Sunday, July 5, 2020

The DCEC, Attorney General and DPP should be assessed more often

We have learnt with relief that some kind of independent assessment by outsiders is ongoing at the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime.
Such an assessment to our dismay is long overdue.
Our view is that such kind of assessments should not only be made more often they should actually amount to forensic audit.

If we are not mistaken, the DCEC was established in the early 1990s under the leadership of a British national called Mr. Stockwell.
If, at anytime during these many years of existence, the DCEC ever underwent any such detailed and independent audit as the current one, then we are in the dark about it.

But that said, by whatever name, the ongoing independent assessment is most welcome.
We hope the exercise will come up with findings and recommendations that will make the DCEC a much better organization.

The importance of DCEC to the country’s international reputation cannot be overemphasized.
A mere understanding of the importance of their national assignment by senior staff at the Directorate is in our opinion not enough.
What is even more important is the caliber and quality of people staffing the Directorate.
Our view is that the DCEC should be treated much more than an investigating agency.

Tymon Katlholo, the director of DCEC comes across as hardworking, honest and generally very descent.
But, in the end, he is a fallible human being, with all the weaknesses inherent in all of us.
Yet his job presupposes that the position will be occupied by a near heavenly being, above all forms of reproach and temptations.

Having been a senior police officer, it is probable that in his long and distinguished law enforcement career, Mr. Katlholo would have come across instances where difficulties developed as a result of one officer staying too long in one station.
In many instances, staying too long in one place results in what could become a terminal compromise of the officer’s professional mandate, including turning a blind eye towards illegal activities by some of the villagers.

The issue here is not Mr. Katlholo, but the principle of staying for too long at the helm of such sensitive organizations such as the DCEC presents its own problems.

Our view is that there is need for a time limit.
One other thing is that over and above the time limit, it is time the position of Director of DCEC is provided for in the constitution.

This will not only make the position independent of political influences and considerations but such a development would also induce a kind of security of tenure.

At the moment no such security exists and we think it’s a fundamental flaw that may give rise to a situation where the DCEC director finds himself more preoccupied with the future of his employment than with fearlessly tackling corrupt elements including at the Office of the President.
The reality is that the office of the DCEC is highly susceptible to improper influences.

Being a likely candidate for such influences, it becomes even more problematic when one stays too long at the helm of such a sensitive establishment like the DCEC.

Again, we have no doubts about the abilities of Mr. Katlholo. We use his name only because he happens to be the incumbent Director of DCEC.
Thus, the issue here is not Katlholo the individual, but rather the principle.

At the moment the position of Attorney General is provided for under the constitution. The same is that of Director of Public Prosecutions.
This awards these two offices some level of independence, at least at a theoretical level.
As a result, it would be difficult and cumbersome to take disciplinary actions against these individuals.
To inspire even more public confidence, after infusing some semblances of independence careful consideration should be given to aspects of professional training, qualification and experience of office holders.

Our opinion is that the DCEC should be treated much more than a criminal investigations unit of a police department.

We think it’s high time it is made mandatory that the DCEC is led either by a chartered accountant, a lawyer, an economist, an auditor or any other person with forensic expertise or related financial expertise in commercial law.

Even with such qualifications, experience should be made an integral component of the requirements.
Coming to the offices of the Attorney General and the Director of Public Prosecutions, it is well and good that these two are explicitly constitutional offices.

But we want our authorities to go beyond that.
The relationship between the two could easily become murky.

There is need for clearly spelt out guidelines on the relationship between the two.

At the moment, the law goes as far as to say the DPP will consult the Attorney General on cases of national interest.

That is rather too general and ad-hoc.
It should be spelt out what exactly is meant by “consultation?”

There is a lot of room for improvement in these very important institutions, and, to inspire confidence, we have to be careful about improving the quality of leadership in these key positions.


Read this week's paper

Sunday Standard June 28 – 4 July

Digital copy of Sunday Standard issue of June 28 - 4 July, 2020.