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The Receiver recover millions from proceeds of crime

In order to fight crime through its financial lifeblood and to create a fair and just society in which crime does not pay, the newly established Office of the Receiver under the Ministry of Defence, Justice and Security (MDJS) has already recovered millions of Pula from the proceeds of crime.

The Office which was created in September last year following the introduction of the Proceeds and Instruments of Crime Act (PICA) which came into effect in January 2015 is responsible for preserving the value of the confiscated property or money in respect of an order made under the Act or any written law of Botswana.

Giving a presentation at the Third Ordinary Full Council Session on Tuesday at Selebi Phikwe Town Council (SPTC), the Receiver, Bafi Nlanda revealed that his office has already in a short period of time recovered millions in both cash and the value of the impounded movable and immovable assets which have been deemed by the courts to be gains or proceeds of crime.

Because the majority of criminals are motivated by money and profit, it is critical that Government pay sufficient attention to the financial aspects of crime by creating a criminal justice system that is fashioned to take away from criminals the gains they have accumulated or made from crime, the Receiver has emphasised.

PICA was passed by Parliament in August 2014 to deprive criminals of their illegally gained profits by introducing new forfeiture provisions which were lacking in the previous legislation. He noted that the Act repealed the Proceeds of Serious Crime Act which provided only for criminal forfeiture and did not resolve the issue of management of proceeds. “Nobody took responsibility for proceeds forfeited to state and proceeds still piled up in courtroom yards and storerooms while livestock disappeared as there was a question of who is the state, is it the Court, law enforcement or the DPP?” said the Receiver.

Speaking at the 2017 Annual General Meeting of the Asset Recovery Inter-Network for Southern Africa (ARINSA) last year, the then Minister of Presidential Affairs, Governance and Public Administration, Eric Molale revealed that money exceeding P20 million has been restrained or forfeited to the state since (PICA) came into operation in January 2015.

Without telling the exact amount recovered on Tuesday, Nlanda said his office has recovered millions which will be invested into the state. “Despite being only two in the office, we have already recovered millions from proceeds of crime and you can imagine how much more we can recover if we have more officers. My office is currently manned by only three officers being the Receiver, a Secretary and a Driver. We are already in possession of court orders to seize and manage both movable and immovable property including plots, houses, buildings, money and even livestock,” he said.

The Receiver’s duties include the coordination of strategic direction on development and review of policies, legislation and programmes in line with Proceeds and Instruments of Crime Act, 2014, coordinating bilateral and multilateral relations and cooperation as well as administering the Confiscated Assets Trust Fund.

The Receiver noted that the Confiscated Assets Trust Fund will receive, deposit and administer money collected under PICA, compensate and rehabilitate victims of crime and pay such sums as the Minister of Finance and Economic Development may approve in writing subject to advice by the Receiver.

The Fund Committee will be appointed by Minister of Defence, Justice and Security to monitor administration of the Fund. The Committee which report quarterly to the Permanent Secretary (PS) on the management of the fund will keep the books of accounts and submit them to the Auditor General for auditing.

The Receiver highlighted that they conduct valuation of every asset impounded at the time of seizure. He explained that if suspects before the courts win their cases, such suspects will be paid the value of the assets if the property has already been sold. He said the reason they value the asset at the time of seizure is so that they be responsible for any depreciation in value of such an asset if the depreciation is evidently caused by them.

“The Receiver can to do anything reasonably necessary to preserve value such as becoming party to any civil proceedings affecting property, maintenance and insuring of seized property and realizing or dealing with securities or investment,” said the Receiver. He also stated that he is also empowered by law to exercise rights attaching to shares as if he is the registered owner to the exclusion of the owner, employ, terminate employment in a business deemed a proceed of crime; and if volatile or depreciating in nature or likely to be so before the case is over, dispose seized assets by public auction.

The Receiver is working hand in hand with stakeholders such as Botswana Police Service (BPS) Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC), Botswana Unified Revenue Services (BURS), Directorate of Intelligence Services (DIS), Financial Intelligence Agency (FIA), Directorate of Public Prosecutions (DPP) and the Judiciary.

All these investigating agencies carry out their investigations and send cases to the DPP for prosecution. The DPP receive cases from investigative agencies and apply for pecuniary penalty Order, criminal and civil forfeiture. The courts will then make a determination and issue out seizure orders. Nlanda said that the DPP has a Dedicated Forfeiture Unit and prosecutors trained by the SA Asset Forfeiture Unit.

Together with the above agencies, the Receiver said they shall turn the tide against criminals and ensure that criminals do not cling on to their unlawful gains. Nlanda advanced that his office has “a very good working relationship” with the investigating agencies and they cooperate very well with each other as some have offered to second some of their officers to the Office of the Receiver. He revealed further that these stakeholders even refer cases to each other if they feel the matter is better investigated by other agencies.

