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DISS, FIA to be guarantors of whistle blowing

DISS Boss; Isaac Kgosi

The Directorate of Intelligence and Security Services (DISS), Botswana Unified Revenue Services (BURS) and Financial Intelligence Agency (FIA) will be among a host of state security organs that will act as guarantors to the mooted Whistle blowers Act, whose bill is presently being debated in parliament.

Other bodies that will act as guarantors of the Act are The Auditor General (AG), Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crimes (DCEC), Ombudsman, and Botswana Police. They will be expected to appoint persons to receive the disclosures.

The bill was tabled by Assistant Minister of Presidential Affairs and Public Administration, Phillip Makgalemele on Wednesday.

Its draft states that, “the object of the bill is to provide for the manner in which a person may, in the public interest, disclose information adverse to the public interest; to provide for the manner of reporting and investigation of disclosures of impropriety and the protection against victimisation of persons who make the disclosures.”

Clause 3 of the bill states that a whistleblower may make a disclosure of information where he or she has reasonable cause to believe that; a criminal or other unlawful act has been committed or is likely being committed; another person has failed, is failing or is likely to fail to comply with any obligation to which that person is subject.

It further states that, information which its disclosure is protected, encompasses, where a miscarriage of justice has occurred, is occurring or likely to occur and where the health and safety of any person has been, is being or is likely to be endangered or the environment has been, is being or is likely to be endangered.

Furthermore, according to it where the conduct of a person, whether or not a public officer, adversely affects, or could adversely affect, either directly or indirectly, the honest or impartial performance of official functions by the person, public officer or public body.

The bill which was published in November 2015, also says that, a disclosure can be made where the conduct of a public officer amounts to the performance of any of the public officer’s functions dishonestly or with partiality; the conduct of the person whether or not a public officer, a former public officer or a public body, amounts to a breach of public trust.

Its goes on to say that, instances where the conduct of a person, whether or not a public officer amounts to maladministration, which is action or inaction of a serious nature that is; contrary to any law, unreasonable, unjust, oppressive or discriminatory or based wholly or partly on improper motives or the conduct of the person or public officer would, if proven, constitute a criminal offence, a disciplinary offence, serious or substantial public wastage or abuse of financial or other public resources, would be covered for protected disclosure.

However the draft states that, protection of disclosures will only be effected if the disclosure is made in good faith, the whistleblower reasonably believes that the disclosure and an allegation of impropriety contained in the disclosure is substantially true and when the disclosure is made to an authorized person.

It also says that an authorized person may decline to investigate or discontinue investigations if the disclosures are made in bad faith, for illegal purposes, frivolously and maliciously.

The Act, if it succeeds, will not protect disclosures of impropriety by public officers against the merits of government policy, including policies of local authorities as well as disclosures made solely or substantially with the motive of avoiding dismissal or other disciplinary action.

It will criminalise actions such as making false disclosures, disclosing the identity of a whistleblower, disclosure of information to third party, victimisation of whistleblowers and failure to take action by an authorised person.

The absence of the whistle blowing Act and its reporting channels had made it a criminal offence to make disclosures about impropriety.

Recently, an attempted disclosure of alleged impropriety through the media landed presidency records officer Abueng Sebola in jail, charged with stealing a file.

Sebola is said to have passed a file to a local Freelance journalist who was himself, charged with receiving stolen property. The secret file was said to have contained a letter written on an official Botswana Coat of Arms, guaranteeing open ended medical fees to one Tsaone Nkarabang, after he was injured in a private rendezvous. It was alleged that a litany of medical bills was billed to government by medical facilities that the latter had attended.

Still, in 2015 a public officer based in Central District was charged with misconduct and accessing confidential information after she had revealed alleged acts of corruption and mismanagement.

The officer has said that she was being forced to go on a transfer as an attempt to silence her. She revealed that she had been required to directly appoint a company to clear the District Commissioner’s (DC) residence contrary to financial instruction.

The then Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development, Khumo Matlhare is said to have instructed the Police and Criminal Investigation Department(CID) to confiscate her memory stick, CPU, laptops and other gadgets.

Matlhare is said to have effectively availed the letter written by the officer, to minister Slumber Tsogwane, about the actions of the DC, to the same DC. His gripe was that, he was allegedly incensed that the officer had not routed the letter through the same officer she was complaining about.

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Seretse, Kgosi may walk free

30th October 2020
BAKANG SERETSE

The P250 million National Petroleum Fund (NPF) saga that has been before court since 2017 seems to be losing its momentum with a high possibility of it being thrown out as defence lawyers unmask incompetency on the part of the Directorate of Public Prosecution (DPP).

The Gaborone High Court this week ruled that the decision by the State to prosecute Justice Zein Kebonang and his twin brother, Sadique Kebonang has been reviewed and set aside. The two brothers have now been cleared of the charges that where laid against them three years ago.

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Understanding the US Electoral College and key election issues 

28th October 2020
Mark J Rozell

The United States (US) will on the 3rd of November 2020 chose between incumbent Donald Trump of the Republicans and former Vice President Joe Biden of the Democrats amid the coronavirus pandemics, which has affected how voting is conducted in the world’s biggest economy.

Trump (74) seeks re-election after trouncing Hillary Clinton in 2016, while Biden (77) is going for his first shot as Democratic nominee after previous unsuccessful spells.

