Fighting Corruption in Botswana
In 1994, the Corruption and Economic Crime Act (CECA) was passed into law in Botswana, creating the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC). It was formed in response to several corruption scandals involving senior officials in the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP). The scandals had caused public outrage and threatened to harm the country's reputation as an African model of good governance.
The DCEC has since benefited from a strong political backing and has enabled Botswana to feature as the best performing African country in Transparency International's 2016 Corruption Perceptions Index.
The Corruption and Economic Crime Act (CECA) Act was passed into law in 1994. It categorised new crimes of corruption and established the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC) as a permanent agency. The DCEC took over corruption cases from the Botswana Police Service, which had no fraud squad.
A majority of BDP legislators backed the initiative, as it was important for the government to show the public that they were responding quickly to the corruption scandals that were featuring heavily in the media. The DCEC's aims included:
- Promoting ethical behaviour in government and public organisations
- Establishing codes of conduct
- Maintaining good governance, transparency and the rule of law
- Taking part in corruption prevention interventions.
The DCEC was given wide-ranging powers and operational independence, and was modelled on the Hong Kong's Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC), with a "three-pronged strategy" of investigation, prevention and public education. It had robust investigative powers, such as the power to arrest, trace and freeze assets, to search and seize, to confiscate travel documents, and to extradite suspects, and it could also recommend prosecutions to the Directorate of Public Prosecutions (DPP). The DPP in turn had control over all prosecutions.
The DCEC's work in prevention and education involved auditing procedures and structures within ministries and agencies to identify situations that could lead to corruption, sometimes with the help of committees within those ministries. Combating corruption was also incorporated into the curricula of schools and colleges, the training of public servants, and outreach activities to the wider community in the form of campaigns, anticorruption clubs, workshops and seminars.
In the early 1990s, a series of high-level corruption scandals involving senior officials in the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) erupted in Botswana and caused public outrage. Prior to these scandals, perceptions of corruption in Botswana had been relatively low in comparison with other countries in sub-Saharan Africa.
Ever since its independence in 1966, under the unbroken rule of BDP, the country had gained international praise for its good governance and rapid and sustained economic growth. However, that growth was highly concentrated in the diamond mining sector, which is half-owned by the state, so the country had a rich state and a poor society. As a result of this uneven relationship, income inequality in Botswana became one of the highest in the world. Furthermore, the country lacked transparency measures such as freedom of information laws, whistleblower protections, and civil society groups focusing on governance issues. A concentration of power due to the dominance of the elite BDP was also highlighted as posing a risk of corruption.
The public impact
The DCEC has had a positive impact from the beginning. “Since its inception, the DCEC has actively pursued investigations when reports are received of possible corruption from whistleblowers, members of the public, NGOs and watchdog bodies. It is helped by specialist anticorruption units set up in ministries, and which conduct preliminary investigations of possible offences within their ministries.”
In 2004, the World Bank published a report evaluating anticorruption institutions across Africa. They held Botswana's DCEC to be the top-performing anticorruption agency of all the participating African countries. Apart from its successes in education and prevention, the agency had also “produced successful outcomes in its role of complementing the state institutions established to improve governance and deepen accountability and transparency in the country". The DCEC outperformed the other agencies in terms of cases investigated and prosecuted, and the number of convictions.
The 2012 Rule of Law report by the World Justice Project, showed that Botswana ranked first among all African countries in its "absence of corruption" parameter, 18 years after the creation of the DCEC. “There is an effective system of checks and balances, including an independent judiciary and a free press. Corruption is minimal and all branches of government operate effectively.”. More recently however, in their 2016 report, Botswana ranked only third out of 18 in Africa, and its global ranking had dropped six places from the year before.
The precise impact of the prevention and education elements of Botswana's anticorruption programme is difficult to measure. However, in response to the prevention policy, permanent secretaries had by 2013 introduced preventive measures in their ministries, perhaps in response to DCEC's assignment studies and the risk assessment conducted by corruption prevention committees.
