24 April 2019

Botswana: Critics Warn - Look in Your Office Masisi's War Against Corruption

President Mokgweetsi Masisi has been challenged to move from rhetoric to real demonstratable action as critical observers are being worn out by little achievement in his much hyped war against corruption.

This comes as Masisi once more declared that he will escalate his war against rampant corruption.

Arriving from Qatar on Tuesday, Masisi vowed: "I'm going to continue going after anybody who is corrupt. It's very horrifying. I will go after those who abused their office and mismanaged public funds". He frowned upon extreme corruption within the public institutions, saying money taken from the public coffers have led to lack of medication in clinics, power outages and lack of sufficient stationery for students in schools.

Corruption at BMC

For the first time President Masisi publicly talked about corruption at the financially-riddled Botswana Meat Commission (BMC) which was recently embarrassed by former Speaker of the National Assembly Patrick Balopi by attaching assets for a P40m debt.

He revealed that he was shocked when he was about to leave for Qatar that another demand for P48 million was made to BMC which he said was not known about before. BMC has been embroiled in corruption allegations for years but no real evidence and conviction of perpetrators has taken place.

Inexplicably expenses, escalation of costs

Masisi revealed that when he assumed the presidency he realised that there have been inexplicable expenses and escalation of costs, taking millions of Pula from government.

Though he didn't mention the mega projects whose costs have escalated, highly placed sources close to the presidency have revealed that he is not happy with the progress made at the North South Water Carrier (NSCII) project.

He is said to have warned some senior government officials to stop interfering in the implementation of the project, especially the awarding of tenders which Project Management Officers have complained about.

Recently the PMO from the Ministry of Land Management, Water and Sanitation Services were summoned to the Office of the President and instructed to re-evaluate the technical report on the tender for the Masama/Mmamashia pipeline which is labeled contract 01 and worth P1.3 billion.

The technical evaluation, which this publication got glimpse of, had listed WBHO, Consolidated Contractors Company (CCC) and China Jiangsu/ Unik Joint Venture among the top three. The three were supposed to go for financial evaluation.

Another tender which is said to be not sitting well with President Masisi is the one for the design and building of a water distribution network, sanitation reticulation, telemetry and scads and associated works in Maun which is currently before the courts.

Government through Ministry of Land Management, Water and Sanitation Services terminated the tender which was awarded to China Jiansu at the tune of P1.5 billion and awarded it to Zhengtai Group at the tune of P1.8 billion.

Warning to his officers

Masisi has warned that those with sticky fingers to stop before it gets too late for them.

"You must stop now because if your fingers continue to be stickier it will be difficult to just let you go and sometimes you must look Batswana in the eyes and let your consciousness speak to you!," he warned in the presence of cabinet ministers, Permanent secretary to the President Carter Morupisi and other senior government officials.

Some Chinese companies have been accused of bribing their way into winning tenders by offering some leaders either money or buying them cars or land.

"President Masisi knows some of the allegations and has warned them to stop what they are doing or face the wrath of the law," revealed the source.

More talk no action

There have been some concerns that since President Masisi assumed office he has talked more than acted. People that have long faced allegations of impropriety are still to face the law a year after took office warning about fighting corruption. He had also promised to set up a law on Declaration of Assets and Liabilities for people holding public office, yet this has not happened.

In response Masisi said that he knows that it must be frustrating but results will soon be seen.

"You must know that corruption develops a system and ways of evading the law but there will be no tiring on our part as we will continue to deploy resources to fight it," he said.

DCEC to be given more teeth

In the past they have been complaints that Directorate of Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC) investigators have been frustrated by the prosecutors who fail to handle the corruption cases leading to the accused scotch free.

To address the issue, the office of the President is said to be working on a bill to be presented in the July session of parliament in which DCEC will be given more powers especially to prosecute.

Recently DCEC recruited one of the most celebrated and experienced lawyers Joao Salbany to their fold, a development which has been seen by many as a way by government to strengthen the institution.

DCEC is currently under new leadership of former army officer Director General, Brigadier Joseph Mathambo having succeeded Bruno Paledi at the beginning of this month. He showed his serious intentions by opening some of the cases which were closed by the previous administration.

Brigadier Mathambo will address his inaugural press conference at the DCEC HQ Auditorium on Wednesday 24th April 2019 from 10h00 to 11h00.

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