Tuesday, September 26, 2023

Transparency International red flags Botswana for defence corruption

Botswana which is in the process of buying P40 billion worth of weapons is at a very high risk of defence corruption alongside Arab states which suffer from lack of oversight, excessive secrecy ÔÇô Transparency International has warned. The international watchdog has placed Botswana is a state more critical than that of South Africa which is still reeling from an arms deal scandal in which  millions of Rands of public money was lost to bribery and other irregularities. Transparency International (TI) has assigned Botswana an “E” grade, with the worst case scenario being F and best case scenario being an A. The Country has scored a paltry 29 % for defence anti corruption measures with the best score being 100% and is being grouped with all the Arab states, except for Tunisia which has been graded better than Botswana.

TI has observed that “the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC) is formally tasked with minimising corruption risk across the state, though its general policies do not specifically target vulnerabilities present in the defence sector and tenders do not cover national security cases. Botswana is in the process of establishing anti-corruption institutions in each ministry, but such bodies do not yet exist. Corruption in defence and security is formally considered a threat to national security and the Directorate of Intelligence and Security Services (DISS) is mandated to oversee the operations of the Botswana Defence Forces (BDF) and other security organs, though there is little evidence of DISS activism on tackling corruption risks. ”

The international anti corruption watchdog further observed that, “Different committees are formally responsible for defence budget scrutiny, but evidence suggests that these committees cannot exercise effective scrutiny as defence spending is aggregated with other lines of the state budget. While internal auditing of defence expenditure is conducted, evidence suggests it is not always impartial.  Meanwhile external auditing is carried out only sporadically.” TI recommended that government should consider how budgetary information could be provided to parliament in a more comprehensive way.

“For example, the government should publish an annual defence budget that includes detailed information on expenditure across functions including research & design, training, salaries, acquisitions, disposal of assets, maintenance, and personnel expenditures.  It should also stipulate how sources of defence income are earmarked so as to enhance the power of external and internal auditing mechanisms.”

Botswana’s Public Procurement and Asset Disposal Board requires that all procurement be done through opening tendering and that actual defence purchases (save for sensitive security purchases) be publicly declared. The Special Procurement and Asset Disposal Committee (SPADC) handles such procurement. Transparency International however states: “Nonetheless, transparency could be increased: the defence procurement cycle process, from assessment of needs, through contract implementation and sign-off, all the way to asset disposal, is not disclosed to the public.  Because Botswana does not have a national defence policy, it’s hard to access whether defence purchases reflect objective security needs. To improve the acquisition planning process, we recommend that the government publish a national defence policy that identifies strategic needs.”

Transparency International further states: “we recommend that the Government enhance legislative oversight by relying less on ad hoc operational documents and that it publish a national security strategy. To oversee the defence sector more effectively, we recommend that Parliamentary committees be granted more extensive oversight powers: they should have access to a fully detailed defence budget and internal audit reports (including the DIS); be able to call expert witnesses and scrutinise defence agencies and institutions; meet regularly; and publish reports on their activity. Civil society engagement would enhance integrity and transparency of the defence sector in the long-term.”



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