Policy expert doubts DCEC

SHARE   |   Monday, 29 January 2018   |   By Ditiro Motlhabane
Ngakaagae Ngakaagae

The Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crimes (DCEC) has once again come under heavy criticism for pursuing and investigating petty crimes while protecting political leadership and state operatives involved in multi-million Pula white collar crimes and general incompetence. Prominent defence lawyer, who is representing accused persons Bakang Seretse, Botho Leburu and Kenneth Kerekang in the money laundering case of around a P250 million transaction, exploded outside the Gaborone Regional magistrate court accusing the DCEC of being cowards, incompetent and trembling before power. Infuriated by the arrest of his client Kenneth Kerekang at Broadhurst Magistrate Court on Thursday morning, Kgosietsile Ngakaagae exploded, accusing the DCEC of being mickey-mouse organisation obsessed with trivia while protecting those involved in serious multi-million pula crimes. His major gripe was that DCEC re-arrested Kerekang, who has been granted bail and said they were going to detain him because they wanted to conduct a search at his premises. The heavy handedness on his client, he complained, runs contrary to the reluctance and refusal by the DCEC to charge DIS Director Isaac Kgosi and other senior Government officials involved in the P250 million transactions which led to the current money laundering case. Correspondence between Seretse, Kerekang, Kgosi and Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Minerals, Energy Resources clearly shows that instructions were given to Khulaco to undertake the transaction. The DCEC has opted to charge only Seretse, his business partner Botho Leburu and Kerekang with money laundering. Ngakaagae says the money laundering charges are deliberately targeting his clients leaving out Kgosi and some senior Government officials who ordered the transaction, which is now alleged to be an act constituting a crime. 

In a more sober analysis of the effectiveness of DCEC contained in a yet to be launched book titled "Effectiveness of Anti-Corruption Agencies in Southern Africa" policy analyst, Dr Gape Kaboyakgosi, points to the incapacity of the agency to use full extent of the legal mechanisms at their disposal. The launch of the book is scheduled for the first quarter of 2018, and therefore the author declined to discuss the contents of the chapter he researched on Botswana's DCEC. Among challenges that compromise the effectiveness of DCEC, Dr Kaboyakgosi identifies complexity of corruption; the incapacity of the law to protect informers or would-be informers of the DCEC; intractable media relations due to the CECA; inadequacy of laws to facilitate the revelation of information necessary to combat corruption and delays due to corruption court. The DCEC has also admitted to these inefficiencies in their annual reports. Dr Kaboyakgosi concludes that added to the lack of whistle-blower and witness protection laws are statutes that would ordinarily assist in revealing information. These would include the law on declaration of assets and liabilities of public leaders as well as a law on freedom of information. An attempt by Botswana Congress Party (BCP) President Dumelang Saleshando, then MP for Gaborone Central, to push both Bills in Parliament in 2009 was defeated by the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) majority. Justifying the decisions to block the motions, the then minister of Presidential Affairs and Public Administration promised that the Bill on whistleblowing would be brought to parliament, but almost ten years later it is yet to be finalised into law. The BDP has consistently opposed proposals for a Declaration of Assets and freedom of Information laws.  The tension between the media and DCEC, which saw agents of the latter raiding offices of The Gazette newspaper in 2015 to confiscate equipment, is a clear indication of a problematic relationship. At the core of the tumultuous relationship is a case of two competing public interests that needed to be balanced. Due to provisions of CECA, whether interpreted properly or otherwise, the DCEC views the media as a nuisance while on the other hand the media like in any democracy is inclined to publish stories on corruption. There are fears by the DCEC that the media could compromise their investigations by alerting suspects under surveillance yet the agency is reluctant to take journalists into their confidence when approached or confronted with the information before publication.

Variations between laws central and incidental to anti-corruption have also been identified as having potential to cloud the anti-corruption fight.  In this regard, the Penal Code and Corruption and Economic Crimes Act (CECA) have several inconsistencies that need to be addressed, the researcher found. Whereas Botswana's anti-corruption efforts are notable, citizen perception surveys are less positive in corruption outlooks when compared to major global surveys like Transparency International's Corruption Perception Index (CPI). Since 1998 when Botswana was first assessed through CPI, the country consistently came out as Africa's leading anti-corruption nation. Globally, Botswana remains in the 25% least corrupt countries of the world. Dr Kaboyakgosi warns that the high performance in the anti-corruption must not be misconstrued to mean that the country lacks challenges in managing corruption. To buttress the point, he refers to increasingly frequent national media reports that show growing concerns regarding corruption within the country. According to Transparency International reports, the 5.6 score (together with the global ranking of 37) in 2009 is Botswana's lowest in the last decade. The scores of 2013 and 2014, 30 and 31 respectively show an improvement in global ranking in anti-corruption from the lows of 2008/09. However, the consistent positioning of Botswana in the 30s means that its performance has stagnated, in terms of CPI, particularly in comparison to the number 23 ranking the country obtained in 1997. "Botswana's CPI ranking makes for uncomfortable reading in terms of the Africa-wide ranking. Whereas Botswana is consistently Africa's highest performer, globally the country fluctuates, including up to 37th ranking realised in 2009, which is an historic lowest yet it remains Africa's top performer. Does this mean African nations' anti-corruption measures are so poor? By remaining in the 30s, does Botswana need to reconsider comparisons with the rest of its African counterparts, or need to revamp its strategies to improve on this?" observes Dr Kaboyakgosi.