A bunch of liars  or a bunch of incompetents?

A bunch of liars or a bunch of incompetents?

I was very excited (as I am sure were many other people) when the previous coalition government included the declaration of assets and interests in their list of priority policy programmes.  We were made more excited when they gave themselves just 12 months to put in place measures to ensure there would be compliance with the relevant law.

We saw this as signalling seriousness to combat and to root out corruption. But sadly, we were duped, because they failed to fulfil this commitment to themselves and to us the citizens.  The effect of failing to put in place the requisite measures to ensure compliance (within the 12 months they had given themselves), served to achieve one of two things or perhaps both.

(1) it reinforced the already negative perception people have of politicians —politicians always say what they think we want to hear, whilst knowing they have no intention to follow through,
(2) it exposed their incompetence as a government i.e. how could they fail to enforce such an important law after such fanfare announcement unless they were incompetent?

Today we have a new government in power — a different coalition.  For the optimist, this means there is renewed hope that lost confidence in politicians and the promises they make will be restored.  The announcement by the Minister of Finance Dr Moeketsi Majoro that arrangements are at an advanced stage for the declaration of assets by public officials is good reason for this renewed optimism.

For the realist however, there is no reason to share the Finance Minister’s optimism that before the end of September 2017, all in the Honourable House would have filed their declarations.

It’s doubtful that all the Minister’s colleagues in parliament are clean. There are those who have skeletons to hide. And because they risk being exposed by what he suggests, they will not comply with his request.

They will exploit our endemic corruption environment and weak law enforcement, and not declare their assets and interests as required.
As for me, I have more hope than the realists. I am unashamedly one of the optimists.

I hope that those conferred the title of “Honourable Members” will do the right thing. I hope that they will recognise public interest as superior and preferable to self-interest and declare their assets and interests.

I hope they file their declarations by the end of September because asset declarations serve as an important tool to prevent corruption. This will also set a good example for the other categories of public officials who will also be required to make declarations.
I hope that the realists will be proven wrong and the optimists proven right.  Citizens represented by civil society and the media must not however sit intoxicated by the optimism of the optimists that politicians on their own can do the right thing.

They should stand ready to expose and to call out those who fail to declare. It’s our duty and responsibility to do so.
As far as the existing declaration of assets and interest law is concerned, civil society and the media (on our behalf) need to lead discussions explaining the key elements of asset declaration systems e.g. policy objectives with asset declarations, the categories of public officials required to submit declarations, procedures for verifying declared information, sanctions for violations, public disclosure etc.
Doing this, will encourage greater compliance.

I am not sure what the current law says should be appropriate sanctions should there be any violations (failure to submit a declaration; late submission of a declaration, incomplete statement of required information; and submitting an intentionally false statement).
That there has been no implementation all this while suggests to me that sanctions contained in the current law are either inappropriate/ inadequate, or, that we have serious weaknesses with enforcement.

In this government which was voted into office on a ticket of change, establishing the rule of law and ensuring good governance cannot also fail like the previous government when it comes to this.

It must see to it that come the end of September, all those expected to submit declarations do so.  We expect to see sanctions against those who fail to comply.  Unless there are strong sanctions (e.g. imprisonment for a person who knowingly and wilfully falsifies required information, or criminal liability for incomplete or false statements, or a fine, or a reduction in pay, or dismissal for non-declaration, etc), this government, the people’s government, will be no better than the previous government i.e. just another bunch of liars or a bunch of incompetents.

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