“These stakeholders are wworking on Memoranda of Agreements (MoA) between themselves for better working relations and they are to have a common template used to collect and keep statistics,” said Nlanda. Challenges in the management of recovered and returned assets

The Receiver however said there are challenges hampering the successful execution of his mandate as his office is till new and currently under staffed. He said the law is operational and he has court order to execute despite not having knowledgeable officers in the management of property to seize and manage the property as well as not having warehouses to keep the seized property.

However, BURS has given them space in some of their warehouses across the country in the meanwhile. With stock theft being one of the many crimes prosecuted by the courts, the Receiver has no farms to keep cattle, no budget for feeding cattle and for the remuneration of the farm workers.

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Civil Service volatility: Democracy vs Bureaucracy

19th April 2021
President Masisi

Here is how one Permanent Secretary encapsulates the clear tension between democracy and bureaucracy in Botswana: “President Mokgweetsi Masisi’s Government is behaving like a state surrounded with armed forces in order to capture it or force its surrender. The situation has turned so volatile, for tomorrow is not guaranteed for us top civil servants.

These are the painful results of a personalized civil service in our view as permanent secretaries”. Although his deduction of the situation may be summed as sour grapes because he is one of the ‘victims’ of the reshuffle, he is convinced this is a perfect description of the rationale behind frequent changes and transfers characterising the current civil service.

The result of it all, he said, is that “there is too much instability at managerial and strategic levels of the civil service leading to a noticeable directionless civil service.” He continued: “Changes and transfers are inevitable in the civil service, but to a permissible scale and frequency. Think of soccer team coach who changes and transfers his entire squad every month; you know the consequences?”

The Tsunami has hit hard at critical departments and Ministries leaving a strong wave of uncertainty, many demoralised and some jobless. In traditional approaches to public administration, democracy gives the goals; and bureaucracy delivers the technical efficiency required for implementation. But the recent moves in the civil service are indicative of conflicting imperatives – the notion of separation between politicians and administrators is becoming blurred by the day.

“Look at what happened to Prisons and BDF where second in command were overlooked for outsiders, and these are the people who had sacrificially served for donkey’s years hoping for a seat at the ladder’s end. The frequency of the changes, at times affecting the same Ministry or individual also demonstrates some level of ineptitude, clumsiness and lack of foresight from those in charge,” remarked the PS who added that their view is that the transfers are not related to anything but “settling scores, creating corruption opportunities and pushing out perceived dissident and former president, Ian Khama’s alleged loyalists and most of these transfers are said to be products of intelligence detection.”

Partly blaming Khama for the mess and his unwillingness to let go, the PS dismissed Masisi for falling to the trap and failing to outgrow the destructive tiff. “Khama is here to stay and the sooner Masisi comes to terms with the fact that he (Masisi) is the state President, the better. For a President to still be making these changes and transfers signals signs of a confused man who has not yet started rolling his roadmap, if at all it was ever there. I am saying this because any roadmap comes with key players and policies,” he concluded.

The Ministry of Health and Wellness seems to be the most hard-hit by the transfers, having experienced three Permanent Secretaries changes within a year and a half. Insiders say the changes have everything to do with the Ministry being the centre of COVID-19 tenders and economic opportunities. “The buck stops with the PS and no right-thinking PS can just allow glaring corruption under his watch as an accounting officer. Technocrats are generally law abiding, the pressure comes with politically appointed leaders racing against political terms to loot,” revealed a director in the Ministry preferring anonymity.

The latest transfer of Kabelo Ebineng she says was also motivated by his firm attitude against the President’s blue-eyed Task Team boys. “The Task Team wants to own the COVID-19 pandemic and government interventions and always cry foul when the Ministry reasserts itself as mandated by law,” said the director who added that Masisi who was always caught between the crossfire decided on sacrificing Ebineng to the joy of his team as they (Task Team) were in the habit of threatening to resign citing Ebineng as the problem.

Ebineng joins the Office of the President as a deputy Coordinator (government implementation and coordination office).The incoming PS is the soft-spoken Grace Muzila, known and described by her close associates as a conformist albeit knowledgeable.

One of the losers in the grand scheme is Thato Raphaka who many had seen as the next PSP because of his experience and calm demeanour following a declaration of interest in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Secretary post by the current PSP, Elias Magosi.

But hardly ten months into his post, Raphaka has been transferred out to the National Strategy Office in what many see as a demotion of some sort. Other notable changes coming into OP are Pearl Ramokoka formerly with the Employment, Labour and Productivity Ministry coming in as a Permanent Secretary and Kgomotso Abi as director of Public Service Reforms.

One of the ousted senior officers in the Office of the President warned that there are no signs that the changes and transfers will stop anytime soon: “If you are observant you would have long noticed that the changes don’t only affect senior officers but government decisions as well. A decision is made today and the government backtracks on it within a week. Not only that, the President says this today, and his deputy denies it the following day in Parliament,” he warned.

