It is reassuring to learn that the consultancy recently engaged by the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime has come up with a good number of recommendations that this newspaper has been calling for.
While we give ourselves credit that an independent assessor has suggested the same medicine we have been calling for, it is our strongest hope that not only will the recommendations be implemented, but also that such outside and independent assessment will henceforth become routine and more regular.
It is only when the DCEC keeps pace with the changing times that it will win back the public’s confidence it has now regrettably lost.
Again, while we welcome the recommendations made by the consultants, we are worried that they are somewhat overdue.
The hard truth which the DCEC leadership has to contend with is that important a public institution as it is, the organisation neither enjoys nor inspires public confidence.
It must be difficult enough investigating white collar crimes and corruption performed by some of the world’s most sophisticated and organised criminals operating in an economy fast growing as Botswana’s.
The situation, therefore, becomes even more unbearable when viewed against cold reality that one does not enjoy the goodwill and backing of the very people on whose behalf you want to believe you are working.
Had the recommendations been implemented a few years ago, the DCEC’s standing in the public eye would have been saved a great deal.
We think the biggest task facing the institution is to regain and restore public trust.
There is no argument that as it is today, the DCEC enjoys very little public confidence.
It is only when the public believes in the worthiness of this institution that they will stop thinking of DCEC as just another wasteful adventure by authorities eager to provide jobs to their pals while also getting their corrupt tracks covered.
The first step is to make the DCEC more independent than it currently is; thus it is very important that the DCEC is detached from the civil service.
Making it more autonomous will disabuse the public of the now entrenched perceptions that the institution holds the brief for politicians and their business associates.
Batswana believe that official corruption has been growing.
They are, therefore, disappointed that the organisation tasked with investigating and prosecuting corruption is going in the direction adrift to their expectations.
Naturally, the standing of the DCEC in the public eye has not been helped by the fact that almost twenty years on, the organisation is still to deliver a big catch to a public clamouring and yearning for proof that the organisation was not created to exclusively investigate small time petty criminals.
Opposition parties have repeatedly called for the DCEC to be detached from the Office of the President.
Their fears are genuine and sensible.
But we want to differ with them.
We think while remaining accountable to the Office of the President, especially because of budgetary exigencies, the DCEC should somewhat be made directly accountable to parliament.
This can only happen if there is in place a strong parliamentary committee that’s meant to provide oversight role.
Our understanding is that at the moment that does not exist, or, if the arrangement does exist, then, like many other powers of parliament, it never gets to be utilised.
We also feel very strongly that the Director of DCEC should not stay for over five years at the helm.
Staying too long promotes a culture of empire building.
We have in the past suggested that given the sophistication of corruption in Botswana, the Director of DCEC should as per the dictates of law be someone in the level of a chartered accountant, forensic expert, lawyer, auditor or any such professional whose background equips them with sufficient grasp of finance.