As Mmegi investigations into the rot at the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development continue, numbers are revealing that officers have been unduly enriching themselves through corruption in the form of procurement, particularly collusion and bribery. Mmegi Staff Writer RYDER GABATHUSE follows the story
FRANCISTOWN: At least 19 officers have faced disciplinary action in relation to corrupt activities from last year to date at the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development and local authorities, Mmegi investigations have revealed.
The most common form of corruption facing the ministry revolves around procurement, particularly collusion and bribery.
The Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development spokesperson, Masego Ramakgati confirmed this week that 17 officers (11 officers from the ministry departments and six from the local authorities) have been dismissed from work whilst two are currently on suspension from local authorities as a result of involvement in corruption practices. At least eight officers from five of 16 district councils have either been suspended or dismissed from work after they were involved in acts of corruption or dishonesty.
North West District Council leads the pack with three dismissed officers within the period under review followed by Kgatleng District Council with one dismissed and one suspended officers.
Gaborone City Council and Chobe District Council have one dismissed officer each. The Central District Council currently has one officer on suspension. Four Local Government and Rural Development ministry departments have fired 11 officers from work since last year to date after the employer was satisfied that they were involved in acts of corruption. The Department of Finance and Procurement leads the pack with eight dismissed officers as a result of involvement in corruption-related activities whilst the departments of Rural Development, Corporate Services and Tribal Administration fired one officer each within the same period.
Ramakgati acknowledged that in essence, corruption is a major hurdle in growth, development and the fight against poverty.
“It reduces productivity, lowers investment opportunities, causes fiscal drain and of course has a debilitating effect on efficiency,” he said indicating that, “In this regard, there is need to constantly fight both the demand and supply of corruption within the ministry”.
Looking at the economic effects of corruption, he noted that the reason why corruption has such debilitating effects on investment and growth is not only the illegal and clandestine transfer of funds from one set of persons or hands to another, “but also the economic effects on investment choice”. “Thus, high corruption is often associated with the wrong choice of public projects and project delays, leading to low productivity and low fiscal revenues, poor maintenance of projects and low quality of essential public infrastructure, which, in turn, increases the cost of production of goods and services.”
Describing the tendering processes within ministry departments, which are often flawed, Ramakgati indicated that a Procuring Entity (PE), in this case a department, develops the scope (ITT) and initiates the procurement of goods/services.
Subsequently, a tender document is developed by the Procuring Unit (PU), which will then be submitted to the Ministerial Tender Committee (MTC) for approval. Upon approval, the PE sends out adverts for 28 days, receives and opens bids, which would then be evaluated.
Once evaluation is completed, a report is compiled and submitted to MTC for adjudication and tender awarding. At the end, the PE signs a contract with those awarded the tender for implementation. As for local authorities tendering process, it was explained that a PE, in this case a Local Authority, develops the scope and initiates the procurement of goods/services required, followed by the development of a tender document that the PU submits to the Adjudication Committee for approval.
Once approval of the tender document has been done, the PE sends out adverts, receives and opens bids, which would now be evaluated.
As soon as evaluation is completed, a report is compiled for the Adjudication Committee to adjudicate and award the tender. A contract can then be signed for implementation. In light of all the cases of corruption that the ministry has dealt with, and continues to deal with, what are they doing to uproot corruption?
Ramakgati was forthright, saying that they make inquiries on all processes, procedures, practices and transactions within the ministry and report any unlawful activity to relevant authorities such as Botswana Police Service and the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC).
l Promptly report all suspicions of corruption directly to the DCEC.
l Promptly report administrative lapses to the Accounting Officer.
Some of the approaches adopted by the ministry on its anti-corruption crusade include transaction monitoring through inspection of documented transactions including electronically stored data and information.
l Attendance without participation (as an overseer) to decision-making sittings/meetings.
l Inspection of offices, warehouses, storage facilities and other strategic installations in order to assess and advise Departments on security status.
l Receiving, analysing and conducting inquiries into allegations of corruption and complaints received from various sources including the toll free line.
l Review of various reports including audits, risk assessments, media exposé.
As corruption cases are seemingly refusing to go, the ministry has formed corruption prevention committees at ministerial, departmental, council, sub-council and tribal authority levels.
Accounting officers chair the committees. For instance, the Permanent Secretary chairs the ministerial corruption prevention committee.
From time-to-time, the ministry, through the anti-corruption unit (ACU) sensitises the staff and the public on corruption-related issues, in addition to communicating anti-corruption messages on every available platform.
“There is no doubt that an effective anti-corruption programme covering institutional reform as well as the supply and demand sides, will substantially improve governance and the public delivery system within our ministry,” Ramakgati promised.
He emphasised that the resulting public confidence and trust in their ministry, or local governance will also strengthen their reputation as government as it will help local government gain goodwill credits, “which will improve our good fortunes within the wider and broader community, especially given our commitment to ethical conduct in driving a people-centred agenda”.
Besides the DCEC dealing with those who are suspected to be involved in acts of corruption, what does the ministry do to send a corrective message to those involved in corruption?
Ramakgati’s strong position is that where it has been established that an act of corruption has occurred, the ministry automatically institutes administrative action against the culprits as provided for in the Ministry’s Anti-Corruption Policy, Corruption and Economic Crime Act, Public Service Act of 2008 and other associated Acts and Regulations.
“This could lead to suspension or dismissal from public office, and of course other measures as provided for in the Corruption and Economic Crime Act and Public Service Act of 2008,” he further explained. Responding to allegations emanating from the Central District Council (CDC), where a principal roads engineer has been suspended from duty on allegations that he has qualified a non-compliant company due to the influence of bribe, Ramakgati indicated that in an ideal situation, it is not possible for a single person to qualify a company. “In fact, even a committee cannot qualify a company which is non-compliant,” he noted.
In terms of the Public Procurement and Asset Disposal (PPAD) Act, which applies to procurement in ministry departments (Central Government), the Ministerial Tender Committee (MTC) consists of seven members who are involved in determining the qualification or non-qualification of bidding companies.
In terms of the Local Authorities Procurement and Asset Disposal Act, which applies to procurement at local authorities, the Adjudication Committee consists of nine members who are involved in determining the qualification or non-qualification of bidding companies.