Some observers have blamed the turmoil in the civil service partly to lack of accountable presidential advisers or kitchen cabinet properly schooled on matters of statecraft. They point out that politicians or those peripheral to them should refrain from hampering the technical and organizational activities of public managers – or else the party (reshuffling) won’t stop.

In the view expressed by some Permanent Secretaries, Elias Magosi, has not really been himself since joining the civil service; and has cut a picture of indifference in most critical engagements; the most notable been a permanent secretaries platform which he chairs. As things stand there is need to reconcile the imperatives of democracy and democracy in Botswana. Peace will rein only when public value should stand astride the fault that runs between politicians and public managers.

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Morupisi fights for freedom in court

19th April 2021
morupisi

Former Permanent Secretary to the President, Carter Morupisi, is fighting for survival in a matter in which the State has charged him and his wife, Pinnie Morupisi, with corruption and money laundering.

Morupisi has joined a list of prominent figures that served in the previous administration and who have been accused of corruption during their tenure in office. While others have been emerging victorious, Morupisi is yet to find that luck. The High Court recently dismissed his no case to answer application.

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Pressure mounts on Biden to suspend Covid-19 vaccine patents

19th April 2021
Joe Biden

United States President, Joe Biden, is faced with a decision to make relating to the Covid-19 vaccine intellectual property after 175 former world leaders and Nobel laurates joined the campaign urging the US to take “urgent action” to suspend intellectual property rights for Covid-19 vaccines to help boost global inoculation rates.

According to the world leaders, doing so would allow developing countries to make their own copies of the vaccines that have been developed by pharmaceutical companies without fear of being sued for intellectual property infringements.

“A WTO waiver is a vital and necessary step to bringing an end to this pandemic. It must be combined with ensuring vaccine know-how and technology is shared openly,” the signatories, comprising more than 100 Nobel prize-winners and over 70 former world leaders, wrote in a letter to US President Joe Biden, according to Financial Times.

A measure to allow countries to temporarily override patent rights for Covid related medical products was proposed at the World Trade Organization by India and South Africa in October, and has since been backed by nearly 60 countries.

Former leaders who signed the letter included Gordon Brown, former UK Prime Minister; François Hollande, former French President; Mikhail Gorbachev, former President of the USSR; and Yves Leterme, former Belgian Prime Minister.

In their official communication, South Africa and India said: “As new diagnostics, therapeutics and vaccines for Covid-19 are developed, there are significant concerns [about] how these will be made available promptly, in sufficient quantities and at affordable prices to meet global demand.”

While developed countries have been able to secure enough vaccine to inoculate their citizens, developing countries such as Botswana are struggling to source enough to swiftly vaccine their citizens, something which world leaders believe it would work against global recovery therefore proving counter-productive.

Since the availability of vaccines, Botswana has been able to secure only 60 000 doses of vaccines, 30 000 as donation as from the Indian government, while the other 30 000 was sourced through COVAX facility.  Canada, has pre-ordered vaccines in surplus and it will be able to vaccinate each of its citizens six times over. In the UK and US, it is four vaccines per person; and two each in the EU and Australia.

For vaccines produced in Europe, developing countries are forced to pay double what European countries are paying, making it more expensive for already financially struggling economies.  European countries however justify the price of vaccines and that they deserve to buy them cheap since they contributed in their development.

It is evident that vaccines cannot be made available immediately to all countries worldwide with wealthy economies being the only success story in that regard, something that has been referred to as a “catastrophic moral failure”, head of the World Health Organisation (WHO), Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

The challenge facing developing countries is not only the price, but also the capacity of vaccine manufactures to be able to do so to meet global demand within a short time. The proposal for a patent waiver by India and South Africa has been rejected by developed countries, known for hosting the world leading pharmaceutical companies such US, European Union, the United Kingdom, and Switzerland.

According to the Financial Times, US business groups including pharmaceutical industry representatives, have urged Biden to resist supporting a waiver to IP rules at the WTO, arguing that the proposal led by India and South Africa was too “vague” and “broad”.

The individuals who signed the letter, including Nobel laureates in economics as well as from across the arts and sciences, warned that inequitable vaccine access would impact the global economy and prevent it from recovering.

“The world saw unprecedented development of safe and effective vaccines, in major part thanks to US public investment,” the group wrote. “We all welcome that vaccination rollout in the US and many wealthier countries is bringing hope to their citizens.”

“Yet for the majority of the world that same hope is yet to be seen. New waves of suffering are now rising across the globe. Our global economy cannot rebuild if it remains vulnerable to this virus.”
The group warned that fully enforcing IP was “self-defeating for the US” as it hindered global vaccination efforts. “Given artificial global supply shortages, the US economy already risks losing $1.3tn in gross domestic product this year.”

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