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BDP government’s failure to pass the Bill on Declaration of Assets and Liabilities shows it is corrupt!

NDULAMO ANTHONY MORIMA
EAGLE WATCH

Regard being had to the history of its discussions in Parliament, and in society in general, it is not unreasonable to conclude that the BDP government’s failure to pass the Bill on Declaration of Assets and Liabilities shows it is corrupt.

When delivering his inaugural speech in April 2018, His Excellency the President, Dr. Mokgweetsi Eric Keabetswe Masisi, said “I will do my utmost to continually grow confidence in and of governance through a combination of new legislation, ethical codes and demonstrable and efficacious behaviours. To this end, expect specific legislation on declaration of assets and liabilities soon.”

In September 2018, at the National Business Conference (NBC) organised by Business Botswana, H.E Dr. Masisi reiterated his intentions to table the Bill before Parliament, committing that the Bill will be tabled before Parliament between November and December 2018.
However, today, about six months since the self-imposed deadline passed, no legislative action has been taken to enact the Bill despite a promise by the Minister for Presidential Affairs, Governance and Public Administration, Honourable Nonofho Molefhi, that the Bill will be tabled this year.

Considering that there are only three months before the general elections, it is very unlikely that the Bill can be tabled, discussed and passed this year. In my view, the BDP government may never table the Bill. In the unlikely event that H.E Dr. Masisi tables the Bill, it may only be a political stunt knowing full well that the Bill will not be passed by the BDP dominated Parliament.

In early 2014, during the 10th Parliament, when former Member of Parliament (MP) for Gaborone Central, Dumelang Saleshando, sought to get permission from Parliament to draft and table a private members Bill, H.E Dr. Masisi, then Minister of Presidential Affairs and Public Administration, opposed it, claiming that Government was working on tabling the Bill.

Again, in late 2014, when the 11th Parliament commenced following the October 2014 general elections, Saleshando resuscitated the Bill, but is failed when the then Minister of Presidential Affairs and Public Administration, Lesego Motsumi, insisted that government would itself bring table the Bill. At the time, MPs, including many from the BDP, issued an ultimatum to Motsumi to table the Bill before the end of the year, threatening to support Saleshando’s motion if she does not, but the year passed, and nothing happened.  

You would recall that when Saleshando sought to bring the Bill in 2014 our country was bedevilled by a series of corruption scandals, yet the BDP-led Parliament did not see the need to pass the Bill. Similarly, when H.E Dr. Masisi assumed the presidency more than a year ago, our country was bedevilled by a series of corruption scandals, among them the National Petroleum Fund (NPF) debacle, but still the BDP-led Parliament does not see the need to pass the Bill.

This, despite H.E Dr. Masisi himself acknowledging that Botswana will not succeed in attracting the desired Foreign Direct Investment (FDI), nor will it succeed in growing the economy if corruption remains part of the country’s business culture. It is incontrovertible that the Bill will go a long way in reducing corruption. In fact, the Bill will prevent corruption. This is because it would require government officials and heads of parastatals to declare their assets and liabilities upon assuming office, something which will deter them from later amassing wealth corruptly since their asset base will be public information.

Also, those prospective officers who are highly indebted will be identified. This is critical since such people may be a risk, and would, therefore, require monitoring since they may have a propensity for corruption in an effort to clear their liabilities. Even more dangerous is the fact that such individuals may pose a risk for national security since they may be targeted by enemies of the state who may ‘assist’ them financially only to later black mail them into leaking state secrets, for instance.  

Stating that declaration of assets and liabilities is taboo for the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) government is no exaggeration. A pre-2014 legislative history of the Bill will demonstrate this. Twenty years have passed, and three state Presidents have served their terms and retired since former Minister of Health, Joy Phumaphi, first tabled a proposal for the Bill on Declaration of Assets and Liabilities in 1996.

It is worth noting that Phumaphi’s motion was adopted, after which a draft bill was tabled before Parliament. However, MPs were unhappy about certain clauses, especially the clause that sought families of legislators to also register their assets. During the Bill’s second reading Parliament resolved to commit the Bill to a select committee for fine-tuning, but the select committee never completed its work because the Parliament’s term lapsed. Surprisingly, the next Parliament did not pursue the matter.

