Sunday, April 18, 2021

US government keeping tabs on NPF case

The United States Government is keeping tabs on the National Petroleum Fund (NPF) money laundering case and has revealed widespread approval for the dismissal of former Directorate of Intelligence and Security Services (DIS) Isaac Kgosi.

In its 2018 Human Rights report for Botswana, the US Department of State noted that “there were numerous reports of government corruption during the year, many involving reported mismanagement of the National Petroleum Fund.”  

The report states that this included “allegations directly implicating senior officials in the former President Ian Khama administration.”  It further states, “The press continued to publish information leaked from a Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime investigation of the former director of the DISS, a story first reported in 2014.” 

It says the documents allegedly demonstrated substantive links to corruption and money laundering. The report added that “On May 2, President Masisi replaced the DISS director.”

“While some civil society representatives criticized DISS under the Khama administration, claiming it did not receive sufficient independent oversight and posed a potential threat to civil liberties, observers generally welcomed the replacement of the DISS director and increased media engagement under President Masisi,” the report says.

On financial disclosure, the report states that “there are no formal financial disclosure laws; however, a 2009 presidential directive requires all cabinet ministers to declare their interests, assets, and liabilities to the president.” Critics, the report says, contended this policy did not go far enough to promote transparency and asserted financial declarations by senior government officials should be available to the public.

On other issues the report says an ombudsman within the Office of the President handled complaints of maladministration, including some human rights abuses in the public sector, and the government generally cooperated with the ombudsman.

“The Office of the Ombudsman had inadequate staff, however. In August 2017 the ombudsman released a report stating public national broadcaster Botswana Television “unduly favoured” the ruling BDP in its political coverage,” the report says.

According to the report, human rights issues included excessive use of force and abuse by security personnel; criminal libel; corruption; sexual and gender-based violence against women and children; and economic and political marginalization of the Basarwa (San) people.

It says the government took steps to prosecute officials who committed abuses. Impunity was generally not a problem.

The report noted that while customary (traditional) courts enjoyed widespread citizen support and respect, they often did not afford the same due process protections as the formal court system.

“Although defendants may confront, question, and present witnesses in customary court proceedings, they do not have legal counsel, and there are no standardized rules of evidence,” the report says.

It says tribal judges, appointed by the tribal leader or elected by the community, determine sentences.

“Many tribal judges were poorly trained. The quality of decisions reached in the customary courts varied considerably, and defendants often lacked a presumption of innocence,” the report says. 

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