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Civil servants removed from declaration Bill

Cabinet has this week moved swiftly to make and approve amendments into the contentious newly proposed declaration of assets and liabilities law. This comes at the back drop of the ongoing hotly contested debate of the contentious Bill during/in this winter session of Parliament.

MP’s whom criticised and rejected the Bill especially from the opposition Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) has raised concerns on the provision for all civil servants declaring their assets even drivers, cleaners and so forth; questioned the independence of DCEC from the Executive. They have also denounced the proposed law on the basis that it applies to office bearers who left the office less than 2 years after exit.

In addition, they query the declarations of assets bill as it makes provision for secrecy where the bill forces those whom the declarations are made to, to preserve the confidentiality of all information contained in such a declaration. The scope of the bill extends to senior government officials and parastatals chiefs, Dikgosi, Judges, magistrates, heads of private enterprises, MPs, councillors, spouses and dependent children.

Cabinet has agreed this week, pressurised by the ongoing parliament debates, to re look and amend some concerns including increasing the 2 years for those who left office to more than 5 years. Minister of Presidential Affairs, Governance and Public Administration, Nonofo Molefhi confirmed to Weekend Post this week that as cabinet they have considered some of the inputs and will be considered before the law is passed.

He emphasised that certainly the law is work in progress. “Cabinet has already agreed on the amendments. It’s a done deal. We will now move these to the Committee stages,” Molefhi told Weekend Post on Friday. Government back steps inclusion of all public servants in the law. He further explained that the ones agreed by cabinet to amend include: to reduce scope of public servants – other than including all of them.

“We have to determine which ones we include and which ones we do not. We will robustly look at their definition. Public servants that would not be included then we will see how they will declare,” he said. Molefhi added that those with knowledge on the procurement arrangements; those who will cause risk one way or the other – will be excluded but covered by special provisions.

For example, he continued, there is an architecture or quantity surveyor who are not directly involved in tendering but are involved by virtue of where they work, so they have a knowledge of tenders and therefore can divulge such information to third parties to have an undue advantage. According to the Minister in the Office of the President (OP), cabinet has also approved to fix the definition of private enterprises with regard to Chief Executive Officers (CEO)’s as they also receive government money.

Government wants to protect privacy and confidentiality

When speaking on the secrecy of the law and why the information is not made explicitly to the media and members of the public, Molefhi said the proposed law had to balance the public interest specification and the right to confidentiality and privacy of other individuals. 
“The media or the public remain free to apply to the Director General of the DCEC on the information they want to source; why they want it and they purpose from which they will use it for,” he stated.

I ask myself, he highlighted: “will it be right for everyone to see who owes what and where, why other people’s debts should be exposed in such a manner? So we have to protect such data, as we know we have data protection Act.” According to Molefhi, the declaration of assets bill is not in isolation as it works with and complement other laws like the Financial Intelligence and Agency Act (FIA) which covers politically exposed persons; as well as laws like the Botswana Panel Code.     

Minister overseeing DCEC believes it is independent

As a minister in the Office of the President where some oversight institution like DCEC, DIS, fall, the Selibe Phikwe East maintains that such bodies are wholly and very independent. “These body are independent, they only come to me when asking for funds or annual budget. Then it ends there. That’s the end of the story. I then, do not tell them what to do in their scope of work,” he stressed. The OP Minister continued: “I never issued a directive to DCEC or DIS on how they should carry their job and I have no reason to believe the President has not done the same. All is left in the DCEC Directors hands.”

Constitutional review on the cards; will make DCEC, DIS independent

According to the law maker, a holistic constitutional review process is on the way and all people are be free to state whether they want the organisations to report to parliament other that the OP and as such that can be considered. “So, some of these views suggesting that these oversight bodies are not purely independent are just political. Politicians implanted such views on the people.”

President Masisi says the law targets politicians and senior gov’t officials

President Mokgweetsi Masisi has recently told the 15th National Business Conference that the proposed law targets politicians and senior public officials. “It aims to root out corruption and would improve investor confidence and enhance transparency and accountability,” reports indicate.  Reports further point out that the President said it was evident that some in the private sector also facilitated corruption by corrupting public officers.

