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Corruption perception growing!

Publishing Date : 03 October, 2017

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Botswana has been consistently ranked as the least corrupt country in Africa by Transparency International, but it still lacks basic laws that promote anti-corruption behaviour, like a law on Declaration of Assets and Liabilities law and the legal provision that would make Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC) autonomous and report directly to Parliament and not the Executive.

This week the Global Competitiveness report 2017-2018 revealed the opinions of policymakers, business leaders, civil society leaders, academics, and the public at large who were consulted on the performance of their countries in the Global Competitiveness Index. It is evident that a number of them are concerned with the level of corruption in the country. The corruption perception index of this report is growing, last year it was number 8 on the list of most problematic factors to doing business in Botswana; this year it is number five with a much higher score.

The Global Competitiveness Index (GCI) tracks the performance of close to 140 countries on 12 pillars of competitiveness. It assesses the factors and institutions identified by empirical and theoretical research as determining improvements in productivity, which in turn is the main determinant of long-term growth and an essential factor in economic growth and prosperity.

This shows that the DCEC is faced with a daunting challenge from public officials who are not obliged by law to declare their assets and liabilities, we are certain is one of the main factors contributing to the growing corruption in the country. A law requiring that public officials make periodic disclosure of their assets will deter unjust enrichment and will provide investigators and auditors with a powerful instrument to detect corruption by detecting the existence of unexplained wealth.

The main objective of declaration of assets is to enhance transparency and the trust of citizens in public administration, by disclosing information about assets of politicians and civil servants, showing they have nothing to hide. We believe that this will go a long way in curbing corruption because these officials will know soliciting bribes would not pay because they will be forced to declare assets. Further this law would also help heads of public institutions prevent conflicts of interest among their employees and to resolve such situations when they arise, in order to promote integrity within their institutions. We are also certain that business people are not happy that they compete with people who are hiding behind public offices and no law compels them to declare.

A Declaration of assets law could also help to monitor wealth variations of individual politicians and civil servants, and would dissuade them from misconduct and protect them from false accusations. This law also works in their favour, as it does protect those in government.
With no political will to enact that law, DCEC’s investigations are elusive and more often than not, it is difficult for the agency to detect corruption from those who hold public office and become rich overnight. While the general belief is that politicians are the most corrupt, senior government employees could be far much worse, more especially that they evade the attention of the media most of the time.  

These concerns raise doubts as to whether we are serious about foreign direct investment as a country or it is just talk. We must act on these reports as a country so that we close gaps where they could be. The DCEC must also be capacitated so that it deals effectively with these cases. Indications are that Botswana could be losing over P1 billion to corruption on yearly basis due to unattended corruption cases.  For instance, in 2010 alone, the courts in Botswana had tried corruption cases involving a total of P500 million, effectively leading to more money losses considering the prevalence of unreported cases of corruption due to the reasons presented.

We must not as a country be blinded by international accolades when compared with other African countries and become complacent. We are not even the best when compared with the rest of the world. Although ranked the least in Africa, we are not even in top 20 least corrupt countries in the world. Countries like Denmark, Finland, New Zealand and Sweden enjoy higher ranking because of their approach toward the fight against corruption.

We must compete with the world and not Africa alone. This growing perception of corruption has the potential to scare away investors. Reports such as the Global Competitiveness report are taken seriously by investors. The fight against corruption is a continuous process and we need in place proper laws such as the Declaration of Assets and Liabilities Act, our government should prove that it is willing to fight corruption in the civil service and elsewhere.



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