Leader of newly formed political party, Alliance for Progressives (AP), Ndaba Gaolathe has attributed the current corruption scandals sweeping across the country to the lack of strong institutions and poor oversight.
He said the poor foundation laid out in the country’s three arms of government which gives more powers unnecessarily to the Executive has resulted in the corruption mess as every accountability institution reports to the Executive. In terms of the 3 arms of government; Legislature, Executive and Judiciary, the soft spoken Gaolathe maintained that the Executive remains powerful as compared to others although ideally they should be on the same level.
Gaolathe said this in light of the current setting in government where most oversight and accountability bodies like the Ombudsman, Directorate on Corruption on Economic Crime (DCEC), Directorate on Intelligence and Security Services (DISS), Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) and to some extent the Judiciary (Chief Justice) all report to and are financed by the Executive and therefore by extension not totally independent.
“There are no independent and trustworthy institutions that can take on the public confidence in dealing with such corruption taking place in the country. That is why we are suspicious of each other at the moment; we know longer even trust each other. Our country is now in a total mess,” Gaolathe said at a Public Lecture/Meeting on Corruption this week held in Gaborone.
The public lecture came at a time when there are strong allegations that link President Lt. Gen. Dr. Seretse Khama Ian Khama, Vice President Mokgweetsi Masisi, DISS Director General Isaac Kgosi, Minister of Youth Empowerment, Sport and Culture Development Thapelo Olopeng and Minister of Mineral Resources, Green Technology and Energy Security Sadique Kebonang among other top government officials – to high magnitude corruption.
In the said biggest financial scandal in Botswana involving P250 million, an attorney representing Bakang Seretse in the case, Kgosi Ngakaagae said in court last week that the country’s top politburo may have unduly benefitted from the controversial National Petroleum Fund(NPF) – which they all denied.
In the ongoing case, Gaolathe said even if the culprits can be taken to book and the money returned to the government purse, the issues will still come back in future to haunt us (or repeat itself) owing to governance issues (still). “These issues have turned this country into a fertile ground and paradise of corruption,” he pointed out.
According to Gaolathe, in terms of the corruption at NPF, “to be honest with you, I doubt anybody really knows what happened; it’s just a tip of the iceberg. But all indications suggest that the money landed in the wrong pockets.” He continued: “we don’t even know how much money was taken from the fund, although I have seen numbers been dropped up like 250 million, 300 million etc. But that’s just a transaction that has leaked, this shows there might be other transactions which have not leaked to the public. We don’t even know when the looting started. In this circus, some have broken their constitutional vow not to steal from the public purse.”
Calls for a commission of inquiry on corruption allegations
According to Gaolathe, “when we don’t know the answers to all this for now, we must be honest, and look for answers from those with the technical expertise to assist find out with a fair and transparent exercise.” “They should be fair to everyone involved. That’s why we are saying that let there be an independent commission of inquiries to find out who stole how much and clear others who are not in any way involved. We want a motion for a commission of inquiry on the abuse of the National Petroleum Fund and general abuse of public resources,” he said.
He added: “Even I have been accused of receiving 1 million through corrupt means of the controversial NPF but the inquiry will put that to bare if correct and I will also be brought to book if found to be implicated.” Gaolathe pointed out that his motion differs from the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) one which calls for the review of the NPF.
The NPF has a fund order; he said adding that it’s basically used in case of increases in petroleum fee; some money will be used to caution motorists with such high prices of fuel. The other role, he added, is to build strategic fuel reserves for use in future in times of need. “Some countries that supply us with fuel may also get into war and this may adversely affect us, and in cases of delay of fuel.”
Parliament role in Botswana in funds like NPF is insufficient
The son of the former and late Minister of Finance and Development Planning Baledzi Gaolathe highlighted that in American parliament in terms of the NPF, it has a bigger role than Botswana. “Pity, with us we have a Committee of Supplies; the Minister presents his proposals and parliament rubber stamps and that is not a proper procedure. But parliament should have committees that oversee the use of public funds and can have a significant contribution.”
The country, he said, has many public funds and levies but there is one big fund called Consolidated Fund which takes part of the government money that it disperses to the public. Others include National Disaster Funds, Botswana Public Officers Pension fund (BPOPF), National Petroleum Fund (NPF).
“Some countries like the US have a solid foundation of a constitution, in which you cannot be corrupt in any way. But in terms of our constitution, when the President becomes implicated in corruption it becomes a total mess. The Constitution makes the president to tow the line unlike in our country.” According to Gaolathe, the arms of government of Botswana do not have a firm, strong and solid foundation.
“By not necessarily pointing fingers at anyone, we are only revealing our findings as sent by you. We found out that the executive and parliament are less resourced and very weak. In some countries of the world, some Student Representative Councils (SRC’s) are more resourced than our parliament. Those SRC’s are equipped with their in house lawyers. They also have some economists dedicated to the Councils,” he pointed out.