In December 2005, the then Minister for Presidential Affairs and Public Administration, Phandu Skelemani, in responding to a question by Ponatshego Kedikilwe, informed Parliament that his proposals, in the form of a memorandum, were due before cabinet. It would seem that Skelemani lived up to his word since, in response to a question in February 2007 on progress made as regards the Bill, he informed Parliament that his proposals had been discussed by cabinet, but cabinet was in favour of a Code of Conduct Bill instead of a Bill on  Declaration of Assets.

So, the BDP has been dilly darling on the Bill for the past 23 years, about half the time it has been in power. Instead of focusing its attention on finalizing the Bill in 2005, cabinet diverted Parliament’s attention from the Bill to a mere Code of Conduct for MPs. Why would a political party which has committed itself to such values as good governance, transparency and accountability be against the enactment of such a benevolent Bill as the one on declaration of assets and liabilities?

For all we know, H.E Dr. Masisi may have been genuine when he, in April 2018, announced that his government will be tabling the Bill before the end of the year, but was later hampered by dark forces, both within the party and the party’s donor community or he has himself joined the dark forces. Considering the efficiency with which he delivered on several of the promises he made during his inaugural speech, there is no reason why he should not have delivered on the Declaration of Assets and Liabilities Bill.

This is especially true considering that there is already a draft which has been ready since 1996. Also, obviously a lot of work was done in 2005 in further developing the Bill. The only conclusion which can be reached about the BDP’s reticence in passing the Bill is that it wants to protect its own whom it fears will be exposed by the transparency on one’s assets and liabilities that the Bill will bring.

In June 2017, former president of the Botswana Congress Party (BCP), Michael Dingake, summed it well when he said “the motion on Declaration of Assets and Liabilities, tabled by a BDP MP, Hon Joy Phumaphi, unanimously adopted by both sides of the House, as a corruption deterrent, has been hanging fire for 20 years! Why? Because Domkrag is corrupt! Legislating to nip corruption in the bud isn’t the Domkrag way…” This much is evidenced by the BDP’s unwillingness to table another equally important Bill, the Freedom to Access of Information Bill.

Just like the Bill on Declaration of Assets and Liabilities, this Bill would allow members of the public and the media, for instance, to have access to information, including about the assets and liabilities of those in leadership such as MPs, cabinet ministers, senior public officers and heads of parastatals.

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DIS Parley Committee selection disingenuous 

25th November 2020

Intelligence and Security Service Act, which is a law that establishes the Directorate of Intelligence and Security Service (DIS), provides for establishment of a Parliamentary Committee. Recently, the President announced nine names of Members of Parliament he had appointed to the Committee.

This announcement was preceded by a meeting the President held with the Speaker and the Leader of Opposition. Following the announcement of Committee MPs by the President, the opposition, through its leader, made it clear that it will not participate in the Committee unless certain conditions that would ensure effective oversight are met. The opposition acted on the non-participation threat through resignation of its three MPs from the Committee.

The Act at Section 38 provides for the establishment of the Committee to examine the expenditure, administration and policy of the Directorate. The law provides that the Parliamentary Committee shall have the same powers and privileges set out under the National Assembly (Powers and Privileges) Act.

On composition, the Committee shall consist of nine members who shall not be members of Cabinet and its quorum shall be five members.  The MPs in the Committee elect a chairperson from among their number at their first meeting.

The Members of the Committee are appointed by the President after consultation with the Speaker of the National Assembly and Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly. It is the provision of the law that the Committee, relative to its size, reflect the numerical strengths of the political parties represented in the National Assembly.

The Act provides that that a member of the Committee holds office for the duration of the Parliament in which he or she is appointed.  The Committee is mandated to make an annual report on the discharge of their functions to the President and may at any time report to him or her on any matter relating to the discharge of those functions.

The Minister responsible for intelligence and security is obliged to lay before the National Assembly a copy of each annual report made by the Committee together with a statement as to whether any matter has been excluded from that copy in pursuance of the provision of the Act.

