Opposition members of parliament and ruling party backbenchers combined forces on Friday to force adoption of a motion by MP for Good Hope/Mabule James Mathokgwane that the Parliament Committee for Statutory Bodies investigate allegations of corruption, nepotism, misappropriation of funds and failure to adhere to good governance at Statistics Botswana meet as a matter of urgency.
Mathokgwane had initially wanted parliament to institute a Commission of Inquiry but BDP MPs objected arguing that the matter could be addressed by Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC). They insisted that the matter is beyond parliament jurisdiction to carry out such an investigation. The motion was rescued from defeat by Tati East Member of Parliament Moyo Guma, who proposed that rather than a commission of inquiry the matter could be addressed by a relevant parliamentary committee. Moyo refuted arguments from his fellow party members that the matter was beyond parliamentary jurisdiction. Pledging his support for Mathokgwane’s motion he said since the DCEC only deals with matters of criminality, parliament could focus on others issues such as nepotism and maladministration. Guma lamented that while members had been given an important mandate by their constituents it was worrisome that there were those who wanted to turn a blind eye when the need to remedy the current state of affairs arises. “Parliament should not abdicate on its mandate and convey its responsibility away. It is clear that there is a problem that needs to be addressed," said Guma.
According to Guma, a parliamentary oversight committee can be set up and will then report to parliament. He cast aside concerns that parliament investigations might interfere with DCEC investigations, saying as far as procedure is concerned parliament also has the responsibility and needs to take ownership of matters brought before it. "DCEC can carry out their own investigations, the house has a mandate to do their own research too," said Moyo.
Among those who did not support Mathokgwane’s request was MP for Bobirwa Shaw Kgathi, whose main contention was that the motion did not take into consideration the doctrine of separation of powers. According to Kgathi government was against corruption and had put in place relevant bodies like the DCEC to guard against it. “If he seriously deems the matter to be urgent and of public interest Honourable Mathokgwane can go to the DCEC to give evidence he has just presented to parliament, the evidence is so good in fact he could make a very good DIS agent,” he said.
Minister of Presidential Affairs and Public Administration Eric Molale shared Kgathi ’sentiments, arguing that DCEC was in fact the right body to handle the matter because parliament risks interfering with on-going investigations. The BDP MPs received vigorous tongue lashing from opposition members who highly supported Mathokgwane and dismissed the effectiveness of the state anti-graft agency DCEC, saying it's a toothless dog that the nation has since lost hope on and should not be trusted with handling matters of public interest. Mochudi West MP Gilbert Mangole said the notion that parliament will be interfering is baseless, as DCEC has limitations. “Mathokgwane's motion will motivate even the press to continue with its watchdog role,” he said.
For his part Gantsi North MP Noah Salakae expressed concern that MPs were now trying to shrug the matter off by suggesting it was beyond Parliament jurisdiction. According to Salakae, DCEC has over the time failed to address issues of public interest and expressed concern that the placement of DCEC under the Office of the President has further rendered it ineffective. "I have a feeling that OP stalls progress and conceals hard-hitting scandals that could expose government. Batswana have lost hope in the DCEC and doubt its efficiency and effectiveness," he said.
In Salakae's view parliament would be better placed to institute a commission of inquiry and root out Statistics Botswana's wrongs. "The trust given to DCEC by who do not support of Mathokgwane's motion is a bit farfetched and lacks logic," Salakae said.
When presenting his motion to parliament Mathokgwane indicated that following news articles in The Patriot on Sunday, which documented the alleged maladministration, misappropriation of funds and bad corporate governance centred around labour relations at Statistics Botswana he found it fit to request the house to support his request for the establishment of a commission of inquiry to investigate these alleged misdeeds. The alleged maladministration include the decision by Statistician General to appoint people to positions when they did not even sit for interviews, subverting recruitment process, appointing candidates who had failed interviews, keeping an underperforming personnel despite evidence that there were inadequate in their positions, hiring unqualified and undeserving individuals.
In addition Mathokgwane said there was also evidencing showing that on the 31 of October 2013 an auto transfer of funds equivalent P1.145, 330.60 (One Million One Hundred and Forty Five Thousand Three Hundred and Thirty Pula Sixty Thebe from account number 1001066 which belonged to Statistics Botswana at Barclays Bank was transferred to another account which is a corporate current at Barclays Botswana and belongs to Statistics Botswana too. The money would later be cashed out on the same date and the transaction does not appear on the ledger of Statistics Botswana. Mathokgwane said these alleged misdeeds at Statistics Botswana raised eyebrows hence the need to be investigated. “It is possible that there is nothing amiss at Statistics Botswana, but is similarly possible that there is a lot that is amiss,” said Mathokgwane.
Of the 38 MPs who voted by show of hands in parliament, 20 supported Mathokgwane’s motion while 18 opposed.