The Gaborone Bonnington South lawmaker said, in the case of Botswana even parliament lacks a department consisting of attorneys. “Where have you seen people assigned with making laws but without any lawyers to guide such process? It’s the first time to witness such in my life,” he lamented. He raised concern that there is no “economics” department at parliament that would oversee the budget of the national cake and see whether it is fair and transparent. “At the moment there is no economist even purely dedicated to assist the executive or Ministry of Finance and Development Planning to assist in country’s economic forecast and day to day business.”
Botswana should establish a Comptroller General not Auditor General
In America he said they have what is known as ‘government accountability office’ headed by a Comptroller General. “In Botswana the office is almost similar to that of the Auditor General. The difference between these offices is that in Botswana, the Executive is more powerful. That is why all ministries and even Auditor General report to the Executive.”
Gaolathe highlighted that the Comptroller General in other countries like US, unlike Botswana, does not report to the Executive but rather to parliament. Parliament, he said has legislative agencies just like there are government ministries for the Executive. “The Auditor General is therefore very independent in that way in those countries, they can’t even touch him. Even his contracts and salaries are done by parliament.”
The Comptroller, he said, has been disagreeing with the Central government in America for long, since 1996, and they have been calling for prudent spending of government funds while denouncing heavy budget on the military and others. “If we had such an independent office such as Comptroller General in Botswana, the corruption issues currently engulfing the country would be no more. In times like these, the local Comptroller General would tell us that there has been corruption where and how, and to what extent,” he said.
While there is no hard-and-fast rule in politics, former Molepolole North Member of Parliament, Mohamed Khan says populism acts in the body politic have forced him to quit active partisan politics. He brands this ancient ascription of politics as fake and says it lowers the moral compass of the society.
Khan who finally tasted political victory in the 2014 elections after numerous failed attempts, has decided to leave the ‘dirty game’, and on his way out he characteristically lashed at the current political leaders; including his own party president, Advocate Duma Boko. “I arrived at this decision because I have noticed that there are no genuine politics and politicians. The current leaders, Boko and President Dr Mokgweetsi Masisi are fake politicians who are just practicing populist politics to feed their egos,” he said.
Former Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) parliamentary hopeful, Lawrence Ookeditse has rejected the idea of taking up a crucial role in the Botswana Patriotic Front (BPF) Central Committee following his arrival in the party this week. According to sources close to development, BPF power brokers are coaxing Ookeditse to take up the secretary general position, left vacant by death of Roseline Panzirah-Matshome in November 2020.
Ookeditse’s arrival at BPF is projected to cause conflicts, as some believe they are being overlooked, in favour of a new arrival. The former ruling party strategist has however ruled out the possibility of serving in the party central committee as secretary general, and committed that he will turn down the overture if availed to him by party leadership.
Ookeditse, nevertheless, has indicated that if offered another opportunity to serve in a different capacity, he will gladly accept. “I still need to learn the party, how it functions and all its structures; I must be guided, but given any responsibility I will serve the party as long as it is not the SG position.”
“I joined the BPF with a clear conscious, to further advance my voice and the interests of the constituents of Nata/Gweta which I believe the BDP is no longer capable to execute.” Ookeditse speaks of abject poverty in his constituency and prevalent unemployment among the youth, issues he hopes his new home will prioritise.
He dismissed further allegations that he resigned from the BDP because he was not rewarded for his efforts towards the 2019 general elections. After losing in the BDP primaries in 2018, Ookeditse said, he was offered a job in government but declined to take the post due to his political ambitions. Ookeditse stated that he rejected the offer because, working for government clashed with his political journey.
He insists there are many activists who are more deserving than him; he could have chosen to take up the opportunity that was before him but his conscious for the entire populace’s wellbeing held him back. Ookeditse said there many people in the party who also contributed towards party success, asserting that he only left the BDP because he was concerned about the greater good of the majority not individualism purposes.
According to observers, Ookeditse has been enticed by the prospects of contesting Nata/Gweta constituency in the 2024 general election, following the party’s impressive performance in the last general elections. Nata/Gweta which is a traditional BDP stronghold saw its numbers shrinking to a margin of 1568. BDP represented by Polson Majaga garnered 4754, while BPF which had fielded Joe Linga received 3186 with UDC coming a distant with 1442 votes.
There are reports that Linga will pave way for Ookeditse to contest the constituency in 2024 and the latter is upbeat about the prospects of being elected to parliament. Despite Ookeditse dismissing reports that he is eying the secretary general position, insiders argue that the position will be availed to him nevertheless.
Alternative favourite for the position is Vuyo Notha who is the party Deputy Secretary General. Notha has since assumed duties of the secretariat office on the interim basis. BPF politburo is expected to meet on 25th of January 2020, where the vacancy will be filled.
Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) big wigs have decided to cancel a retreat with the party legislators this weekend owing to increasing numbers of Covid-19 cases. The meeting was billed for this weekend at a place that was to be confirmed, however a communique from the party this past Tuesday reversed the highly anticipated meeting.
“We received a communication this week that the meeting will not go as planned because of rapid spread of Covid-19,” one member of the party Central Committee confirmed to this publication. The gathering was to follow the first of its kind held late last year at party Treasurer Satar Dada’s place.