Anti-corruption heads Masitara, Gaolatlhe denounces the Bill

Meanwhile former Gaborone West North, now Gaborone Bonnington North, legislator Robert Masitara has long denounced the declaration of assets and liabilities law saying “e siilwe ke nako” meaning that “it’s no longer relevant” and therefore that the Act will be a ‘useless’ tool in fighting corruption.

“Those who have declared their assets will still buy property with other people’s names in it. Then the assets will be sold and money goes back to the hands of those who previously declared,” he has always maintained.
Another lawmaker who abhors corruption, Gaborone Bonnington South law maker Ndaba Gaolatlhe has recently told his party, Alliance for Progressives (AP) annual Policy declaration that the introduction of the bill as is will not bring any change to Botswana.
“It will not cause our governance system to be cleaner. It will not discourage corruption,” the Gaborone Bonnington South highlighted.

He also hinted that the DCEC which the bill identifies as the administrator of the bill is “not independent enough” from the Executive to provide rigorous and unbiased assessments of potential wealth anomalies.
On inclusion of all civil servants he said: “office bearers should be at a minimum include Members of Parliament, Members of the Judiciary, councillors, CEOs and other executives of Parastatals, Permanent Secretaries and key officers involved in procurement,” he concluded the policy statement.

Attorney general drafted the Declaration of Assets and liabilities Bill

When asked who specifically drafted the Bill which has been a subject of public scrutiny in the media, Molefhi said it is the Attorney General’s Chambers. “There is a drafting department at the office of the Attorney General. We just give the officers the parameters of the intended law. Then they draft it in the legal language, in Botswana’s style of drafting, in terms of language and vocabulary; and that sometimes the service is outsourced,” he said. 

Ruling BDP to use MP numbers to pass the Bill with amendments

The ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) are expected to use their numbers to smoothly pass the law with amendments as adopted by cabinet. “Of course discussions are still ongoing. MP’s are still debating the Bill. I am confident that bill will pass into law. There are really no key issues that can stop this.”

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Bangwato regent speaks ‘respect for Dikgosi’

23rd May 2022
Bangwato

Presidential Commission of Inquiry into the Review of the Constitution held a meeting in Serowe this week. The meeting was to accord Bangwato, just like other tribes, a platform to give their opinions, contributions and what they think is the horse power and limitations of the current Constitution of Botswana.

Bangwato Regent, Kgosi Serogola Seretse said, he is of the understanding that the Commission has not come for anything apart from getting their opinions on how things could be made better. His contribution was that he solely knows of only two social positions in the world; Dikgosi and Pastors. He said other positions are just benedictions. He further urged that, Batswana should respect God’s ordained protocols such as Dikgosi and Pastors.

Seretse pointed out the importance of acknowledging and appreciating Dikgosi as nation builders. He cautioned and warned that, the Commission should ensure that their dealing with Dikgosi is harmonious. He called for an amendment to be made on the ‘National Order of Precedence’ noting that Dikgosi are put at number 11, but should at least be taken a little higher to number 7.

One resident, Tshepo Moloi while giving his contribution said there must be provisions of Social Justice that ensure equal distribution of resources to all citizens. He said this provision should entail an obligation that all citizen have equal opportunities to different Government Initiatives. Moloi substantiated that, all ‘Presidential Commissions’ be engraved on the Constitution

Alfred Thogolwane who is as well a resident of the biggest village in the Central District, pointed out the need for preservation of the country and resources thereof, saying “it must dawn onto all that, the calabash that fetches water for the family cannot fixed once its broken.”  Another resident, Keikantsemang Sebedi advocated for Polygamous marriage, saying that men should marry as many wives as they please. She said there is no need for any socioeconomic assessment done on men who wish to marry more than one wife.

She advised that, the country should benchmark from the Zezuru culture that does it, with no complexities. On the other hand, Sebedi said that, there must be considerations done on the Old Age Pension. She said people who earned P4000 should not receive the old Age Pension upon their fullness of age.  Forshia Koloi called for amendments on Section 77 and all the provisions that speaks to the subject of Bogosi and the powers infested in them. He said they should be made more detailed and avoid ambiguity in clauses.

