The Public Accounts Committee (PAC), which resumed sitting on Monday, has gained a reputation of notoriety at exposing clueless accounting officers in the public service, and in some instances have openly dismissed and rejected poor presentations outright. Principal officers that appear before the PAC often leave with a feeling of having been hauled over hot coals as committe members, especially MPs Dithapelo Keorapetse, Ndaba Gaolathe and Samson Moyo Guma leave no stone unturned when grilling them.
Even characters once portrayed as untouchable, larger than life and the most feared gun totting spy agent in the country -like the former Director General of the Directorate of Intelligence and Security services (DIS) Isaac Kgosi- suffered at the hands of the PAC. Notwithstanding his arrogance, he was cut to size, reduced to a mere mortal and put in his rightful place. Such is the power and might of the unapologetic PAC members.
But on Tuesday that was not to be. They met two legal eagles brimming with confidence coupled with eloquence in the persons of Attorney General Abram Keetshabe and Directorate of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Director Stephen Tiroyakgosi who were well prepared to take on the PAC.
Keorapetse was the first to fire a shot by asking Keetshabe why AG was removed from Parliament and replaced with Parliamentary legal counsel. “Parliament decided to remove the AG as advisor to parliament and we just follow what policy direction the country wants to take, it was not our decision but the nation,” he answered.
On whether the parliamentary legal advisor reports to him, Keetshabe confirmed that he is the legal advisor to Government and defender of democracy and that he has to guide Parliament on the Constitution of Botswana.
There has been growing concern that the Attorney General sits in the meeting of the Executive arm of government and gives them legal advice, something that some MPs are not comfortable with. “Does it look right for you to sit in the executive and be the one to represent them when there is a legal dispute?” asked Moyo Guma.
Keetshabe’s voice kept on rising, as he answered questions something that made the chair of PAC Abram Kesupile to ask him “do you raise your voice when you get angry or when you want to emphasise a point?” He said it just comes naturally, but insisted on the main question that they cannot give government conflicting advices and that they are much capable of advising the Executive.
Review of the constitution
Recently when addressing the National Business Council in Francistown recently, President Mokgweetsi Masisi said there is need to review the constitution and allow the President to choose cabinet ministers outside parliament.
There were allegations that a team of lawyers from AG has been set up to look at the issue and keorapetse wanted clarity on that. Keetshabe vehemently denied that there is a team looking at the issue but the Selibe Phikwe West Legislator insisted that there is allegation that the team has been set up.
This seemed to have infuriated Keetshabe who in his usual high pitched voice style and fixing his eyes on Keorapetse, “the person sitting in front of you doesn’t know anything about a team set up to review the constitution.”
Keetshabe sent the PAC into fit of laughter when he was asked to be brief when answering questions but instead reasoned that, “I want to engage rather than giving you bones which you don’t know whether they are of humans or wild animals”.
Attorneys at AG
Specially elected Member of Parliament Reggie Reatile put to him that most of those who have been appointed judges are from the private practice and wanted to know if this is because of incompetence from attorneys at AG Chambers.
“I have pockets of resistance to your statement because we have lot of judges who were from the AG Chambers and AG chambers is the breeding grounding for good lawyers,” he bragged stating that even private law firms are poaching from them as they produce the crème la crème of legal brains.
He proved to be a hard nut to crack as he answered questions with ease and managed to maneuver his way out of the intriguing ones. Tiroyakgosi admitted that they need more prosecutors as currently they have around 150 who have to deal with 8600 cases meaning 450 cases per prosecutor. “The workable number will be 65 cases per prosecutor and resources permitting we will need 200 prosecutors,” he revealed. He confirmed that there is desire by DPP to remove members of Botswana Police services as prosecutors but said that it will just be a pie in the sky.
Fiat justitia ruat cælum ("Let justice be done though the heavens fall.")
There is a concern that most of the high profile cases are taking time to appear before the courts of law. Some of the cases which Keorapetse put before DPP director include that of former Director General of Directorate of Intelligence and Security Services (DISS) Isaac Kgosi, corruption at Botswana Meat Commission and that of Botswana Development Corporation (BDC) fenguye Glass Project in Palapye.
Tiroyakgosi put his head on the block and said that at DPP they don’t have cases labeled high profile as chapter two of the constitution of Botswana is clear that all are equal before the law.
Asked what if the case threatened the country’s national security, Tiroyakgosi pulled the legal maxim ‘Let justice be done though the heavens fall’.
Put on a corner by Keorapetse that they have been fast tracking the National Petroleum case, DPP said that they had to as they were chasing the missing P250 million and trace it.
“As we prosecute they are three fundamentals being credible evidence, evidence that is admissible in court and public interest to ensure that we don’t delay justice,” he justified.
He said that they will not plunder the souls of Batswana by relegating their cases and denying them justice just because there is a case of a high flyer in Gaborone which has been by some as high profile case as they don’t have that term in the constitution.
Tiroyakgosi confessed that the job of being a prosecutor is very lonely and painful as one is always put under pressure by the politicians and the public but stressed that he won’t succumb to it.