Botswana's Approach to Fighting
and Economic Crime
The rapid pace of Botswana's development, since gaining independence in 1996, has presented her with both benefits and problems. As for benefits, the development of her mineral resources has made the country rapidly self-reliant. It is the pace of Botswana's development that has been the root of her problems of corruption and economic crime. Development has entailed both the acquisition of considerable revenues and a rapid expansion of the public service. Maintaining tight control over both has proved difficult despite political determination. Inevitably weaknesses have evolved, particularly at middle management level where delegated authorities have been abused. The country recognises the extent of the problems it faces and it has taken resolute action in the form of the enactment of specific and powerful legislation and the establishment of a dedicated anti-corruption body.
Fortunately corruption has never been publicly acceptable in Botswana and when scandals did erupt they were met with general condemnation. Matters came to a head in the late 1980s and early 1990s with several major corruption scandals, some involving very senior and prominent people. These led to the establishment of Commissions of Enquiry. The reports of these enquiries recognised that Botswana had problems and that there was a perception, albeit an incorrect one, that Government was powerless, or lacked the political will, or both, to address the issues.
The Botswana Government recognised that to deal effectively with the problems, they had to be addressed resolutely, that those involved in corruption and economic crime should face the full force of the law, irrespective of their status or political affiliation. The Government also recognised that its own actions would need to be transparent and accountable, as they would certainly be subject to scrutiny.
Changes in law were necessary to create clearly defined offences; to provide specific powers of investigation, and create effective deterrent punishments for those convicted.
The Government of Botswana took account of the significant achievements of other jurisdictions where all of the above criteria had been recognised. The approach, which has achieved substantial results, involves the need for investigation and prosecution; public education and corruption prevention.
In 1994, the Government of Botswana enacted the Corruption and Economic Crime Act. This created new offences of corruption, including being in control of disproportionate assets or maintaining an unexplained high standard of living. To deal with these offences a new body (DCEC - The Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime) was created and given special powers of investigation, arrest, search and seizure.
The DCEC, which has its headquarters in Gaborone and an office in Francistown, now has an establishment of over 100 officers. By the end of 1999 it had received 5250 reports, since inception, from which it has launched 1565 investigations, 1018 of which have been completed. Thus far 197 persons have been prosecuted with a conviction rate of 84%.
As for public education, the initial publicity has been supplemented by annual poster campaigns, displays at trade exhibitions and a start has been made on input to the moral education of the young. A new approach in the effort to instil in the young, the knowledge of right and wrong and the value of ethics, was to introduce to them Botswana's first superhero, Rre Boammaruri (Mr Honesty). This character appears in person at public functions and at schools. He is also the subject of a poster campaign and a set of cartoon strips.
Our superhero takes the form of a cow, which is a highly respected animal among the citizens of the country, as it represents wealth and prosperity.
On the Corruption Prevention aspect, many seminars have been held for both private and public sector participants and a number of corruption prevention assignments have been completed with significant recommendations made to reduce opportunities for corruption.
The establishment of the DCEC has already had significant impact in Botswana with the majority of its citizens aware of the existence of the orgnisation and its role. Some completed prosecutions relate to extremely serious offences which might not have been detected had the measures described not been taken. The decision to take pro-active measures has been vindicated. One example is the very first Corruption Prevention assignment carried out by the Directorate which identified serious weaknesses in the management structure of a Public Company. Using this information, an investigation into complaints received was conducted and this resulted in the Chief Executive of the Public Company being prosecuted, convicted and imprisoned for offences under the Act.
The Government realises the need for continuing vigilance and the necessity to provide proper resources to the DCEC. Included in the National Development Plan 1999/2006 is provision for a new purpose built headquarters; a new office in Francistown to cover the northern part of the country; a comprehensive Information Technology system and housing for staff. Progress on these projects is well advanced and the new headquarters, with its IT system, will be ready early in the year 2000. A number of staff houses have been purchased and more will be built soon and the building of the northern office is planned to start early in 2001.
For its part Botswana hopes that corruption will remain a priority as an issue of major international importance and that ways of improving international communication, liaison and co-operation will remain high on the agenda.
From the office of Directorate