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Declaration of Assets & Liabilities: non-negotiable tenets (Part 2)

NDULAMO ANTHONY MORIMA
EAGLE WATCH

Last week, we discussed what we refer to as the ‘non-negotiable tenets of a Declaration of Assets & Liabilities law’. This, obviously in view of the Declaration of Assets & Liabilities Bill which has been the subject of heated debate in Parliament.

Just to remind ourselves, we identified those tenets as the ability to effectively combat the scourge of corruption; the ability to build integrity; and provision for effective codes of conduct, whose object is avoidance of corruption. The other are the provision for use of useful software to verify information declared; provision for the application of new training techniques to reach civil servants; and provision for conducting effective communication campaigns to foster transparency.

Not only that. Persons to whom declaration is made should be impartial; asset declaration information should be accessible to the public and there is need for passage of a law on Freedom of Access to Information. The other essential tenet is the target of a few officials with high levels of perceived risk in different areas of public administration and application and enforcement of appropriate and proportionate sanctions.    

As promised last week, this week, we critique the Bill against the aforesaid tenets, of course taking Botswana’s peculiar socio-economic and political circumstances into consideration. However, in doing so, we shall not lose sight of the fact that there are universal standards in respect of such law. First, the tenet that persons to whom declaration is made should be impartial. This is important because it will ensure that all are treated equally and fairly regardless of position, socio-economic status or political affiliation.

This is even more important considering the fact that there is a general feeling that some individuals, especially leaders of Opposition political parties, are often targeted by government through politically motivated investigations and charges. In our view, one of the most troubling aspects of the Bill is that declaration is to be made to the Director General of the Directorate on Corruption & Economic Crime (DCEC).

It is common course that the independence of the Director General of the DCEC has always been an issue, with many arguing that the fact that he or she is appointed by the President, acting alone, makes him or her susceptible to influence by the President. This concern is not without basis. Section 4(1) of the Corruption & Economic Crime Act, Cap. 08:05 provides that “The President may appoint a Director on such terms and conditions as he thinks fit.”

Being a politician, the President is unlikely to appoint a person whose political affiliation he does not know. So, the chances that the President would appoint someone sympathetic to his own political party are very high. In the unlikely event that the President exercises restraint and makes an apolitical appointment, the concern, which was raised by, among others, the Leader of the Opposition, Honourable Advocate Duma Boko, is that as per 4(1) of the Corruption & Economic Crime Act, Cap. 08:05,  such appointment is on such terms and conditions as he thinks fit.

What if such terms are as to favour him, his relatives, friends, members of his political party, etc? What if the terms are that he, for instance, cannot be the subject of any investigation by the DCEC? With specific reference to the Declaration of Assets & Liabilities Bill, what if the terms are such that the Director cannot take any action against him, his relatives, friends, members of his political party, etc if issues arise from their declarations?

It is for this reason that the call that declaration should start with the President himself disclosing the terms and conditions under which he appointed the DCEC Director are justified. No doubt, if the DCEC Director were appointed in an impartial manner, with checks and balances, and on terms and conditions determined by Parliament, for instance, he or she would be the most appropriate office to which declaration is made. But that is not the case.

So, because of this defect alone the Bill also fails another crucial test-the integrity test. Because of these two defects alone, the Bill will fail in its most important object- the ability to effectively combat the scourge of corruption. Second, the tenet that asset declaration information should be accessible to the public. International best practice has shown that one of the most effective ways to ensure this is passage of a law on Freedom of Access to Information.

Of course, the Minister of Presidential Affairs, Governance and Public Administration, Honourable Nonofho Molefhi, is right in saying the Declaration of Assets and Liabilities Act will work in liaison with such other already existing laws as the Data Protection Act and the Financial Intelligence and Agency Act, but the Freedom of Access to Information Act is the best suited. Through the law on Freedom of Access to Information, individuals, the media and civil society are able to access public information, including on declaration of assets and liabilities.

