International Organisations and Measures- Organisations such as
Transparency International have given critical focus to the ways by
which foreign governments and companies may help to promote or reduce
corruption in developing countries
All of these measures are important, but the Botswana experience
demonstrates that the critical institution to leverage and orchestrate
all of these reforms is the fourth pillar in the above-mentioned list-
the anti-corruption watchdog agency.
It is indeed paradoxical that the country where corruption is least
institutionalised, where the rule of law is most respected has led the
crusade on corruption on the continent.
This Botswana experience is reviewed below. First, we provide a
description of the background issues which led to the creation of
DCEC. Next, we examine the organisation and structure of the
organisation before appraising the achievements and problems
confronting the organisation. Finally, we highlight the lessons of the
I. Background to the Creation of the DCEC.
Botswana, with a population of only 1.5 million is black Africa's most
established democracy and has the best performing economy. It has
never experienced military rule and there has been five-yearly
multiparty elections in the country since 1966 when it became
independent. Botswana is also one of the world's fastest growing
economy and its stock exchange was rated by the Economist magazine as
the second best performing in the world in 1997. This was at a time
when many other African countries were just managing not to post a
deficit. On the contrary, Botswana's economy has grown steadily from
being one of the poorest in the world to one of the most
The major explanations for Botswana's extraordinary performance has
always been given as: the commitment of its political leadership to
liberal /multiparty democracy or consensus politics and to sensible
economic policies, rapid and sustained economic growth and an
efficient central state.
The Botswana public service is reputed to be generally efficient and
incorruptible. However, in the early 1990s, a number of major scandals
rocked the Botswana public service. These included illegal land sales
in pen-urban public land, the building of high cost houses for sale
for which there were no prospective demands and large unpaid loans by
high ranking persons from the National Development Bank that
practically led to the ruination of the latter. These and a number of
others were revealed through the activities of the independent media
which in most cases led to official inquiries. These enquiries not
only established the truth about these misdemeanours but led to the
resignation of a number of ministers and demonstrated the general
pattern of corruption activities in Botswana. They involved the elites
who were mainly the political leadership, mostly high ranking
ministers and even the then President (Masire) and his relations were
implicated in one case. In all cases, the scale of corruption involved
large sums of money, running to several hundred millions of
These revelations produced widespread criticism in the media and
especially in the parliament. It became increasingly obvious that
corruption might become the major obstacle to the continued growth and
prosperity of the Botswana economy. The scandals created the rationale
for a permanent agency with wide powers to tackle corruption and
economic crimes. An ombudsman was also established shortly afterwards
in 1995, to deal with citizens' complaints on the misuse of powers by
public officials. The idea was that DCEC will deal with high profile
economic crimes and related corruption while the Ombudsman will tackle
the petty forms of corruption and abuse of office. DCEC was reputedly
modelled after the Hong Kong's Independent Commission Against
Corruption (ICAC) (See Doig 1995).
II. Organisation and Structure of the DCEC.
DCEC was established in August 1994. Its objectives included the
- to receive and investigate any complaints alleging corruption in
any public body;
- to investigate any alleged or suspected offences
under the Act or in contravention of the of fiscal and revenue laws of
- to assist any law enforcement agency of the government
in the investigation of offences involving dishonesty or cheating of
the public revenue;
- to examine practices and procedures of public
bodies in order to facilitate the discovery of corrupt practices and
to secure the revision of methods of work or procedures which in the
opinion of the Director may be conducive to corrupt practices;
- to instruct, advice and assist any person, on the latter's request, on
ways in which corrupt practices may be eliminated by such person;
- to advise heads of public bodies of changes in practices or procedures
compatible with the effective discharge of the duties of such public
bodies which the Director thinks necessary to reduce the likelihood of
the occurrence of corrupt practices;
- to educate the public against
the evils of corruption; and
- to enlist and foster public support in
The Corruption and Economic Crime Act of 1994 empowers the Director of
DCEC to conduct inquiries or investigations into any alleged or
suspected offences, demand for the records of any public or private
agency or private individuals. The Director is also empowered to
arrest, without warrant, any person he or she reasonably believes has
committed an offence or is about to commit an offence, enter and
search any premises that might bring a conviction. S/he is also
capable of using necessary force 'to enter into any vessel, boat, or
aircraft or other vehicle' and with the necessary notice require a
person under investigation to surrender his or her travel document.
