P300 million DISS “black budget”

The grand plan to place Botswana under mass surveillance through Safer City project will soon become a reality after the State President ministry proposed a secretive P300 million budget which is expected to turn the Directorate of Intelligence and Security (DIS) into an intelligence gathering colossus.

Already, an undisclosed company is erecting mounting arms for the installation of surveillance camera poles which can be spotted along the New Lobatse road, A1 Western Bypass and some traffic lights on the Nelson Mandela drive. The Botswana Gazette understands this is part of the P261 061 914 budget request by the Presidential Affairs minister, Eric Molale has presented for DIS infrastructure in the 2016/17 financial year.

Although Molale’s budget request is completely opaque on specifics, he mentions that the developments include improvements in communication network and acquisition of mobile platform.

The Safer City project includes putting major cities under heavy surveillance through security CCTV cameras on all traffic lights interlinked to a command communication center. It is expected to cost government P10 billion in its final complete stages. The mass surveillance project will collect data that will be used to combat crime and road traffic offenses, the police revealed when the tender was advertised in 2014.

Edward Snowden, former Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) employee and former contractor for the United States government, who is currently in asylum in Russia leaked classified information from the National Security Agency (NSA) in 2013. The leak revealed the shocking extent to which mass surveillance which was to collect, store and analyze the private communications of citizens was used by the government spy body. Fears have been allayed that the lack of oversight over the DIS could leave the citizenry vulnerable to illegal surveillance disguised under the auspices of combating crime. The Botswana Police however dismissed such concerns when interviewed by this publication in 2014.

The Safer City project which is a joint adventure between Botswana Police Service (BPS) and the DIS, is budgeted for by ministries of Defense and State President.   In the 2016 supplementary budget the BPS received P400 million, part of which will be to be directed to improvements of communication networks and intelligence gathering equipment.

Questions sent to government spokesperson Dr. Jeff Ramsay on the 7th December 2016 and to   Defense ministery Spokesperson Samma Tabudi on 16th January 2017 regarding installations of surveillance cameras in Gaborone were not responded to. This publication wanted to establish which company that won the tender and how may urban areas will be placed under the ‘big brother’ grid, the suppliers of the equipment and the equipment safety from reckless drivers at traffic lights.

In Molale’s budget, the DIS portion represents 38.9% of the ministry’s P670 826 300 development budget which is the largest under the Ministry of State President.

On Monday, Molale told the Committee of Supply that the, “Improvements in the organizational infrastructure and operational tools or instruments were vital in the integration and coordination of initiatives aimed at safe guarding national security. As such it is critical to continue improvements and investments in capital projects in this area,” he said when requesting funds from the ministry’s development budget.

The 2016/17 DIS development budget is an increase of P168 000 from   2015/16 budget where the DIS was also allocated the largest   share of P244 million.

At the time, the minister also said the funds were needed for projects which included upgrading of communications and security equipment, infrastructure and acquisition of vehicles which he said were critical for the department to effectively carryout its mandate.

Furthermore, a large share of P337 million, representing 28% of    State President’s   recurrent budget of P1.2 billion was proposed for the DIS.  The DIS is followed by Office of the President with P266 million while P188 million was proposed for the   Department of Broadcasting Services and the Directorate of Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC) will be reserved a paltry P12.8 million. Unlike the budget request for the DIS, the DCEC expenditure is broken down as follows; P1,000,000 is to cover the cost of upgrading the Case Management System; P2,000,000 is allocated for fleet expansion to address transport needs in the department; P6,000,000 is requested for provision of residential accommodation; P2,000,000 is allocated to improve the investigation capabilities of the directorate and P600,000 will be used to procure multi-media equipment while the remaining P800,000 will be used to conduct a survey on public knowledge of corruption.

Molale explained to parliament that “The DCEC continues to implement the Proceeds and Instruments of Crime Act (PICA). Since its implementation, only three cases have been brought to the courts. This law has tremendously proved itself to be the statute that will elevate Botswana in its fight against corruption.”