Again, Honourable Molefhi is right in stating that, under the proposed Bill, the media or the public will be free to apply to the DCEC Director General on the information they want to source; why they want it and the purpose for which they will use it, but the reality is that such can not be effective if it is not done under the Freedom of Access to Information Act.

Of course, since like all information, information on one’s assets and liabilities, raises such issues as the right to privacy and dignity, such law is essential not only to allow access to information, but also to regulate how the information is used with respect to human rights and liberties. Thirdly, is the tenet regarding targeting a few officials with high levels of perceived risk in different areas of public administration.

Making too many public officials the subject of the declaration of assets and liabilities requirement can only make the task too onerous and costly, with the result that it becomes ineffective. It is in this regard that government has to be commended for agreeing to amend the Bill to reduce the classes of public officials who are subject to the declaration requirement.

I agree with the President of the Alliance for Progressives (AP), Honourable Ndaba Gaolatlhe’s view that office bearers should, at a minimum, include Members of Parliament (MPs), Members of the Judiciary, Councillors, Chief Executive Officers (CEOs) and other executives of Parastatals, Permanent Secretaries and key officers involved in procurement. Cabinet also deserves commendation for agreeing to amend the definition of private enterprises with regard to CEOs as they also receive government money.

Cabinet also deserves commendation for agreeing to increase the years of applicability of the Declaration of Assets and Liabilities Act to officials who left office from two (2) years to five (5) years. Next week, in last part of this series, we will compare Botswana’s Declaration of Assets and Liabilities Bill with that of selected countries, with examples taken from various continents, not just Africa.

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Export Processing Zones: How to Get SEZA to Sizzle

23rd September 2020
Export Processing Zone (EPZ) factory in Kenya

In 2005, the Business & Economic Advisory Council (BEAC) pitched the idea of the establishment of Special Economic Zones (SEZs) to the Mogae Administration.

It took five years before the SEZ policy was formulated, another five years before the relevant law was enacted, and a full three years before the Special Economic Zones Authority (SEZA) became operational.

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Egypt Bagged Again

23rd September 2020
Samson

… courtesy of infiltration stratagem by Jehovah-Enlil’s clan

With the passing of Joshua’s generation, General Atiku, the promised peace and prosperity of a land flowing with milk and honey disappeared, giving way to chaos and confusion.

Maybe Joshua himself was to blame for this shambolic state of affairs. He had failed to mentor a successor in the manner Moses had mentored him. He had left the nation without a central government or a human head of state but as a confederacy of twelve independent tribes without any unifying force except their Anunnaki gods.

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‘RO, ‘RO ‘RO YOUR ‘BOT

23rd September 2020

If I say the word ‘robot’ to you,  I can guess what would immediately spring to mind –  a cute little Android or animal-like creature with human or pet animal characteristics and a ‘heart’, that is to say to say a battery, of gold, the sort we’ve all seen in various movies and  tv shows.  Think R2D2 or 3CPO in Star Wars, Wall-E in the movie of the same name,  Sonny in I Robot, loveable rogue Bender in Futurama,  Johnny 5 in Short Circuit…

Of course there are the evil ones too, the sort that want to rise up and eliminate us  inferior humans – Roy Batty in Blade Runner, Schwarzenegger’s T-800 in The Terminator,  Box in Logan’s Run,  Police robots in Elysium and  Otomo in Robocop.

And that’s to name but a few.  As a general rule of thumb, the closer the robot is to human form, the more dangerous it is and of course the ultimate threat in any Sci-Fi movie is that the robots will turn the tables and become the masters, not the mechanical slaves.  And whilst we are in reality a long way from robotic domination, there are an increasing number of examples of  robotics in the workplace.

ROBOT BLOODHOUNDS Sometimes by the time that one of us smells something the damage has already begun – the smell of burning rubber or even worse, the smell of deadly gas. Thank goodness for a robot capable of quickly detecting and analyzing a smell from our very own footprint.

A*Library Bot The A*Star (Singapore) developed library bot which when books are equipped with RFID location chips, can scan shelves quickly seeking out-of-place titles.  It manoeuvres with ease around corners, enhances the sorting and searching of books, and can self-navigate the library facility during non-open hours.

