President Mokgweetsi Masisi said the importance to strengthening anti-corruption institutions and legislative as well as the regulatory environment remains the bedrock of his presidency. "Reforms to strengthen capacities of oversight institutions are of paramount importance to ensure that our best chance of putting an end to this fight favours our corner,” said Masisi during UN international Anti-corruption day held in Palapye on Wednesday.
He said although Botswana has been performing relatively well on indicators of corruption Perception Index, concerted efforts by different stakeholders are critical to ensure that corruption is addressed and does not erode the economy nor positive reputation of democracy, rule of law and good governance that the country had built over the years.
The President revealed that a number of anti-money laundering, counter terrorism and financial governance pieces of legislation were passed between 2017 and 2019. He said of great significance to the legal instruments were the amendments to the proceeds and instruments of Crime Act (PICA) and the Financial Intelligence Act. “Through investigations of suspected money laundering and application of PICA legislation, Botswana is in a better position to detect all forms of money laundering to meet Financial Task Force standards," he said.
He added that, the government had in addition developed several initiatives to address the emerging global challenges of money laundering and terrorism financing, which included conducting a sector risk assessment, sensitization of Non-profit Organizations (NPOs) and profiling them to guide decision making. “The whistleblowing Act which came into effect in 2016 is also being reviewed to ensure that it meets the minimum international standards and moreover a strategy against Money Laundering and Financial Terrorism was developed in May 2020 to strengthen the AML/CFY systems for Non Profit Organizations,” he said.
Furthermore, he said the Corruption and Economic Act is currently undergoing a review with a view to amend it to address the ever changing landscape in white collar crime.
Moreover, Masisi said that in recognition of the fact that fighting corruption requires the involvement of all key stakeholders, particularly the private sector and civil society, in February 2020 the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC) signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with BOCONGO which is the umbrella body for civil society in Botswana.
"Through this partnership, it is envisaged that Botswana will achieve its international and continental obligations under the United Nations Convention against Corruption on Preventing and Combating Corruption of promoting and strengthening the active participation of groups outside the public sector through effective corruption prevention measures," he explained.
Additionally, he said in 2019 the parliament had passed the Declaration of Assets and Liability Act. “It is a commendable milestone in our resolve as a nation to intensify our efforts to fight corruption and it is also a demonstration of my government's unwavering commitment to fighting corruption and to fulfill its international obligations contained in multilateral instruments such as the United Nations Convention against Corruption," said Masisi
He also said, the establishment of the Ethics and Integrity Directorate, which is responsible for administering the law on Declaration of Assets and Liabilities as well as conflict of interest will go a long way in ensuring the implementation of the Act. "These achievements are notable, because if left unchecked, corruption erodes trust in Government and undermines social contract, it further fuels and propagates the inequality that often leads to social ills like violent extremism and conflict," he said.
For his part, UNDP Resident Coordinator His Excellency Zia Choudhury indicated that corruption is widely considered one of the greatest impediments to sustainable development in African countries. He said corruption hinders macro-economic growth by weakening governance structures and diluting the positive effects of investments. "At the micro level, corruption can trap the poorest who are least likely to have alternatives to state provision of services, in a downward spiral," he said.
Furthermore he said while Botswana is considered one of Africa’s least corrupt countries and top performers in the democratic practice and good governance and it is ranked the best in the continent by Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index, he however said other observers have questioned this reputation and there have been calls for oversight institutions to be strengthened. “There is a need to create even more robust systems for accountability, transparency and integrity without delay,” he said
He also stated that to support the international community’s effort to address corruption challenges at global, regional and national levels, the United Nations system have developed a common vision for UN support to member states, and as a contribution to the 2021 UN General Assembly Special Session (UNGASS) on corruption. “I urge the country’s leadership to be transparent and accountable, and to use the tools provided by the United Nations Convention against Corruption, as well as any other means suited to Botswana context,” he said.
The Director General of DCEC Tymon Katholo said corruption is major concern in the country as it has now become more complex and sophisticated and the amount of money involved in the corruption cases currently investigated by the DCEC. Katholo said this year they have received 638 reports and out of which 208 were classified for investigation and the remainder of the reports were assessed not to be corruption and were referred to relevant departments and ministries for action.
Katholo said their observation of reports received by the DCEC since 2014 indicate a downward trend. “We are receiving less and less reports every year, this is a source for concern for us as such decline may deny us the opportunity to gauge the source of the problem, the reports serve a critical role not only in assessing the level of public awareness but also the support that we derive from the public without which it may not be easy to execute our mandate,” he said.
He mentioned that the DCEC had made a deliberate decision to be proactive in the fight against corruption and will be collaborating with accounting officers to asses’ management systems across economic sectors with a view of promoting integrity, transparency and accountability within the management system. “We have already mobilized our corruption prevention and public education divisions to prioritize targeted systems, audits and public education on promoting integrity, accountability and transparency as a tool to combat corruption,” he said.