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Declaration of assets welcome, but

MMEGI EDITOR
The Minister for Presidential Affairs, Governance and Public Administration, Nonofo Molefhi has published a draft of the Declaration of Assets and Liabilities Bill in the Government Gazette, to be presented to the National Assembly (NA) during this winter session of Parliament.

This was after decades of public outcry for the country to have a law on declaration of assets and liabilities to fight the ever-increasing corruption in the country. We would like to call on stakeholders to fix some of the ‘mistakes’ we have identified as a society in combating corruption.

It is proposed that the declarations would be made to the Minister by the Director General of Directorate on Corruption and Economic Corruption (DCEC), Speaker of the NA, Permanent Secretary to the President and Permanent Secretaries.

The draft Bill proposes that a person to who this Act applies shall make a declaration within 60 days after the coming into operation of the Act, his or her appointment of assumption of office or the taking and subscribing of an oath of allegiance before the NA. While we commend the composition of the outfit, we however strongly feel that the media, and by extension the public should be privy to the information. Practically, it is the media, and indeed the public, that can keep tabs on its leaders to ensure the Act is followed to the letter.

Government’s decision also opens the door on a debate about the introduction of Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). It is high time Botswana puts in place a FOIA. It must exist as a right and therefore an enabler to journalists in doing their work. They should have reasonable access to information they need from those who have declared. On the declaration Bill, we take the view that it would be a futile exercise to pass the

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law in its current form when observed elsewhere in this publication it has been overtaken by  time. Furthermore, it proposes that any person who contravenes the provisions of this section commits an offence and is liable to a fine not exceeding P20, 000 or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding two years, or both.

The draft Bill also forces those whom the declarations are made to, to preserve the confidentiality of all information contained in such a declaration and such confidentiality shall subsist even after the termination of their term of office or mandate. But have a problem with the fact that those who do not preserve the confidentiality will be punished more than those who actually fail to declare. Those who fail to declare get a maximum of five years behind bars while those who fail to preserve confidentiality face nine years.

In other jurisdictions, this type of Bill is used to fight corruption. Therefore, we need to benchmark with the best as country to ensure that citizens do not get a raw deal in fighting crime. Certainly, there should abundant case studies from which we could extract that which suits our context with strict adherence to best practices. The Bill covers senior government officials and parastatals chiefs, Dikgosi, judges, magistrates, heads of private enterprises, MPs, councillors, spouses and dependent children. We commend the composition here stated and hope it will be fully enforced. 

Today’s thought 

“Asset declarations of public officials are a powerful tool to prevent corruption, detect illicit enrichment and conflicts of interests.” 

– World Bank



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