The National Petroleum Fund (NPF) scandal crystalizes what goes wrong when there is no accountability. While this is not the first-time hundreds of millions of pula have been misused in Botswana, the NPF is a monument of the brazenness that has crept into government due to lack of parliamentary oversight and the executive’s failure to insist on things being done above board because the executive itself is generally unscrupulous.
There are many historical multi-million-pula scandals that do not only show how the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) allows corruption but also its lack of conscience in understanding the real effect of public funds going down the drain year after year. Often to block themselves from taking responsibility, ministers and BDP politicians rush to cite international rankings that portray Botswana as the least corrupt country in Africa.
Often when they adopt that refrain, government and the BDP often downplay the real impact of this allegedly scant corruption in Botswana. The real effect of this country’s corruption however shows itself in lack of resources in the education and health sectors and other developmental issues. Its worst effect shows itself in unemployment, poor quality of life and the wide inequality gap.
International rankings are particularly dangerous for Botswana because they provide a perfect cover for government officials and the BDP to treat corruption as merely “unfortunate” instead of treating it as anathema. If you consider the P500 million sanctioned and lost to the Palapye Glass Project ten years ago, the P7 Billion of Morupule Power Station and even the hundreds of millions or billions spent in the North South Water Carrier Project, it’s disheartening to look at the smoke and mirrors game for which international rankings are used by officials and politicians because Batswana who are often uncritical and unquestioning pay a heavy price every day; whether it’s a patient dying at Marina or Nyangabgwe hospital due to inadequate resources or expertise- or the Form 3 or Form 5 student who fails exams and have his or her future destroyed simply because the education system didn’t provide him or her enough resources.
It is often interesting to hear ministers and politicians, BDP or opposition, implicated in corruption issues making threats to the media or critical members of the public for raising suspicions about their conduct. If it’s not threats of lawsuits, it conspiracies about proverbial media brown envelope or that people are DIS agents. All this is often done to scare people from asking for accountability.
We however live in a time where we have to be sceptical of everyone who holds power, whether in government, opposition or private sector. Batswana should never feel guilty for suspecting corruption where there is conduct, however mild, which raises eyebrows and should never be shy to demand accountability from leaders even if they have not been proven guilty of a crime, because in itself, it’s not a crime to ask for accountability; it is the need to establish trust without only taking their word for it.