An Afrobarometer poll in 2014/15 showed that 72 percent of survey participants either agreed or strongly agreed that ordinary people can make a difference in the fight against corruption. This was the highest of all the 36 countries surveyed and indicated that the DCEC's outreach and educational efforts had made a positive impact.
In Transparency International's 2016 Corruption Perceptions Index, Botswana was the best- performing African country and stood at 35th out of 176 in the overall results table.
In general, Botswana's political system is an open one, and the government consults the public on both policy and legislation. However, in terms of input from non-state actors, “there is a perception that most of this consultation is in the form of government informing the various stakeholders about its policies and plans, rather than seeking inputs into the formulation of those policies and plans”.
Specifically, the DCEC used the Botswana Institute for Development Policy Analysis (BIDPA) to help them design and develop a national anticorruption policy. Yet, non-state actors appeared to have been a constraint in their engagement with the DCEC because of a shortage of trained staff, organisational weaknesses, and financial difficulties. In March 2014, with funding from the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), BIDPA held a stakeholder seminar with DCEC to “gather views of important stakeholders on the draft policy so as to make further improvements”.
The public had been shocked and outraged by several major corruption scandals in Botswana between April 1991 and late 1993. In one case it was revealed that, because of gross negligence by senior civil servants, contracts for providing teaching supplies to primary schools had resulted in losses of BWP27 million (USD13 million).
As a result, the popular support previously enjoyed by the BDP - which had held power since Botswana's independence in 1966 - was eroding fast. The forthcoming election in October 1994 put further pressure on the BDP to show the public that they had a quick and robust response to fighting corruption.
Therefore, the CECA was backed by a majority of BDP legislators, swiftly approved in Parliament, and signed into law by President Quett Masiren in August 1994. Two months later, the BDP won its seventh unbroken term in the general election, although its percentage of the vote declined to a historic low of 54 percent.
In the run-up to the 1994 election, the DCEC had to pay close attention to public opinion. It raised awareness “by a series of public information campaigns aimed at civil society groups and grassroots organisations, resulting in high public [recognition]”. The DCEC's public education programme has been one of its most important achievements, targeting schools, universities, ministries, churches and other organisations.
At the time when the DCEC was established, it was welcomed by the public, as explained by Rose Seretse, the organisation's director from 2009 to 2017, who joined the DCEC in 1997. “And I must say that the Directorate was well received by members of the public because at that time when it was formed in 1994, it was after government had started seeing some trends of corruption.... So the support from the onset was quite a good one.”
Over time, opinion polls have continued to indicate public approval of the DCEC's anticorruption efforts. Indeed, there has been a slight increase in approval of the government's anticorruption achievements, as evidenced by comparing two Afrobarometer polls from 2002/2003 and 2014/15. The percentage of people who agreed that the current government was handling fighting corruption in government fairly well or very well increased from 49 percent in 2002/2003 to 54 percent in 2014/2015.
Clarity of objectives
The overall objective of the DCEC is to combat corruption, and this has been done by implementing a three-pronged strategy:
- Investigation - to investigate allegations of corruption and economic crime together with issues of suspicious transactions. When sufficient evidence has been collected in an investigation, the file is submitted to the DPP for assessment and prosecution.
- Corruption prevention - to audit systems within government and parastatal institutions to detect loopholes that allow corrupt practices to occur. This is done through routine assignment studies.
- Public education - teaching the public across the country about corruption and soliciting public support, through fairs and exhibitions.
Strength of evidence
Botswana's government drew on foreign expertise from the UK and Hong Kong, and used the successful Hong Kong anticorruption agency, the ICAC, as a blueprint for the DCEC. The former deputy commissioner of Hong Kong's ICAC, Graham Stockwell, collaborated with Emmanuel Tetteh, a senior legislative draftsman in the attorney general's office, to write the Corruption and Economic Crime Act.
