DCEO boss says hands are tied

DCEO boss says hands are tied

MASERU – PEOPLE in power are almost untouchable, and corruption busters are often threatened for trying to bring ruling politicians to account, said the Director General of Directorate on Corruption and Economic Offences (DCEO).
DCEO boss Advocate Borotho Matsoso yesterday spoke of how difficult it is for his unit to go for ruling elites, including top civil servants, fingered in corrupt deals because of their far-reaching influence.

“It is not as easy as people suppose it is,” he said at a press conference.
“But when such people are not in power everyone gives information freely. This is why it is hard to investigate them,” he said.
The DCEO still investigates cases despite this challenge, although the directorate’s agents sometimes receive threats, he said.
He was responding to questions on why his unit seems to swing into action only when prominent politicians leave government.
“There are many people that we have investigated and prosecuted while they were in power. Let us not act like we don’t know such cases,” Matsoso said.
He cited the cases of Dr Timothy Thahane, who was the Minister of Finance, Ranthomeng Matete, who was the Principal Secretary in the Ministry of Home Affairs and Pontšo Lebotsa, the former Principal Secretary of Labour.

“Even (Mothetjoa) Metsing’s investigations started while he was the Deputy Prime Minister,” he said.
This year, the DCEO investigated the Minister of Communications, Chief Thesele ’Maseribane, who was suspected of receiving large sums of money from controversial British businessman, Arron Banks after promising him lucrative mining licences in Lesotho.

Chief ’Maseribane is the leader of Basotho National Party, which is a partner in the current coalition government led by Prime Minister Thomas Thabane.
Matsoso said the investigations were thorough and showed that there were no underhand dealings in the issuance of mining rights to Arron Banks as all procedures were followed.
On money laundering allegations against Chief ’Maseribane, “the DCEO saw no elements of money laundering”, he said, adding that the investigation was still open.
“We still stand ready for any additional admissible evidence in this matter,” he said.

He said the investigation was swift because the accused person was cooperative and readily availed the relevant information to authorities.
A deal supposedly to let former Deputy Prime Minister Mothetjoa Metsing off the hook was also a talking point at the press conference.
The matter generated heated public debate after the government and the opposition signed an agreement on a temporary moratorium on charges against Metsing. The deal was widely known as Clause 10.

Matsoso said the clause was incongruent with the law governing the agency and as such the DCEO was not obliged to respect it.
“As DCEO, from the onset, we have made it clear that we are a government of Lesotho law enforcement agency which is governed by the laws of this land and empowered by the Prevention of Corruption and Economic Offences Act No.5 of 1999 as amended.

“Our mandate binds us to respect the rule of law and observe all government obligations thereto, so long as they are within the parameters of the law governing this Kingdom,” he said.
He added: “This regional agreement is wanting in many respects and redundant in the sense that it conflicts with the African Union Convention on preventing and combating corruption, Article 7, paragraph 5, that states “Subject to the provision of the domestic legislation, any immunity granted to public officials shall not be an obstacle to the investigation of allegations against and prosecution of such officials”.

Matsoso said as a member of and signatory to the AU Convention, Lesotho is bound by the provisions of the continental body’s statutes.
“Even without the Constitutional Court ruling (the agreement was) bound to be of no effect because of the Kingdom’s domestic laws and its continental commitment in terms of the AU Convention on preventing and combating corruption,” said Matsotso.

He said no one is above the law, emphasising the importance of keeping his office independent despite being funded by the government.
“The independence of this office is very crucial. It is guaranteed but needs to be strengthened. The office should not only be independent, it needs to be seen as independent,” Matsoso said.
He lamented that investigators were too few, resulting in a backlog of cases.
He said the number of investigators will be increased by 25 to alleviate the situation.

Rose Moremoholo

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