A segment of the Directorate of Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC) fears that the proposed amendments to the Corruption and Economic Crime Act that were recently published to just a ploy by government to take over the agency.
On the 2nd November this year Minister of Presidential Affairs and Public Administration Mokgweetsi Masisi published proposed amendments to the Corruption and Economic Act in the Government Gazette. The proposed amendments come a few months after the agency was moved from the ministry of Justice Defense and Security to the Office of the President.
Minister proposed several amendments some of whom are viewed as a ploy by the government to control the DCEC and cripple its ability to perform its sensitive mandate of fighting corruption. The most worrying proposed amendment according to insiders is Clause 4, Part II sections 5A and 5B, which empowered the minister to prescribe a disciplinary code for the directorate.
Several DCEC officers who talked to Botswana Guardian are of the view that giving the minister too much power to set the disciplinary code for the agency is tantamount to interference. “The best standard practice around the world is that such code should be the responsibility of institutions like parliament, not a minister,” commented a DCEC senior officer.
The minister will also be empowered to draw the conditions of service of the directorate. “The minister shall prescribe such conditions of service of the Directorate setting out the terms and conditions for the appointment of officers and support staff,” read the proposed amendment. DCEC, like other government officers are currently under the Directorate of Public Service Management.
The opponents of the Bill argue that it is odd for the minister to draw the officers’ conditions, as it will now make it even more difficult for the officers to investigate the minister himself. “He will be our employer now, he will have the powers to prescribe our disciplinary code and draw our conditions of service. What will we do to him,” asked one officer rhetorically.
The proposed amendments also call for the barring of the DCEC from joining unions. “An officer of the Directorate shall not become a member of any trade union or anybody or association affiliated to a trade union, or any body or association the object of which or one of the objects of which is to control or influence conditions of employment in any trade or profession,” read the bill.
This has not gone well with DCEC officers who told Botswana Guardian that this now curtails their right to associate with any organisation of their choice.Botswana Public Employees Union president Andrew Motsamai told this newspaper that he wasn’t aware of the proposed amendments but added that this will be contrary to the ILO convention 87, which allows all the employees to unionise.
“It will be unfortunate for the minister to present that bill to parliament and it will be even more disappointing for parliament to back such instrument,” he said. He also decried lack of consultation in the formulation of the amendments.
The good side
According to DCEC officers not all the proposed amendments are bad. Clause 3 of the Bill seeks to amend section 2 to give the agency more powers to investigate companies or organisations that the government holds a stake in. Currently DCEC Act allows the agency to only investigate companies that the government has 51% stake in.
“It is further proposed that ‘public body’ be extended to anybody organisation where public moneys is used. Similarly the term ‘public officer’ has been redefined to align with the proposed definition of ‘public body’.DCEC are of the view that this will without doubt give the agency more powers to go after some organisations that they previously could not investigate.
“We receive more reports on some of these companies on a daily basis, but our hands have been tied for some time,” commented a DCEC officer.The proposed amendments further seek to protect whistleblowers or DCEC sources.
“Clause 5 of the Bill inserts a new section which prohibits disclosure of identity of persons by officers, support staff of the directorate, or any other person who may have access to such identity and section 19B prohibits unauthorized disclosure of information by officers and support staff of the directorate.”
The Bill will extend the mandate of the Directorate to investigate the offence of abuse of public office and also the creation of a new ‘offence of trading’ in influence and ‘intimidation of informers’. The Bill also seeks to replace the words ‘director’ and ‘deputy director’ with ‘Director General’ and ‘Deputy Director General’.