If it appears to the Minister, after consultation with the Parliamentary Committee, that the publication of any matter in a report would be prejudicial to the continued discharge of the functions of the Directorate, the Minister may exclude that matter from the copy of the report as laid before the National Assembly.

So, what are the specific demands of the Opposition and why are they not participating in the Committee? What should happen as a way forward? The Opposition demanded that there be a forensic audit of the Directorate. The DIS has never been audited since it was set up in 2008, more than a decade ago.

The institution has been a law unto itself for a longtime, feared by all oversight bodies. The Auditor General, who had no security of tenure, could not audit the DIS. The Directorate’s personnel, especially at a high level, have been implicated in corruption.  Some of its operatives are in courts of law defending corruption charges preferred against them. Some of the corruption cases which appeared in the media have not made it to the courts.

The DIS has been accused of non-accountability and unethical practices as well as of being a burden on the fiscus.  So, the Opposition demanded, from the President, a forensic audit for the purpose of cleaning up the DIS.  They demand a start from a clean slate.

The second demand by the Opposition is that the law be reviewed to ensure greater accountability of the DIS to Parliament. What are some of the issues that the opposition think should be reviewed? The contention is that the executive cannot appoint a Committee of Parliament to scrutinize an executive institution.

Already, it is argued, Parliament is less independent and it is dominated by the executive. It is contended that the Committee should be established by the Standing Orders and be appointed by a Select Committee of Parliament. There is also an argument that the Committee should report to Parliament and not to the President and that the Minister should not have any role in the Committee.

Democratic and Parliamentary oversight of the intelligence is relatively a new phenomenon across the World. Even developed democracies are still grappling with some of these issues. However, there are acceptable standards or what might be called international best practices which have evolved over the past two or so decades.

In the UK for instance, MPs of the Intelligence and Security Committee are appointed by the Houses of Parliament, having been nominated by the Prime Minister in consultation with the Leader of the Opposition. This is a good balancing exercise of involvement of both the executive and the legislature. Consultation is taken for granted in Botswana context in the sense that it has been reduced to just informing the Leader of Opposition without much regard to his or her ideas; they are never taken seriously.

Furthermore, the current Committee in the UK has four Members of the ruling party and five MPs from the opposition. It is a fairly balanced Committee in terms of Parliamentary representation. However, as said above, the President of Botswana appointed six ruling party MPs and three from the opposition.

The imbalance is preposterous and more pronounced with clear intentions of getting the executive way through the ruling party representatives in the Committee. The intention to avoid scrutiny is clear from the numbers of the ruling party MPs in the Committee.

There is also an international standard of removing sensitive parts which may harm national security from the report before it is tabled in the legislature. The previous and current reluctance of the executive arms to open up on Defence and Security matters emanate from this very reason of preserving and protecting national security.

But national security should be balanced with public interest and other democratic principles. The decision to expunge certain information which may be prejudicial to national security should not be an arbitrary and exclusive decision of the executive but a collective decision of a well fairly balanced Committee in consultation with the Speaker and the minister responsible.

There is no doubt that the DIS has been a rogue institution. The reluctance by the President to commit to democratic-parliamentary oversight reforms presupposes a lack of commitment to democratization. The President has no interest in seeing a reformed DIS with effective oversight of the agency.

He is insincere. This is because the President loathes the idea losing an iota of power and sharing it with any other democratic institution. He sees the agency as his power lever to sustain his stay in the high office. He thought he could sanitize himself with an ineffective DIS Committee that would dance to his tune.

The non-participation of the opposition MPs renders the Committee dysfunctional; it cannot function as this would be unlawful. Participation of the opposition is a legal requirement. Even if it can meet, it would lack legitimacy; it cannot be taken seriously. The President should therefore act on the oversight demands and reform the DIS if he is to be taken seriously.

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The Maccabean Uprising

25th November 2020
Jewish freedom fighters

 Jews drive away occupying power under the command of guerrilla leader Judas Maccabees but only just

Although it was the Desolation Sacrilege act, General Atiku, that officially sparked the Maccabean revolt, it in truth simply stoked the fires of an already simmering revolution. How so General?