DRUG-COMPOUNDING ROBOT Automated medicine distribution system, connected to the hospital prescription system. It’s goal? To manipulate a large variety of objects (i.e.: drug vials, syringes, and IV bags) normally used in the manual process of drugs compounding to facilitate stronger standardisation, create higher levels of patient safety, and lower the risk of hospital staff exposed to toxic substances.

AUTOMOTIVE INDUSTRY ROBOTS Applications include screw-driving, assembling, painting, trimming/cutting, pouring hazardous substances, labelling, welding, handling, quality control applications as well as tasks that require extreme precision,

AGRICULTURAL ROBOTS Ecrobotix, a Swiss technology firm has a solar-controlled ‘bot that not only can identify weeds but thereafter can treat them. Naio Technologies based in southwestern France has developed a robot with the ability to weed, hoe, and assist during harvesting. Energid Technologies has developed a citrus picking system that retrieves one piece of fruit every 2-3 seconds and Spain-based Agrobot has taken the treachery out of strawberry picking. Meanwhile, Blue River Technology has developed the LettuceBot2 that attaches itself to a tractor to thin out lettuce fields as well as prevent herbicide-resistant weeds. And that’s only scratching the finely-tilled soil.

INDUSTRIAL FLOOR SCRUBBERS The Global Automatic Floor Scrubber Machine boasts a 1.6HP motor that offers 113″ water lift, 180 RPM and a coverage rate of 17,000 sq. ft. per hour

These examples all come from the aptly-named site www.willrobotstakemyjob.com    because while these functions are labour-saving and ripe for automation, the increasing use of artificial intelligence in the workplace will undoubtedly lead to increasing reliance on machines and a resulting swathe of human redundancies in a broad spectrum of industries and services.

This process has been greatly boosted by the global pandemic due to a combination of a workforce on furlough, whether by decree or by choice, and the obvious advantages of using virus-free machines – I don’t think computer viruses count!  For example, it was suggested recently that their use might have a beneficial effect in care homes for the elderly, solving short staffing issues and cheering up the old folks with the novelty of having their tea, coffee and medicines delivered by glorified model cars.  It’s a theory, at any rate.

Already, customers at the South-Korean  fast-food chain No Brand Burger can avoid any interaction with a human server during the pandemic.  The chain is using robots to take orders, prepare food and bring meals out to diners.  Customers order and pay via touchscreen, then their request is sent to the kitchen where a cooking machine heats up the buns and patties. When it’s ready, a robot ‘waiter’ brings out their takeout bag.   

‘This is the first time I’ve actually seen such robots, so they are really amazing and fun,’ Shin Hyun Soo, an office worker at No Brand in Seoul for the first time, told the AP. 

Human workers add toppings to the burgers and wrap them up in takeout bags before passing them over to yellow-and-black serving robots, which have been compared to Minions. 

Also in Korea, the Italian restaurant chain Mad for Garlic is using serving robots even for sit-down customers. Using 3D space mapping and other technology, the electronic ‘waiter,’ known as Aglio Kim, navigates between tables with up to five orders.  Mad for Garlic manager Lee Young-ho said kids especially like the robots, which can carry up to 66lbs in their trays.

These catering robots look nothing like their human counterparts – in fact they are nothing more than glorified food trolleys so using our thumb rule from the movies, mankind is safe from imminent takeover but clearly  Korean hospitality sector workers’ jobs are not.

And right there is the dichotomy – replacement by stealth.  Remote-controlled robotic waiters and waitresses don’t need to be paid, they don’t go on strike and they don’t spread disease so it’s a sure bet their army is already on the march.

But there may be more redundancies on the way as well.  Have you noticed how AI designers have an inability to use words of more than one syllable?  So ‘robot’ has become ‘bot’ and ‘android’ simply ‘droid?  Well, guys, if you continue to build machines ultimately smarter than yourselves you ‘rons  may find yourself surplus to requirements too – that’s ‘moron’ to us polysyllabic humans”!

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