Mr Tlhaodi said there must be Land Audits done in the country. Citing an example of the Tati Land as one that should be thoroughly audited. He further advised that, Election Day be put on the Calendar. He said, if it happens that the day be a Saturday, there should be some special dispensation for the 7th Day Adventist Church members to take part in voting without compromising on their day of worship. Tlhaodi added that there must be People’s Complaint Commission in the country.

Speakers emphasized the need for the country to review the exercise of ‘Political Party Funding’. They articulated that lack of funding political parties’ results in political parties resorting to finding funds for themselves. They reiterated that sometimes going to the extent of getting funds through illegal means. Bangwato agreed in one accord that they want the President be tried whilst in office if suspected of any criminal offences. This was revealed in their contributions. They pointed out that, the law should not to wait until the end of their tenure.

For his part, the Deputy Chairperson of the Commission Johnson Motshwarakgole expressed gratitude to the residents of Serowe. He applauded women for their kindness saying it is only them, who always take responsibility for doing things amicably in the society.

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Parliament unveils major shake-up plans & reforms

23rd May 2022
Parliament

Parliament has revealed that it plans to rollout a Community Score Card (CSC) exercise as part of sweeping reforms to its role and mandate among others.

The planed shakeup, along with the rollout of CSC will see creation of new Parliamentary Portfolio Committees on Health, HIV&AIDS, Education and Skills Development, Trade and Economic Development, Agriculture, Lands and Housing and Local Governance and Social Welfare.
Parliament informed government ministries and departments that the CSC is a participatory, community based monitoring and evaluation tool that enables citizens to assess the quality of public services and interact with services providers to express their concerns.

According to Parliament, the CSC will assist to inform community members about available services and their entitlements and to solicit their opinions about the accessibility and quality of certain services related to the portfolio committees mentioned.  It said the main objective is for Parliament through identified oversight committees is to conduct a participatory monitoring and evaluating process that puts ownership and responsibility for delivery of services in the hands of both the Government and the service recipients.

“Through scorecards developed around identified sectors and services, communities and implementing departments remain in touch with progress made through the programme delivery cycle and are able to respond timely to bottlenecks,” the National Assembly said.  Some of the measurements and expected outcomes for the rolling out of the CSC include among others, improved monitoring and economic evaluation, to determine the impact of spending, so as to be able to direct resources from where they having the least benefit to those projects and programmes where they will have a larger positive impact.

The National Assembly explained further that this could result in a willingness to close down ineffective programmes and institutions and not to implement projects that do not deliver adequate returns, improved productivity in the public services, especially given the substantial pay increases.

The National Assembly believes that the rolling out of CSC is also expected to result in efficiency savings: many public services and programmes could be delivered more effectively at lower costs, by improving management and accountability, and making use of e-services. “This would yield financial savings that could be used for development programmes or reducing the deficit,” the National Assembly said.

The exercise is also expected to result in “Careful scrutiny of subsidy schemes and termination of those that do not address market failure or assist truly needy Batswana.”  The National Assembly revealed that proposed Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Health and Wellness has been established in accordance with the Standing of National Assembly of Botswana.  It explained that the mandate of the Committee is mainly to exercise Parliamentary oversight and scrutiny over Government Ministries, Departments and Agencies with portfolio responsibilities in respect of Health and HIV/AIDS.

“There is need to identify reasons for inefficiency and poor outcomes and ensure that health system reform improve productivity and value for money. Key areas of focus for scorecard, availability of drugs, staffing ratios, accessibility of health services, speciality care and services and sexual reproductively health,” the National Assembly said.

Another proposed Committee is on Local Governance and Social Welfare. The mandate of the Committee is mainly to exercise Parliamentary Oversight and Scrutiny over Government Ministries. Departments and Agencies with Portfolio responsibilities in respect of Local Governance and Social Welfare.

