New dawn beck­ons for DCEO

Lesotho Times - - News - Billy Ntaote

PAR­LIA­MENT’S Port­fo­lio Com­mit­tee on Law and Pub­lic Safety yes­ter­day rec­om­mended se­cu­rity for Direc­torate on Cor­rup­tion and Eco­nomic Of­fences (DCEO) of­fi­cials due to the “sen­si­tive” na­ture of their work.

The Com­mit­tee also wants DCEO of­fi­cials to be part of pan­els eval­u­at­ing govern­ment ten­ders to min­imise chances of cor­rup­tion in the se­lec­tion process.

The rec­om­men­da­tions, which fol­lowed de­bate on ‘ pre­ven­tion of cor­rup­tion and eco­nomic of­fences reg­u­la­tions’ pub­lished un­der Le­gal No­tice No 8 of 2016 and tabled in the Na­tional Assem­bly by Jus­tice and Cor­rec­tional Ser­vices Min­is­ter Moeketse Malebo on March 2, are ex­pected to be sub­mit­ted be­fore par­lia­ment when it re­con­venes to­mor­row af­ter break­ing for Easter on 18 March.

A mem­ber of the Com­mit­tee, Lekhetho Mos­ito of the All Ba­sotho Con­ven­tion (ABC), had raised the ques­tion of the safety of the DCEO staff dur­ing the de­lib­er­a­tions when the se­cu­rity rec­om­men­da­tion was made.

“I’ve learned that of­fi­cers of the an­ti­cor­rup­tion body deal with very sen­si­tive mat­ters, but how se­cure are those em­ploy­ees of the DCEO? How pro­tected are th­ese em­ploy­ees who are sup­posed to in­ves­ti­gate cor­rup­tion cases? They should be able to in­ves­ti­gate any­one with­out any fear by be­ing pro­vided with the nec­es­sary se­cu­rity,” said Mr Mos­ito.

Com­mit­tee chair­per­son, Ad­vo­cate retšelisit­soe Masenyetse of the Demo­cratic Congress, also sug­gested mak­ing DCEO of­fi­cers mem­bers of ten­der pan­els to de­ter cor­rupt prac­tices and also en­sur­ing the or­gan­i­sa­tion is ad­e­quately re­sourced.

“If we have more of­fi­cers on the ground, we won’t find our­selves bur­dened with in­ves­ti­ga­tions. We would have the op­por­tu­nity to pre­vent cor­rup­tion by be­ing in­volved in pro­cure­ment pro­cesses,” Ad­vo­cate Masenyetse said.

“We also need to en­sure a cer­tain per­cent­age of the na­tional bud­get is com­mit­ted to com­bat­ting cor­rup­tion and such re­sources would go a long way to­wards stop­ping the mis­use of govern­ment funds. We should shine some light on those dark cor­ners prone to be­ing cor­rup­tion’s breed­ing ground.

“We spend a lot of money on foren­sic ex­perts from or­gan­i­sa­tions like Price­wa­ter­house­coop­ers to do in-depth in­ves­ti­ga­tions, but if we have our own trained of­fi­cers, we would save costs. But we can only have such ex­per­tise in-house if we ad­e­quately fund the DCEO.”

Ad­vo­cate Masenyetse also said there was need to cut govern­ment ex­pen­di­ture and use the money to ca­pac­i­tate the DCEO.

“From April (when the fi­nan­cial year be­gins), DCEO of­fi­cers should be in­volved in the pro­cure­ment pro­cesses. The Min­istry (of Jus­tice and Cor­rec­tional Ser­vices) should look into th­ese reg­u­la­tions again and see if there could be amend­ments to strengthen them,” said Ad­vo­cate Masenyetse.

On his part, DCEO Di­rec­tor-gen­eral Ad­vo­cate Borotho Mat­soso hailed the reg­u­la­tions but said due to bud­getary con­straints, some of their con­cerns were not catered for. On the safety of DCEO of­fi­cials, Ad­vo­cate Mat­soso said: “We are sim­i­lar to ev­ery Mosotho when it comes to pro­tec­tion, but if we have to die for this work, so be it. Some

of the threats we re­ceive are that we could lose our jobs; peo­ple tell us they will make us loi­ter on the streets with­out jobs when we in­ves­ti­gate cases against them.

“We do not have any se­cu­rity so far. The pro­tec­tion we are given by th­ese reg­u­la­tions is very limited. Sec­tion 65 of the reg­u­la­tions on self-de­fence pro­vides that a mem­ber of the Direc­torate may carry a light firearm for self-de­fense while on duty,” said Ad­vo­cate Mat­soso.

How­ever, Min­is­ter Malebo said it was up to par­lia­ment to en­sure the safety of the of­fi­cers.

“If this com­mit­tee is func­tional, th­ese peo­ple won’t be killed in the line of duty. How­ever, if we don’t do our work as a port­fo­lio com­mit­tee, th­ese peo­ple won’t be safe,” he said.

The min­is­ter also urged the Com­mit­tee to know the chal­lenges faced by the an­ti­cor­rup­tion per­son­nel on a daily ba­sis for their well­be­ing to be ad­e­quately ad­dressed.

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