitment, operational independence and sufficient capacity in terms of investigatory powers, resources and integrity.

“It is susceptible to the politicized appointments and termination by politicians of their most senior officers and staff. The agency is located in the Ministry of State President, its Director reports to and is appointed by the President and his or her terms and conditions of service are determined by the President according to the CECA Act,” Keorapetse said.

He said it was concerning that under President Mokgweetsi Masisi, the Directorate has had four different DGs.  “The DCEC has had its officers detained by the Directorate of Intelligence and Security Services and its offices sealed as a crime scene. There has been a transfer of two DCEC senior investigators to Ministry of Health and DCEC Francistown office whilst the duo was handling a high-profile investigation. Recently, there was an attempt to transfer five senior DCEC officers including investigators by the PSP.  One of the senior officers has had his contract not renewed. The level of interference which sought to wrestle it for control has been unprecedented.”

Keorapetse said Parliament should, through the Bill, reduce the powers of the President so they are unable to singularly appoint and remove the DG and eliminate all possibilities of a sitting head of state being able to interfere with investigations. The proposed bill was however struck down by the majority BDP.


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