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No DIS supervision: Kgosi faults Parliament

DISS Boss Isaac Kgosi

The Director General of the Directorate on Intelligence and Security Services (DISS) Isaac Kgosi told the Public Accounts Committee this week that a dysfunctional Parliamentary Tribunal that oversees the operations of the intelligence organisation is to blame for lack of oversight on his organisation.

Appearing before the Public Accounts Committee, chaired by Tati East Member of Parliament Guma Moyo, Kgosi avoided most questions which he deemed infringed on security matters, stated that he could not respond due to ‘security reasons’. The spy boss could not even divulge to PAC the success of the DIS, reiterating that it was for security reasons.

Procurement and general operations of the security organ as well as its spending were part of the details which Kgosi could not share with the PAC. In less than 30 minutes, the DIS boss walked out having told the leading parliamentary oversight committee only what he wanted them to hear.

Kgosi told the committee that the perception that DIS does not account to anyone has nothing to do with him but the oversight bodies which have for years failed to convene a meeting that would summon the DIS boss.

“It is a matter which is beyond me. I cannot account to myself or I cannot cause the meeting to take place because there is oversight body mandated to do that,” he said.

The paralysis of Intelligence and Security Parliamentary Committee has left the country’s secret service organ with only the president to account to. Opposition MPs Ndaba Gaolathe and Shaun Nthaile have declined to sit in the committee. The committee has been dysfunctional since the 10th parliament.

In 2014, members of the Intelligence and Security Parliamentary Committee, Bagalatia Arone, and former MP for Mmopane-Lentsweletau Major General Moeng Pheto resigned from the committee amid reports that its chairperson Kagiso Molatlhegi refused to convene a sitting to summon the DIS director to appear before the committee over corruption allegations that were doing rounds in the media at that time.  

In this week’s sitting, PAC had wanted Kgosi to justify the P500 million budget allocated to the eight year old organisation. Guma was of the view that perhaps disclosure of the success of the intelligence organ will help erase the negative perception about the DIS.

In the current financial year, Ministry of Defence, Justice and Security was allocated the biggest share of the development budget. Of the P14 billion budget for development, P3.59 billion or 24.2 percent was allocated to Ministry of Defence Justice and Security with justification that the money will mainly cater for provision of defence equipment, communication equipment, and infrastructure, in order to improve BDF’s defence capabilities. While sharing that most of their criticism on defence spending is influenced by ignorance, Kgosi said Botswana must actually spend more.  

When quizzed on whether the country needs to spend more on defence, Kgosi stated that the national budget on security organs, including Botswana Defence Force (BDF), Botswana Police and Botswana Prisons is very low and could not sufficiently protect the country and its citizens.

“We are spending peanuts on the defence organs, looking at the fact that military and intelligence equipment is very expensive to buy,” he said.

“They say pay peanuts and attract monkeys, and that is what we are getting. We need more spending on defence and security.”

Kgosi also said defence spending is not helped by the fact that the equipment which the security entities buy is procured in foreign currencies and this makes it even more expensive.

The DIS boss was also asked if Botswana is facing immediate threat to justify high military spending, and he answered in the affirmative. “Our friends could be our enemies tomorrow, and we need to be prepared militarily,” he said.

Guma had put it to Kgosi that the DIS’s procurement is too secretive to an extent that it raises eye brows given the amount which is allocated to the organ.

“When we are dealing with procurement with regard to the budget which is allocated to the DIS, it is natural that people will question the use of such money if there is no transparency,’ said Guma.  

Furthermore, Kgosi said it is important that information regarding procurement of military equipment is kept secret to avoid a situation where ‘enemies’ are privy to the strength or weakness of the country’s security.

“What I have learnt about Batswana is that; they will only speak well about you at your funeral. Batswana are never satisfied and they will never appreciate even when good things are being done. Batswana are liars,” he said, prompting PAC members to force him to retract the words ‘Batswana are liars.’

It was not for the first time he appeared before the same committee as last year when he appeared before it.

The outspoken spy boss went on to quash allegations of DIS being implicated in a number of killings of ordinary citizens. MP for Franscistown West, who is a member of PAC, Ignatious Moswaane had wanted to know the authenticity of allegations doing rounds pertaining to the orchestration the death of some citizens.

Guma also seized the moment and asked the DIS Director if Gaolathe’s life was under threat especially in the wake of reports that the leader of Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD) was a target of assassins.  

“Gaolathe’s life is not under threat, but if it is, I will make sure that he gets the protection that he needs,” he said.

The intelligence chief also told PAC that among the biggest challenges faced by the country is drug dealing, human trafficking, smuggling of diamonds and money laundering.

Kgosi stated that because Botswana has an environment which is not well known for those kinds of criminal activities, it is becoming an easy target for criminals.

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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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