“Strategies under NDP 11 to improve outcomes of social uplifment include; diversification of rural economies, development and support of small businesses, provision of social safety nets, eradication of absolute poverty, provision of quality and equitable education and harmonisation of social protection programmes,” said the National Assembly.  It said social nets need to be improved so as to target these most in need (at present some social safety nets benefit many people who are not the most needy, but also miss out some of those who are needy).

“Some social development policies more broadly should also aim to reduce household vulnerability to shocks such as those arising from fluctuations in agriculture, climate change, incomes and employment and improve their ability to handle shocks, thereby building household resilience,” the National Assembly said.

Another Committee established is on Agriculture, Lands and Housing. The mandate of the Committee is mainly to exercise Parliamentary oversight and scrutiny over Government Institutions, Departments and Agencies with portfolio responsibilities in respect of Agriculture, Lands and Housing.

The National Assembly said the average growth rate of the agricultural sector since the beginning of National Development Plan 11 (NDP11) (i.e. during the 2017/2018 and 2018/19 financial years) was 2.5 percent, making it the slowest growing sector of the economy, in line with its historical performance.

“Over the same period, its share of GDP has been stagnant at around 2 percent. The sector also contributes job opportunities for about 80 000 adults. Food security has become paramount since the onset of the corona virus pandemic,” the National Assembly said.  The National Assembly said the Government realises the need to increase food production for products in which Botswana has a cooperative advantage such as beef, grains and other horticulture products.

The Committee on Finance, Trade and Economic Development has also been established. One of the mandates of Committee would be to exercise Parliamentary oversight and scrutiny over government ministries, departments and agencies with portfolio responsibilities in respect of Finance, Development, Trade and Industry.

“The sector is at the core of industrialisation aspirations and strategies for economic development in Botswana. Manufacturing in particular can be the driver of economic growth through technological improvements and innovation,” the National Assembly said. Hence, it said, the development of the sector could also foster export diversification and export led-growth in Botswana while benefitting from the African Continental Free Trade Area (AFCFTA).

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Salbany, Bareetsi threaten to sue DIS

23rd May 2022
Salbany Bareetsi

Two senior members of Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC) have threatened legal action against Directorate of Intelligence and Security (DIS), it has transpired. The threat is contained in an answering affidavit of Director General of DCEC, Tymon Katlholo in which he is seeking an interdiction from High Court to stop the DIS from accessing investigation files at his office.

After the DIS detained DCEC officials Joao Salbany and Tsholofelo Bareetsi on December 16, 2021, they filed an official complaint against DIS and some officials. They complained about abuse of office by DIS and five officers. Salbany and Bareetsi also complained about unlawful detention by DIS and unlawful dissemination of classified information contrary to Section 44 of Corruption and Economic Crime Act. “The DIS interviews were premised on information divulged during the course of official DCEC work product, that is the Monday media brief meeting,” they wrote.

They further requested leave to institute a civil suit against the DIS and its officers, and invariably the State for inhuman and degrading treatment they suffered and unlawful detention. They also pondered a declaratory seeking a sanction against the DIS and Botswana Police Service (BPS) and clarification of the role of BPS officers seconded to DIS.

“The envisaged suit against BPS and DIS officers and the DIS will inevitably centre on investigations done by the DCEC and the scope of the protection availed to DCEC officers for conduct done in the course and scope of DCEC official duties.” The duo said it was self-evident from the conduct of the DIS officers that there was nothing urgent about the information required by the DIS, justifying their detention at its Sebele facility from 08:30 hours on December 16, 2021 until 02:00 hours on December 17, 2021.

They reasoned that the information required by the DIS could have been obtained by a simple request to DCEC Director General. “What the DIS did was to seek to intimidate officers of the DCEC whom they knew were carrying out investigations against some of the DIS officers who were part of their investigation team. This turn of events has a chilling effect not only on the functioning of the DCEC but also on the official conduct of officers of the DCEC as to how they conduct their official duties.”

They concluded by stating that in the event the request is granted, they would further request to be advised as to the provision of legal representation as the unalwful detention and the degrading and inhuman treatment by the DIS was in relation to matters conducted by and on behalf of the DCEC.

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