Transparency and Accountability Series

The NPF Saga is not a DISS Issue, it is a Governance Issue: Lest we lose FOCUS

Granted that people and states must be secure from fear of violence, that states must be sufficiently protected against aggression and internal subversion and that ordinary people must be protected from state repression, violent conflict or proliferating criminality. One way of doing this is by establishing security services mandated to use force to protect the state and the population. It is important for every society to ask if it needs security organisations, and if so, what kind and how they will be governed.
Since the end of the Cold War, there has been a shift from a state – and elite- focused view of security to security that places individuals at the centre of security (Ball and Fayemi, 2010). The concept of human security, which combines components of national security, economic development and basic human rights, with the objective of protecting people from fear of violence, is pertinent in Africa. Despite the fact that protecting the state and its citizens from external aggression is still a consideration, most threats facing African states tend to be inter-state causes (Human Security Network, 2001:3).
There is an increased realization that the security sector, like many other parts of the public sector must be subjected to principles of civil oversight, accountability and transparency (Hendrickson and Karkoszka, 2001). A democratic system of government is presumably better to ensure good governance of the security sector as the civilian authority controls the military, the intelligence and the police and practices of transparency, accountability and responsibility are the guiding principles (Hernandez, 2005).
Governments must have political will to (Hendrickson and Karkoszka, 2001):
a) Ensure the proper location of security activities within a constitutional framework defined by law and to develop security policies and instruments to implement them.
Botswana’s security sector is enshrined in the constitution and security activities in various Acts; however, the country does not have a written National Security Policy (NSP). The NSP would normally stipulate the governing values, principles and standards in the security sector, like whether or not the Directorate of Intelligence and Security Services (DISS) could borrow money or not without civilian oversight, whether a Minister could say no or not to the agency. It would stipulate what is determined a threat to national peace and security as per standards agreed upon by the citizens, experts and aligned to the UN Charter.
b) Build the capacity of policy makers to effectively assess the nature of security threats and to design strategic responses supportive of wider development goals.
The NSP would specify threats faced by the state and its population, and these would be publicly known by various stakeholders, by Parliament, Ministries, Private sector and civil society. It would stipulate the actors to be involved in policy development and implementation, financial management of the security activities from policing, military to the intelligence services. Meaning, a Permanent Secretary would not be confused as to the protocol to take when told that the country was at risk, national security issues would be plain on White Paper. Assessing the nature of threats and forwarding strategic responses would ensure that the armed forces do not misappropriate funds hiding behind “national security”.
c) Strengthen mechanisms for ensuring security sector accountability by enabling the state and non-state actors responsible for monitoring security policy and enforcing the law to fulfill their functions effectively.
Ideally, in a democratic dispensation a country would have civil management and oversight bodies to ensure accountability and transparency in the public sector, including the security sector. These bodies are, inter alia: national security advisory bodies, legislature and legislative select committees, foreign affairs committees, customary and traditional authorities, financial management bodies and statutory civil society organisations (civilian review boards and public complaints commissions).
Civil society bodies would be: professional organisation including trade unions, research/policy analysis organisations, advocacy organisations, the media, religious organisations, non-governmental organisations and concerned public.
Moving forward, beyond the NPF and other Funds, citizens, politicians, civil society must ask the right questions: how can we improve governance structures, not just for the security sector. How do we ensure integrity systems are in place, to safeguard public goods? The issue is not that funds were misappropriated, the issue for us now as citizens is how was it done and how long has this been going on and what needs to be done now to mitigate a culture of mismanagement.
It is important to highlight that poor management of the security bodies with political and economic impunity tends to result in professionally weak security bodies and ineffective justice system which in itself is a source of instability and insecurity that can undermine democratic consolidation.
Democratic governance comprises the rule of law, personal security as well as fairness in the administration of justice and the independence of the judiciary. It includes the political participation and transparent and accountable institutions. In the security sector it means (UNDP Development Report, 2002:90):
– Ultimate authority on key security matters must rest with the elected representatives.
– Security organisations should operate in accord with international and constitutional law and respect human rights.
• Information about security planning and resources must be accessible; both within government and to the public and security forces must have no access to financial support other than the government budget.
•     Civil-military relations must be based on a well-articulated hierarchy of authority between civil authorities and defence forces and on a relationship with civil society based on transparency and respect for human rights.
