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DCEC new chief lays down sweeping reforms

Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC) Director General Victor Bruno Paledi has laid down sweeping reforms for his agency.

Paledi ascended to DCEC as Director on 1st September 2017 following the departure of erstwhile boss Rose Seretse to the newly formed Botswana Energy Regulatory Authority (BERA) also as its head. When speaking to WeekendPost on the sidelines of the Botswana’s second review cycle of United Nations Convention against Corruption, organized by the DCEC, Paledi hinted on his reforms that will transform the corruption busting agency.

“As you know, when someone gets into office they have their own strategy; have strategic plan and know the critical things that you want to focus on. And therefore my main focus will be prevention. Investigations will not be the backbone of my agenda. Priority will be prevention. But of course investigations will also be done as its part and parcel of the system,” he told this publication.

According to Paledi, he will focus much on crime prevention for a very simple reason being that cases involving millions of pula drag too long at the courts spanning close to 10 years, and on the way witnesses may die out of natural causes, and some might resign from their jobs, so they (investigations) can really get difficult. He emphasised that “you can’t really base your strategy on investigation. Investigation is reactive. It comes after the corruption has already been done.”

In a carefully calculated manner and to avoid being misconstrued, the former Deputy Commissioner of Botswana Police Service (operations) stressed that but he is not saying they will not do investigations at all.But rather that “investigations are necessary although we know it takes time and need a lot of money but we will still do it nonetheless. And when we do them we must do it to the best of our abilities. We need people who are highly trained and skilled to do it. But it will not be number one priority for us.”

DCEC Director General says DCEC is independent

Paledi also pointed out that another critical thing that he really wants the DCEC to be is that it should be highly professional and that it should also be a very independent organisation which is reputable internationally. However he was quick to highlight that “it’s not to suggest that we are not independent because independence is a function of the mind.”

He continued: “Independence is in the mind. It’s a function of the mind. There is no institution that can hand it over to you on silver platter. What you think and how ethical you are defines independence. I may give you the powers to do something and you may not realize that you are independent if you don’t know what it really entails.”

The maverick DCEC Director General explained that when the agency accounts to the Minister of Presidential Affairs, Governance and public Administration, it doesn’t necessarily mean it is not independent but rather that it is using public funds and that they have to account for them to someone of higher-ranking.

“So, still in this predicament even if I investigate cases of people that are senior to me, I need not bow down to their seniority. And it would have been not them who told me to bow down. I need to go out to them and do my job. If anything I maybe get fired and that’s okay as you will all know why I was fired in that case. So this is the independence am referring to,” he emphasised.

Paledi, who started his career as a teacher, also said it’s very difficult to say whether he is comfortable or not for DCEC to continue reporting to the Minister instead of parliament because reporting to the minister to him does not necessary compromise his operations anyhow.  

“But I don’t know if someone comes into my position how he will react as they may look at it differently.” He added: “I can still report to parliament and still feel am not free depending on the constitution of parliament. As you know the ruling party may still be there to keep the status quo at DCEC.”

Paledi says DCEC remains powerful, does not even fear DIS

According to Paledi, DCEC is a big institution, very well resourced, consisting of lawyers, engineers, and he doesn’t know what other people mean that DCEC fears the DIS or anyone for that matter. This is in light of utterances by ex Minister of Mineral Resources, Green Technology and Energy Security, Sadique Kebonang who revealed to Public Accounts Committee (PAC) recently when appearing before it that DCEC, including cabinet ministers and the public, fear Directorate on Intelligence and Security Services (DISS).

But Paledi differs with Kebonang: “the one who said that is dim-witted. He should unpack what they mean by this because as DCEC we go out for everyone equally. So whoever says that maybe just did out of frustration.”
Another independent thinker who has criticized the DCEC describing it as “useless” is Kgosi Ngakaagae, a renowned attorney who is representing Bakang Seretse in a marathon case involving 250 million diverted from the National Petroleum Fund to DISS.

Ngakaagae had said about DCEC: “this is a hopeless department that does not fight corruption but that protects it.  This simple act of selective charging is in its self an act of corruption by DCEC. You have to understand that. That is stupid on the part of the DCEC. They are crying because we are asking why Kgosi is not prosecuted. That is the nonsense they are crying for and it is really regrettable just because when we ask if our clients are guilty why are particular people not prosecuted, and then all you get is harassment in turn of our clients by the DCEC.”  

He also stated on record that “I have to mention that this (DCEC) is a department of cowards. They are impotent they are hopeless. They tremble at power and they feed on the meek that is the DCEC for you. You can’t tremble at power when you are an investigative authority and then feed on the meek, chasing people accused of stealing P200 and those owing traffic fines and then bang P250 million is gone and what do you do; you can’t look at power in the eyes and say account.”

In light of Ngakaagae statements on DCEC, when defending the organ, Paledi stated that the DCEC is competent. “DCEC is not incompetent. Those who say it is are just frustrated. Investigations take long and it is by their nature.” Ngakaagae said this because he wants DCEC to also charge DISS former Director Isaac Kgosi as he is implicated in the matter before the courts as documents indicate he authorized the imbursement of funds from NPF to DISS.

However when quizzed about if indeed they fear(ed) Kgosi and DISS, Paledi would not venture into that discussion including whether they would later investigate Kgosi or not. Instead he said, that he (Kgosi) was fired this week was news to his ear and that he was constrained to talk about it as there is a matter before the courts that would deal with such matters.

Meanwhile, reports indicate that Paledi was at one point accused of conniving with DIS Director General, Kgosi to release DIS agents who were arrested with suspected poached elephant tusks while he (Paledi) was acting Commissioner of Police.
The Sunday Standard newspaper reported then that one Mosetse was deployed by the Office of the President to head Operation Save Isaac Kgosi who it was believed then that he would be brought in to lead the DCEC as part of a strategy to kill DISS boss’ corruption case.

Paledi explained that corruption cases are complicated because the perpetrators are mainly people in power and highly intelligent people. These are scientists, mathematicians, lawyers, politicians and they know all the tricks, he justified.
According to the former Police Officer, the perpetrators even review, amongst them what might happen if they are caught and go to court and their defense, and that is why, when you go to court you spend a lot of time on technical issues and that’s why it takes a lot of time.

Paledi also added that he wants DCEC to move away from being shrouded in secrecy stressing that it should rather be easily accessible. He also said “that Botswana is regarded as the least corrupt in Africa is a challenge to me because it means that if it is so am in big trouble should it slide under my watch.”Paledi is the fourth Director General to lead the corruption busting agency after Tymon Katlholo and most recently Rose Seretse.

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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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