Although the DCEC was modelled on Hong Kong's ICAC, it differed from the ICAC in four essential respects:
- It was put under the president's office and so was not formally independent
- Its remit "expanded beyond corruption to include related economic crimes such as fraud and tax evasion"
- Its personnel were "subject to public service regulations, while the ICAC hired its workers on contract and had more control over human resources"
- It did not have "the ICAC's citizen oversight committees,... a vital mechanism of public accountability".
Moreover, Botswana's Ministry of Health (MoH) published their own anticorruption policy in 2013, stating that “taking into account the global, national and MoH context, the development of this policy followed a methodology of literature review and consultations to get the views on how to best tackle corruption issues within the MoH”.
The DCEC has substantial resources, including an annual budget of GBP6,767,933 (as of 2015), and "strong powers and legal instruments, and the support of the judicial institutions".
From its inception, the DCEC has recruited highly qualified staff, thanks to substantial ongoing funding from the government and its close links with the ICAC, the UK and New Zealand. It has had presidential backing and the power to direct anticorruption reforms across government, underpinned by the provisions of the CECA.
However, the DCEC's high-level investigations have encountered some problems in obtaining convictions: “not a single case went to court without people hiding behind procedures or constitutional issues". This has reduced the effectiveness of the government's commitment to fighting corruption.
During the early days of the DCEC, extra skills and expertise were brought in via secondments from the Botswana Police Service and the ICAC. The directorate started conducting training courses for new staff, and also introduced performance management training, which was implemented by special "performance improvement coordinators", who were trained abroad.
In 2010, the DCEC hired a director of training and development who, together with foreign experts and the Basel Institute of Governance, developed an internal training framework. The framework included a new investigative manual, an induction course, and regular classes in for all investigators in such topics as operational planning and the management of complex cases.
In 2011, the DCEC "created an assessment section to better triage corruption reports. Assessment officers analysed incoming complaints and supporting evidence to produce reports for panels of experienced officers - a move that enabled the directorate to respond to most complaints within four weeks." More resources were given to assessment, and processes were adopted based on procedures that had been developed in Australia. These measures resulted in a 50 percent reduction in caseload from 2011 to 2013.
The DCEC measures its performance according to its own performance indicators, which include:
- The number of investigations launched
- The number of investigations completed
- The ratio of number of investigations to numbers of staff
- Conviction rates
- The level of implementation of recommendations derived from preventive work
- Public opinion surveys.
The DCEC conducts the public opinion surveys to keep track of public perception of its performance. For example, the latest 2017 survey aims to provide more qualitative information about public opinion regarding the level of corruption in Botswana, to measure the level of public confidence in the DCEC's ability to combat corruption, and to evaluate suggestions as to how corruption in Botswana can be reduced. Individuals within selected households are required by law (under the Statistics Act 2009) to provide the requested data.
The DCEC also conducts assignment studies, which are “a critical examination of the systems and procedures (policy, legislation, organisational procedures and instructions), involved in a defined area of activity within an organisation. The purpose is to identify existing weaknesses in the system and to recommend methods of improvement.”
Besides the DCEC, there are other authorities dedicated to fighting corruption in Botswana, including the DPP. Alignment with the DPP and the legal system are crucial for the DCEC in order to prosecute corrupt individuals and secure convictions. However, the DCEC's relationship with the DPP remains problematic. In 2011, for example, the DPP decided not to prosecute some high-profile corruption cases put forward by the DCEC, and this resulted in ill-feeling and disagreements between the two agencies.
The DCEC takes great pains to promote an anticorruption culture in all government agencies. DCEC officers are seconded to other ministries to hold corruption prevention committees, “a forum meant to spearhead strategies and initiatives in government ministries and to mainstream anticorruption measures”.
The DCEC also collaborates with "other oversight bodies situated in the office of the president, such as the procurement office and state auditor",  other Botswanan law enforcement agencies such as the Customs and Exercise, the Immigration Department, the Ombudsman, the Police Service, and the Wildlife Department, and international organisations such as Interpol.
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