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Top Gov’t officials disrespect Ombudsman

The office of the public protector, the Ombudsman, is having a hard time resolving cases of maladministration and abuse of office in the public service because accounting officers generally show contempt for the processes.

Parliament heard this week that there is a backlog of 949 cases, with only 48 percent of the cases having been resolved while the rest remain unresolved. In a desperate bid to resolve the impasse, Assistant Minister of Presidential Affairs Thato Kwerepe has told parliament that the Ombudsman intends on introducing several initiatives among them “closer engagement with Accounting Officers to deepen understanding of the process of complaints resolution”.

The Ombudsman Act provides that where the Ombudsman proposes to conduct an investigation the office shall afford to the principal officer of any department or authority concerned, and to any other person who is alleged to have taken or authorized the action in question, an opportunity to comment on any allegations made to the Ombudsman.

The reported failure by accounting officers to comply with the Ombudsman did not impress Specially Elected Member of Parliament Bogolo Kenewendo, who suggested that the Ombudsman should be given powers to deal decisively with the rampant corruption which has become prevalent in recent years. “I am worried by the delay and backlog that the office of Ombudsman is currently facing but I acknowledge that this is not out of their own doing but the ministries that are asked to appear before them, and fail to do so and I find it disrespectful,” she said.

“We are experiencing a lot of corruption and we should be seeing less of it. We do not need to wait for people to report [before instituting investigations], but the office should be able to take initiative.” The Ombudsman’s office which was allocated only P45 million from the national budget has been accused of being toothless, a perception which Kenewendo concurs with.

Kenewendo said the Ombudsman is required by law to report to parliament, but that has not been the case, at least in a satisfactory manner according her expectation. Kenewendo wants the Ombudsman to regularly report to parliament so that the legislative house acts on the recommendations  

Section 8 (b) of the Ombudsman Act empowers the Office to take the matter to parliament if his or her recommendation are not implemented within a reasonable time.  The Act states: “Where the Ombudsman has made a recommendation under subsection (1) and within a reasonable time thereafter no action has been taken which appears to him adequately to remedy the injustice: he may lay before the National Assembly a special report.”

There have been various cases in the past where the senior public servants disregarded the recommendations of the Ombudmsman. The most famous one was in 2000 when it was ruled that then Vice President Lt Gen Ian Khama should stop flying BDF aeroplanes because it constituted abuse of public resources. Festus Mogae, then president, disregarded the recommendations and further backed his deputy to continue flying the aircraft.

Recently, the new Ombudsman Augustine Makgonatsotlhe ruled in a complaint brought by Botswana National Front (BNF) Vice President Dr Rev. Prince Dibeela, that BTV was unfairly giving opposition a raw deal in news coverage. The BTV has yet to act in accordance with the recommendations. 

Debating the Office of Ombudsman’s budget, Major General Pius Mokgware said the money that was allocated to the institution is too insignificant to enable to office to carry out its mandate effectively without compromising its role. He said as one of the nation’s oversight institutions, it is necessary to be well resourced to enable it to fight abuse, maladministration and corruption in the public office. “This small budget will limit the Ombudsman in investigating cases of nepotism and corruption cases that are currently affecting the country,” said the Gabane-Mankgodi legislator.

Mokgware proposed that the budget for the DIS be reduced, in favour of increasing the ombudsman’s budget three times.  Legislator for Serowe South, who is also Minister of International Affairs and Cooperation, Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi, agreed with Mokgware on increment of the Ombudsman’s budget, arguing that if the office is allowed to do its job with enough resources it will be able to produce well informed reports.

She said this in the wake of corruption scandals that have hit the ruling party, of which Moitoi believes some are falsely being accused, and that an oversight institution like the Ombudsman will be able to clear them(falsely accused) if allowed to do its job effectively.  
The Ombudsman together with the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC) came into being in the mid 1990s in the wake of corruption scandals that had marred the public service.

The Kgabo Commission and Christie Report, which investigated land dealings in Mogoditshane and other peri-urban, areas as well as the dealings of Botswana Housing Corporation (BHC) found unprecedented levels of maladministration, abuse of office and corruption scandals in the public service.

The office of the Ombudsman is often compared with that of the neighbouring South Africa’s equivalent, known as the Public Protector. Under the leadership of immediate former head, Thuli Mandosela, the institution showed its resilience against all forces, taking to task government ministries, including then president, Jacob Zuma.

The public protector in South Africa, like other Chapter 9 institutions, is independent and subject only to the constitution and reports only to parliament. The Public Protector is given the power to investigate any conduct in state affairs, or in the public administration in any sphere of government, that is alleged or suspected to be improper or to result in any impropriety or prejudice. As part of its mandate the Public Protector is also empowered to report on that conduct as well as taking appropriate remedial action.

The institution of the ombudsman, was first created in Sweden more than 200 years ago, and designed to provide protection for the individuals where there is a substantial imbalance of power.

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BDP decides Balopi’s fate

22nd November 2021
Balopi

The Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) Central Committee (CC) meeting, chaired by President Dr Mokgweetsi Masisi late last month, resolved that the party’s next Secretary-General (SG) should be a full-time employee based at Tsholetsa House and not active in politics.

The resolution by the CC, which Masisi proposed, is viewed as a ploy to deflate the incumbent, Mpho Balopi’s political ambitions and send him into political obscurity. The two have not been on good terms since the 2019 elections, and the fallout has been widening despite attempts to reconcile them. In essence, the BDP says that Balopi, who is currently a Member of Parliament, Minister of Employment, Labour Productivity and Skills Development, and a businessman, is overwhelmed by the role.

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BDF-Namibians shootings autopsy report revealed

22nd November 2021
BDF

The Botswana Defence Force (BDF)-Namibians fatal shooting tragedy Inquest has revealed through autopsy report that the BDF carried over 800 bullets for the mission, 32 of which were discharged towards the targets, and 19 of which hit the targets.

This would mean that 13 bullets missed the targets-in what would be a 60 percent precision rate for the BDF operation target shooting. The Autopsy report shows that Martin Nchindo was shot with five (4) bullets, Ernst Nchindo five (5) bullets, Tommy Nchindo five (5) bullets and Sinvula Munyeme five (5) bullets. From the seven (7) BDF soldiers that left the BDF camp in two boats, four (4) fired the shots that killed the Namibians.

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Gov’t confused over Moitoi’s UN job application

22nd November 2021
VENSON MOITOI

The former Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi’s decision to apply for the positions of United Nations Special Representative of the Secretary-General (SRSG) and their deputies (DSRSG), has left the government confused over whether to lend her support or not, WeekendPost has established.

Moitoi’s application follows the Secretary-General’s launch of the third edition of the Global Call for Heads and Deputy Heads of United Nations Field Missions, which aims to expand the pool of candidates for the positions of SRSG) and their deputies to advance gender parity and geographical diversity at the most senior leadership level in the field. These mission leadership positions are graded at the Under-Secretary-General and Assistant Secretary-General levels.

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