Who is DCEO fooling?

Who is DCEO fooling?

COMMUNICATIONS Minister and Basotho National Party (BNP) leader Thesele ‘Maseribane must be over the moon.
He is brandishing a Directorate on Corruption and Economic Offences (DCEO) letter that says he is as clean as a whistle.
In the letter dated September 21 the DCEO was reporting to the minister that it had received a report implicating him and Aaron Banks, controversial British business mogul, in alleged corruption and money laundering activities.

The allegation was that Maseribane and the BNP received donations from Banks in exchange for pushing for his mining licence.
It’s a stunning story that has however ended on a rather disappointing note.
In the letter the DCEO tells Maseribane that it has found no evidence of malpractice or use of any undue influence from him as a minister.

It is important to note here that it is ‘Maseribane who asked the DCEO to investigate him after his alleged corrupt relationship with Banks was revealed in media reports.
It should also be mentioned that a few days before the DCEO’s letter Maseribane had already told supporters at a rally that it was coming.

It boggles the mind how the DCEO could have made such an emphatic conclusion in such a short period. Equally baffling is why it felt it prudent to write to Maseribane announcing its findings. It’s unprecedented because there is never a time when the DCEO has written a letter clearing a person under investigation.

What was under investigation is clear. It is a fact that Banks transferred £65 000 (approximately M1 040 000) into Maseribane’s personal bank account in South Africa in 2013.
The minister admitted as much in an interview with a British TV station but said it was a donation to the party for its election campaign.
Later the Minister’s son reported back to Banks by email: “My father had a meeting with the Minister of Mining and our application has been approved.”
Banks reportedly replied: “Finally – now the fun begins.”

Notice that the minister’s son says “our application”, which implies that he was in on the venture with Banks.
It is not my place to say that there was a corrupt transaction here. Mine is to just point out that given such evidence it was the DCEO’s duty to pursue all angles.
There was no need for the DCEO to write the minister a letter that expressly announces that the investigation is dead.

What if the DCEO later comes across new evidence that points to corruption? What happens if the DCEO changes its mind about the matter and decide to reopen the case?
What happens if new witnesses come forward? All these are poignant questions the DCEO should have asked itself before writing that letter to the minister.
But this only indicates that which is wrong with the DCEO as an anti-corruption unit.

The DCEO is not allowed full freedom to discharge their legal mandate impartially, without interference from powerful politicians such as Minister Thesele.
This was manifested a week before DCEO wrote the letter to the Minister, at a political party rally whereby Minister Thesele announced that, DCEO shall soon declare that there is no evidence of corruption and money laundering in his relationship with Banks.

It’s disappointing that DCEO is failing to demonstrate their ability and willingness to investigate and prosecute those who are involved in grand corruption.
DCEO in its current form is not empowered and resourced sufficiently.

Having observed the institution since its inception I have noted the following fundamental flaws:
Firstly, since its establishment the institution has lacked genuine political commitment. Politicians and high ranking public servants have no desire to see DCEO functioning properly otherwise prison cells would be full of their kind.

Successive governments have rather been obsessed with appearing as if they support the anticorruption agenda only to appease the donor community, international monitoring bodies, foreign investors and domestic public.

Secondly, DCEO is failing because it is operating in an environment of endemic corruption and in a highly state-controlled economy. We have seen on our televisions during Public Accounts Committee hearings how widespread corruption is in the government system.

It is also a fact that DCEO is under-funded, making it impossible to investigate cases.
Third, DCEO cannot work in a vacuum. Its effectiveness is closely linked to the overall performance of other government institutions.

Government institutions are highly inefficient, disorganised and unethical. It will therefore be a miracle for the DCEO to maintain integrity when there is general corruption in all other government institutions and politicians are fighting for the control of all state institutions. Fourth, the legal instrument that established DCEO clearly set it up for failure.

Politicians have so much power over the institution. Remember in the case of the principal secretary of the Ministry of Public Works whereby the DCEO was convinced that there is a case but the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) insisted that the case could not be prosecuted because the evidence was not enough. The DPP is appointed by politicians and cannot escape from their clutch.
Lastly, Basotho are generally losing hope in the DCEO. There has been so many awareness campaigns about its existence, mandate and functions but very little has been said about its performance.

Our experience as Basotho points to distinct danger in the existence of the DCEO. This important anti-corruption institution has been abused as a tool against political opponents.
The DCEO becomes functional and alive when detecting and investigating money deposited in Mothetjoa Metsing accounts yet it cannot investigate an obvious link between a donation to a politician and his influence in organising a mining lease for the his donor.

It finds nothing wrong with M1 million deposited in Maseribane’s private account and implicating emails but rushes to nail Metsing when half a million is deposited into his account. If the idea is to fight corruption then all deposits should be explained. Anything short of that will be an unfair application of the rules.

By: Ramahooana matlosa

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