Et tu PS?

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Hardly a week passes before new revelations emerge of the looting oftaxpayers money from national levies such as the National Petroleum Fund, stories of rigged tenders and botched contracts.
The blame for this growing cancer of corruption which has taken hold in the body of the Government and the economy of Botswana rests with Cabinet – the President and his Ministers; and they may pay the ultimate price at the ballot box.
However, responsibility for the growing corruption does not rest solely at the doors of elected politicians. The Public Service must also share accountability.
Indeed, in terms of the Public Service and the Finance and Audit Acts, Permanent Secretaries are designated as Accounting Officers whose role includes, in terms of the Act, responsibility for “the control of expenditure….. collection of revenue, the ….. control, issue and use of all public supplies .. and the custody of public monies.”
Their statutory responsibility for public monies could not be more clear. Under the law they are Accounting Officers. And Accountability means not only responsibility and answerability for public funds, but also liability and culpability. Under the law they can and should to be blamed if public monies are missing or can happen to be misappropriated.
However, accountability is not a criminal act, and all that can happen is a grilling by Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee – a light toasting at best because “I didn’t know” seems to be an acceptable answer to the millions, if not billions of Pula that have gone missing or have been misspent over the past 20 years when the rot really began to set in.
Each year the Auditor General publishes a report of wrong doing by virtually every Government Ministry, Department, local authorities and state owned entities. These are reviewed by the Public Account Committee, made up of members of Parliament from Government and the Opposition, which huffs and puffs and barks loudly without making the house of corruption even sway.
This annual ritual will not put a halt to the rampant corruption, and the game of playing fast and loose with public money because corruption, bribery, fraud, and outright sleaze driven by greed is so deeply entrenched.
For such levels of corruption to take hold in the country, some members of the public service must be complicit. In global financial terms they are known as the “rent seekers” who eagerly demand, or silently accept, an illicit share of the taxpayers cake. The other partner in this marriage of convenience are the “rent givers” – those businesses, large and small, domestic and international, which gladly offer up a small slice of the cake to “feed the hand that feeds them”.
Despite global efforts to combat corruption, it is getting worse not just in Botswana but all over the world. Recent high profile cases out of the UK, and South Africa, for example, illustrate the pervasiveness of dishonesty in business, and the failure of institutions to act decisively.
Rent giving and rent taking costs the world economy billions and billions of dollars each year; money which could and should have been used to grow employment and fight systemic poverty.
Botswana can take the lead and break this marriage of convenience in our country.

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