•     Civil authorities must have the capacity to exercise political control over the operations and financing of security forces.
•  Civil society needs to have the means and capacity to monitor security forces and provide constructive input into the political debate on security policy.
Oversight is fundamental to developing an accountable security sector. It is all too easy for a culture of political and economic impunity to develop when members of the security bodies are not answerable for their actions and there aren’t any means of enforcing compliance with set standards of behaviour (Ball et al, 2003; Ball and Fayemi, 2010). It is important that the officials responsible for managing the security bodies be held answerable and be subject to sanctions for inappropriate behaviour. It is known in other countries that the direct involvement of the security bodies in government is almost always supported by some part of a country’s political elite and there are usually examples of economic partnerships between members of the security forces and political elite.
In Botswana, oversight of the security sector is attained mainly through parliamentary committees such as Public Accounts Committee, Finance and Estimates Committee, Foreign Affairs, Trade and Security Committees, Intelligence Committee, Committee on Population and Development, and Labour Relations committee. Their importance cannot be over highlighted as they offer a potential platform where focused oversight of the executive can take place. Parliamentary committees can maintain oversight when they have the capacity to hold government accountable. Parliament would not influence the budget if they do not have a say in its formulation or if they do not have the expertise to know how it is prepared. Presently, the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning leads the executive in solely preparing the budget and most parliamentarians contribute little to the budget. The committee of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Security is mandated to interact with the ministry in formulating foreign and security policies but it seems that when it comes to defence and security policies the committee is not allowed in (Hendricks and Musavengana, 2010).
Apart from parliament, some agencies- like the DCEC, the Ombudsmen, and the Auditor General- that could play an oversight role of the security sector are not mandated to do so in Botswana. It is said that highly unaccountable security bodies able to act with impunity in the economic and political spheres are habitually professionally weak, inter alia: increasing the risks of insecurity for the state and its population; constraining democratic development and eroding the quality of governance. Botswana as a democratic country needs to have mechanisms in place to enhance the consolidation of its democracy in all its public sectors.
It can be argued that the lack of a National Security Policy framework is perpetuating the lack of institutional capacity of civilians to participate fully in the processes of policy making and oversight in the security sector. In the light of the NPF and the DISS involvement, it becomes apparent that one of the priorities for security sector transformation the government must take into consideration would be building capacity among parliamentary oversight committees and other civil management and oversight actors for the country (Ball et al, 2003; Ball and Fayemi, 2010).
Legislative Accountability Bodies
It has been proposed that Constitutions should guarantee the creation, existence and effective operation of parliaments and independent oversight bodies that safeguard the interests of people, mediate the excesses of government, and help enforce the law. The head of government generally has the authority to appoint the heads of independent accountability bodies, subject to the approval of the legislature.
The constitution should, at minimum, contain clauses on (Ball & Fayemi, 2010):
•     The role of the legislature in national security policy formulation
•     Access to information on all security sector issues
•     Powers to declare war
•     Powers over the budget
•     Powers to approve senior security sector appointments
•     Powers on the declaration of emergency powers and how these affect non-derogable rights
•     Professional autonomy of the military and prohibitions on military interference in politics.
The Botswana Constitution’s Section 48 (command of the armed forces for example), confer all powers to the President, to determine the operational use, appoint members, to make appointments on promotion; to dismiss any member of the armed forces. While those powers are vested on one person, the Parliament (subsection 4), ‘may’ regulate the exercise of the powers conferred by or under section 48 of the Constitution. The constitution is not explicit enough to outline the role of Parliament in security issues. The Ghanaian Constitution clearly outlines the role of the Parliament in raising revenue, preparing budgets, tracking the expenditure of the public sector as a whole, including the security sector.
While the South African Constitution provides for a parliamentary Joint Standing Committee on Defence as part of the oversight of the defence sector, Botswana does not have such practice. The South African Constitution empowers the Joint Committee to investigate and make recommendations regarding the budget, functioning, organisation, armaments, policy, morale and state of preparedness of the National Defence Force and to perform such functions relating to parliamentary supervisor of the Force as may be prescribed by law. Constitutionally, the Botswana Parliament does not have oversight powers but they are not precluded to exercise this role.
The lack of substantial democratic processes embodying the structures and institutions put in place is a threat to democracy. This is asserted by Ian Leigh (2005) who aptly said, no area of state activity must be a “no go” for the legislature, and this includes security sectors.