Tuesday, April 16, 2024

Thanks to Gov’t institutions, Botswana’s Integrity is now at a capricious state

The integrity of our country and government is at stake courtesy of what seems like a very confused state of affairs owing to the apparent siphoning of a rumoured US$10 billion out of the country’s central bank during the reign of President Dr SKI Khama. The issue of this alleged theft came out at the beginning of the year. The looting has had national investigating apparatus at work to gather the necessary details surrounding the embezzlement of state funds that has become synonymous with the government. It is no wonder that the country has lost its position as the least corrupt country in Africa. At the very time of the disclosure of this theft the Director General of the corruption busting agency, the Directorate of Corruption and Economic Crime reported over the national television, Botswana Television (BTV), that his agency was investigating a loot of at least 5.6 million Pula which left the country within the first three months following the relinquishing of power by HE Festus G. Mogae and the ascendance to the throne by Dr SKI Khama. It is not clear as to whether or not the 5.6 billion pula is a part or not of the allegedly stolen 100 billion Pula plus, which has had the former President Dr Khama and South African billionaire lady Bridget Motsepe-Radebe amongst others implicated. 

There is very interesting irony surrounding the unfolding drama which has left most of us wondering as to whether this is a political battle between the current administration and its immediate predecessor or is indeed a case of stolen money. If indeed it is a political battle, it will certainly be the epitome of outright foolishness decorated with a total disregard and ignorance of the ethos defining a galvanized and efficient governance system. The irony of this drama is in that the victim of the theft which apparently is Bank of Botswana (BOB) has apparently denied that such money have been stolen from it, while on the other hand the Directorate of Public Prosecution (DPP) is in court in the pursuit of the stolen money which is ‘not stolen’. Both BOB and DPP are central to good governance as the roles they play are very key in ensuring that the country has an efficiently running financial and legal systems respectively. To have DPP prosecute for allegedly stolen money, which the alleged victim denies, seems to defy logic for most of us. 

The central bank (BoB) is the custodian of Botswana’s financial system. It supervises the commercial banks and other financial institutions. It is expected to lead by example and if the conduct of its business is suspect and porous, certainly the efficacy of the country’s financial system will be compromised. The admission of theft amounting to what is currently under discussion will be serious indictment on our financial system and will certainly scare away investors owing to the diminished confidence in the country’s financial system. The admission of such an amount, even if it indeed occurred will be a serious dent if not crush, on the integrity of Botswana’s financial system. We need to understand that our economic policies are significantly anchored on government through the fiscal policy dispensation and Bank of Botswana through the monetary policy avenue. These two are very critical to the macroeconomic smoothness of the country’s economy. The ability of BOB to remain a central bank with demonstrated prudent financial management is necessary for overall sound economic management and investor confidence which is so central to attraction of foreign direct investment.

In cases of financial lapse which could be a result of cybercrime amongst an array of possible financial crimes, it would be our expectation that DPP should ensure that justice is meted out. In the case of the P100 billion, it seems that these two integral institutions are one contrary to the other. I have all along thought to myself that BOB must be trying not to confirm the stolen money until all evidence has been gathered, as a damage control exercise. This was premised on my understanding at the time which might have been flawed, that the denouncement by BOB was not under oath and therefore a public stunt to maintain its integrity and retain investor confidence. It was until I heard that such statement could have been made under oath that I then wondered as to where DPP gets the confidence to prosecute for an offence apparently never committed. The differences between DPP and BOB is what I find confusing. It is possible the two might be privy to something which is unknown to the public.

The release of the findings of a report by those implicated in the theft is not very much helpful in this predicament, from where I am standing. The report was commissioned by those allegedly implicated to exonerate them from any wrong doing. Its findings are therefore consistent with its objectives as should be expected. This is not to say the findings are flawed, but it lacks autonomy as it was commissioned and possibly the bill footed by conflicted parties. The loathness or failure of the South African government to expeditiously assist with required information, which ultimately led to the engagement of Afriforum is also a worrisome factor which might compromise the good relations between these neighbouring countries. It also tempts one to wonder if there is something being hidden of its possibly a matter of protracted processes.

I am of the view that the country and its government will certainly be dented at the end of this drama. It will ultimately come to the open as to which of the two institutions BOB and DPP was more credible in this case. I find it difficult to believe that DPP will incur great cost at the expense of other national competing priorities, when they fully know that there is no case. I believe there is something critical to this case for which we the public are not privy to. Much as BOB is considered independent of government, the reality is that such is practically not the case while DPP is a government organ. This drama certainly has repercussions for government integrity unless BOB denounced P100 billion but not anything less.

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