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Atomic (CON)Fusion

25th November 2020

For years I have trained people about paradigm shifts – those light-bulb-switch-on moments – where there is a seismic change from the usual way of thinking about something to a newer, better way. 

I like to refer to them as ‘aha’ moments because of the sudden understanding of something which was previously incomprehensible. However,  the topic of today’s article is the complete antithesis of ‘aha’.  Though I’d love to tell you I’d had a ‘eureka ‘, ‘problem solved’ moment, I am faced with the complete opposite – an ‘oh-no’ moment or Lost Leader Syndrome.

No matter how well prepared or capable a leader is. they often find themselves facing perplexing events, confounding information, or puzzling situations. Confused by developments of which they can’t make sense and by challenges that they don’t know how to solve they become confused, sometimes lost and completely clueless about what to do.

I am told by Jentz and Murphy (JM) in ‘What leaders do when they don’t know what to do’ that this is normal, and that rapid change is making confusion a defining feature of management in the 21st century.  Now doesn’t that sound like the story of 2020 summed up in a single sentence?

The basic premise of their writing is that “confusion is not a weakness to be ashamed of but a regular and inevitable condition of leadership. By learning to embrace their confusion, managers are able to set in motion a constructive process for addressing baffling issues.

In fact, confusion turns out to be a fruitful environment in which the best managers thrive by using the instability around them to open up better lines of communication, test their old assumptions and values against changing realities, and develop more creative approaches to problem solving.”

The problem with this ideology however is that it doesn’t help my overwhelming feelings of fear and panic which is exacerbated by a tape playing on a loop in my head saying  ‘you’re supposed to know what to do, do something’. My angst is compounded by annoying motivational phrases also unhelpfully playing in my head like.

  • Nothing happens until something moves
  • The secret of getting ahead is getting started

and

  • Act or be acted upon

All these platitudes are urging me to pull something out of the bag, but I know that this is a trap. This need to forge ahead is nothing but a coping mechanism and disguise. Instead of owning the fact that I haven’t got a foggy about what to do, part of me worries that I’ll lose authority if I acknowledge that I can’t provide direction – I’m supposed to know the answers, I’m the MD!  This feeling of not being in control is common for managers in ‘oh no’ situations and as a result they often start reflexively and unilaterally attempting to impose quick fixes to restore equilibrium because, lets be honest, sometimes we find it hard to resist hiding our confusion.

To admit that I am lost in an “Oh, No!” moment opens the door not only to the fear of losing authority but also to a plethora of other troubling emotions and thoughts:  *Shame and loss of face: “You’ll look like a fool!” * Panic and loss of control: “You’ve let this get out of hand!” * Incompetence and incapacitation: “You don’t know what you’re doing!”

As if by saying “I’m at a loss here” is tantamount to declaring “I am not fit to lead.” Of course the real problem for me and any other leader is if they don’t admit when they are disoriented, it sends a signal to others in the organisation stating it’s not cool to be lost and that, by its very nature encourages them to hide.  What’s the saying about ‘a real man never asks for direction. ..so they end up driving around in circles’.

As managers we need to embrace the confusion, show vulnerability (remember that’s not a bad word) and accept that leadership is not about pretending to have all the answers but about having the courage to search with others to discover a solution.

JM point out that “being confused, however, does not mean being incapacitated.  Indeed, one of the most liberating truths of leadership is that confusion is not quicksand from which to escape but rather the potter’s clay of leadership – the very stuff with which managers can work.”

2020 has certainly been a year to remember and all indications are that the confusion which has characterised this year will still follow us into the New Year, thereby making confusion a defining characteristic of the new normal and how managers need to manage. Our competence as leaders will then surely be measured not only by ‘what I know’ but increasingly by ‘how I behave when I accept, I don’t know, lose my sense of direction and become confused.

.I guess the message for all organizational cultures going forward is that sticking with the belief that we need all-knowing, omni-competent executives will cost them dearly and send a message to managers that it is better to hide their confusion than to address it openly and constructively.

Take comfort in these wise words ‘Confusion is a word we have invented for an order not yet understood’!

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