Is the DCEC a Toothless Bulldog or Not?

It seems to me the Directorate on Corruption & Economic Crime (DCEC) is not a toothless bulldog. No! It has teeth. It can bite. Some people may think that it is very weak. It is not. The only problem is that this ferocious bull dog has a short leash on its neck. It just can’t go as far as it would like to.
According to the government portal (online), the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC) is an operational autonomous body under portfolio responsibility of the minister for Justice, Defense and Security, established to combat corruption and economic crime. It was established in August 1994, when the corruption and Economic Crime Act of 1994 was enacted. The Director of DCEC is appointed by the president.
The DCEC mandate is to combat corruption and economic crime as well as money laundering. A DCEC officer may without a warrant arrest a person if he reasonably suspects that person that has committed or is about to commit an offence under the corruption and Economic Crime Act. Section 12 of the CEC Act states that a person arrested under section 10 shall be taken as soon as possible to a police station to be dealt with in accordance with the provision of the criminal Procedure and Evidence Act. The Corruption and Economic Crime (CEC) Act of 1994 does not give a definite definition for “corruption” but rather lists actions that point to corruption under section 23. Simply put the definition of corruption entails; “Abuse of official position for personal gain” or offering, accepting or soliciting a valuable consideration as an inducement or reward for doing or not doing an act which amounts to abusing one’s official position. With the disappearance of more than P250 million at the National Petroleum Fund (NPF), we would like to see whether or not the DCEC is indeed a toothless bull dog. This is the scandal of the century. We shall wait and see how it unfolds. It is definitely a matter of public interest.
The DCEC Under Khama Administration
It is common knowledge that under the rein of Ian Khama the DCEC was transferred from the ministerial portfolio responsibility to the Office of the President (OP). It seems the move was not to afford the DCEC any greater muscle but rather to ensure its micro management or in other words, to put a short leash on its neck. While it is customary in the public service that those facing criminal, charges are suspended or step down on their own volition, we are yet to see whether or not this applies to big men. The DCEC has acknowledged that for the past decade during President Ian Khama’s tenure, corruption has been on the rise. In addition, since he came to power (in April 01, 2008), there has always been an outcry that the executive was exerting undue duress in the DCEC. This lack of independence of the DCEC as an oversight institution has been seen as a major impediment to effective service delivery (Ibid). And that is why I think the DCEC is not a toothless bulldog. The bulldog is strong and it has teeth, but it is controlled.
Meanwhile a political scientist at the University of Botswana (UB) Dr Kebapetse Lotshwao is reported to have said, the transfer of the DCEC to the OP during Khama’s tenure has spelt doom for the corruption-busting agency, as it never emerged above waters. The move, says the scientist, was self-serving on the part of the ruling elite (Ibid). This is not far from the truth as we see big names today mentioned in newspapers regarding the NPF corruption case. Big names such as; the BDP, Khama, Masisi, Kgosi, Olopeng among others appear in the list of accomplices (see Mmegi & Guardian, 09 March 2018). As Bakang Seretse spills the beans/opens the Pandora’s Box we would certainly realize that we are not very much immune from South Africa’s commonly publicized state capture. Botswana is a country under siege. It seems the BDP and its ruling elite have become so much comfortable in power over the years and as a result they forgot the people under whom they serve. As the old adage goes, ‘power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.’ To me, if Batswana continue to vote the BDP instead of an alternative government in 2019, one way or the other, they would be endorsing this multi-million-pula corruption scandal currently making headlines in the media. Instead, I think every Motswana should say, ‘Not in my name! Enough is enough!’
Nevertheless, it is very important to reform our governance institutions so as to align them with current international best practices. Perhaps I should borrow from the words of the Ombudsman, Augustine Makgonatsotlhe who once said, “In an ideal situation, an institution of this nature (the DCEC – my emphasis) should be completely independent; and that means legally independent, operationally independent, and even in terms of budgets, it should be divorced from the executive; so that at the end of the day they get the budget from parliament and also report directly to parliament with no connections to the executive,” (Gasennelwe, 02 October 2017, Weekend Post). This would help to increase the length of the leash on the neck or better yet, to unleash the bulldog completely.
Makgonatsotlhe also said he wants to see the strengthening of all governance institutions particularly the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC), Independent Electoral Commission (IEC), the Auditor General and Parliament. He said these are institutions that are very critical to the strengthening of democracy and governance. “When we have those institutions in a way that spill off when things are not running properly the economy will grow because investors will come and they will be sure of their investments. The rule of law will flourish when proper governance is there. The investors want to go to a place which is very safe and properly run and they are sure that they are protected and their investments are also protected,” said Makgonatsotlhe. In addition to the significance of the respect for the rule of law, we must make our political and economic environment conducive for foreign direct investment (FDI). Mind you, our competitor just across the border is back on track, “Zimbabwe is open for business!”
Nonetheless, the Leader of opposition (LOO) and the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) President Advocate Duma Boko repeatedly criticizes the Ombudsman together with the DCEC, the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC), and the Directorate on Intelligence and Security (DIS), saying in their current form they are useless and therefore calls for totally disbanding and overhauling that may be effected when his party takes office.
Over and above, I still maintain that if the DCEC can be unleashed, some people may come to realize that it is not a toothless bull dog. The National Petroleum Fund saga has to teach us that indeed our wealth can only be protected by strong institutions and not just the wishes of big men. Therefore, we must strive to build and strengthen our institutions so as to ensure that good governance and democracy thrive and perhaps most importantly to avoid state capture.
Lefoko Oatile Molebatsi