US Presidents mostly succeed in their re-election bid, but there have been nine individuals who failed to garner a second term mandate, the latest being George W H. Bush, a Republican who served as the 41st US President between 1989 and 1993.

Dr Mark Rozell, a Dean of  the School of Policy and Government at George Mason University  in  Arlington, Virginia describes the complex US electoral system that will deliver the winner at the 3rd November elections.

“The founders of our Republic de-centralised  authority  significantly  in  creating  our  constitutional  system,  which  means that  they  gave  an  enormous  amount  of  independent  power  and  authority  to  State  and  local governments,” Dr Rozell told international media on Elections 2020 Virtual Reporting Tour.

Unlike  parliamentary  democracies, like Botswana the  United  States  does  not  have  all  of  the  national government elected in one year. They do not have what is commonly called mandate elections where  the  entire  federal  government  is  elected  all  in  one  election  cycle  giving  a  “mandate”  to  a particular political party to lead, and instead US have what are called staggered elections, elections over time.

The two house Congress, members of the House of Representatives have two-year long terms of office. Every two years the entire House of Representatives is up for re-election, but senators  serve  for  six  years  and  one  third  of  the  Senate is elected every  two  years.

For this election cycle, US citizens will be electing the President and Vice

President, the entire House of Representatives and one third of the open or contested seats in the Senate, whereas two thirds are still fulfilling the remainder of their terms beyond this year.

An  important  facet  of  US electoral  system  to  understand  given  the  federalism  nature  of  the republic, the US elect presidents State by State, therefore they do not have a national popular vote for the presidency.

“We have a national popular vote total that says that Hillary Clinton got three million more votes than Donald Trump or in Year 2000 that Al Gore got a half million more votes than George W. Bush, but we have what is called a State by State winner takes all system where each State  is  assigned  a  number  of  electors  to  our  Electoral  College  and  the  candidate  who  wins  the popular vote within each State takes 100 percent of the electors to the Electoral College,” explained Dr Rozell.

“And that is why mathematically, it is possible for someone to win the popular vote but lose the presidency.”

Dr Rozell indicated that in 2016, Hillary Clinton won very large popular majorities in some big population States like California, but the system allows a candidate to only have to  win  a  State  by  one  vote  to  win  a  100 percent of  its  electors,  the  margin  does  not  matter.

“Donald  Trump  won  many  more  States  by  smaller  margins,  hence  he  got  an  Electoral  College majority.”

Another interesting features by the way of US constitutional system, according to Dr Rozell, but extremely rare, is what is called the faithless elector.

“That’s the elector to the Electoral College who says, ‘I’m not going to vote the popular vote in my State, I think my State made a bad decision and I’m going  to  break  with  the  popular  vote,’’ Dr Rozell said.

“That’s constitutionally a very complicated matter in our federalism system because although the federal constitution says electors may exercise discretion, most States have passed State laws making it illegal for any elector to the Electoral College to break faith with the popular vote of that State, it is a criminal act that can be penalized if one is to do that. And we just had an important Supreme Court case that upheld the right of the states to impose and to enforce this restriction”

There are 538 electors at the Electoral College, 270 is the magic number, the candidate who gets 270 or more becomes President of the United States.

If however there are more candidates, and  this  happens  extremely  rarely,  and  a  third  candidate  got  some electors  to  the  Electoral  College  denying  the  two  major  party  candidates,  either  one  getting  a majority, nobody gets 270 or more, then the election goes to the House of Representatives and the House of Representatives votes among the top three vote getters as to who should be the next President.

“You’d have to go back to the early 19th century to have such a scenario, and that’s not going to happen this year unless there is a statistical oddity, which would be a perfect statistical tie of 269 to 269 which could happen but you can just imagine how incredibly unlikely that is,” stated Dr Rozell.

BLUE STATES vs RED STATES

Since the 2000 United States presidential election, red states and blue states have referred to states of the United States whose voters predominantly choose either the Republican Party (red) or Democratic Party (blue) presidential candidates.

Many  states  have  populations  that  are  so  heavily  concentrated  in  the  Democratic party or the Republican party that there is really no competition in those states.

California is a heavily Democratic State, so is New York and Maryland. It is given that Joe Biden will win those states. Meanwhile Texas, Florida and Alabama are republicans. So, the candidates will spent no time campaigning in those states because it is already a given.

However there are swing  states, where  there is a competition between about five and 10 states total in each election cycle that make a difference, and that is where the candidates end up spending almost all of their time.

“So  it  ends  up  making  a  national  contest  for  the  presidency  actually  look  like  several  state-wide contests with candidates spending a lot of time talking about State and local issues in those parts of the country,” said Dr Rozell.

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Masisi to make things right with Dangote

26th October 2020

High Commissioner of the Federal Government of Nigeria to Botswana, His Excellency Umar Zainab Salisu, has challenged President Dr Mokgweetsi Masisi to move swiftly and lobby Africa’s richest man, Nigerian Billionaire, Aliko Dangote to invest in Botswana.

Speaking during a meeting with President Masisi at Office of President on Thursday Zainab Salisu said Dangote has expressed massive interest in setting up billion dollar industries in Botswana.  “We have a lot of investors who wish to come and invest in Botswana , when we look at Botswana we don’t see Botswana itself , but we are lured by its geographic location , being in the centre of Southern Africa presents a good opportunity for strategic penetration into other markets of the region,” said Salisu.

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