The Act goes to great lengths to define what constitutes an economic
crime or corruption. The most important ones include:
bribery, conflict of interest, diversion of public revenue, possession
of unexplained property (living above one's visible incomes)
The first Director of DCEC was an expatriate British citizen. After
serving for the organisation's first two years, August 1994 - January
1997, he was succeeded by a Batswana, the current incumbent who was a
former police officer. DCEC is an independent unit but is responsible
to the President-through the Office of the Permanent Secretary to the
President. DCEC, unlike its Hong Kong counterpart, cannot also
prosecute anyone without the approval of the Attorney General's
Office. Its officials are not civil servants in the strict definition
of the term but all recruitment into the organisation is carried out
by the Public Service Management department.
The Directorate has three main areas of activities and this is
reflected in its organisational structure. The first of these is
'Operations' which includes investigations, prosecution and
intelligence. The second is 'Public Education' and the last is
Information for DCEC's Investigations are sourced from reports it
receives from the public (citizens, and mostly from the independent
media and the parliament), from government departments or collected
directly by the Directorate itself through its Intelligence
department. The Directorate has a hotline telephone number which is
well publicised. Cases are then sorted out to determine which of them
have sufficient merit to have prosecution instituted and which of them
warrant corruption prevention studies or which ones should be referred
to another agency for investigation and! or disciplinary actions.
Once the Directorate has decided that a case merits prosecution, it is
referred to the Attorney General's Office which if approved, is
referred back to the Directorate for court action.
Corruption prevention activities of the DCEC targets specific areas of
economic activity for study. Areas already identified include:
purchasing ad tendering in the construction industry, purchase and
maintenance of vehicles, allocation of government land and housing,
administration of welfare, medical aid schemes and the issuance of
various licenses and permits.
The Directorate conducts diagnostic studies for the organisations it
visits for such purposes or to which it has been invited. It then
submits a copy of the final report to the head of the organisation.
But perhaps the most important aspect of the work of the Directorate
to date is its public education programme. Activities in this area to
date have included: talk shows, phone-in shows on television and radio
channels, posters and pamphlets, newspaper adverts, press releases and
talks and presentations to various groups.
III. Achievements of the DCEC
Whereas a number of observers, especially within Botswana have
dismissed DCEC as a largely ineffective organisation, a number of
other close observers, especially from outside the country are
convinced that DCEC, has been a success in its short life -span.
Among its most important achievements are:
- Focusing Attention on Corruption as a serious economic and social
problem in Botswana. This is important for a country whose economy is
very resilient. It is easy for the people and their leaders to become
complacent on ethical matters. Besides, the organisation has
challenged ordinary citizens of Botswana to play a role in tackling
corruption. They could secretly report corrupt charges through the
hotline. The DCEC Act has stiff penalties for frivolous, false or
groundless complaints-a fine of Pula 5,000 or 5-year imprisonment or
both but this has not discouraged the people to lodge several
complaints. A total of almost 1000 reports (896 to be exact) were
lodged in 1995 and this rose to 1,380 in 1996. In the end, 691 of
these reports were found to fall within the remits of other agencies
and in many cases it has led to disciplinary actions in these
- Investigations, Arrest and conviction of Economic criminals. DCEC
has been constantly accused of failing to catch 'big fish' criminals.
It responds to this charge by arguing that it is not morally
defensible to simply arrest people without credible evidence. On the
other hand, as Table 1 shows, DCEC has succeeded in investigating the
information available to it on corruption and economic crimes and it
has been highly successful in prosecuting and getting conviction. Its
conviction rate of 60 out of the total of 95 it brought to courts
since its inception, nearly 80% of all cases it brought to court is
quite commendable and compares favourably with the British Serious
Fraud Office for instance. Convictions have been made in the public
and private sectors and even staff of the DCEC itself have not been
- DCEC has brought sustained focus on the issue of corruption by
various organisations and people in all walks of life. Besides its
highly successful anti-corruption campaign- which is also reflected in
the high number of reports it receives- it has provided opportunity
for ordinary citizens to report what they perceive as misdemeanours.
DCEC has been able to put through the parliament a new code of ethics
that requires all parliamentarians to make a declaration of their
financial assets and to make these assets available for public
scrutiny. This is a far cry from what obtains in many African
countries in which declaration assets are regarded as secret property,
available and accessible only to the state and its officials. DCEC has
also been able to focus on the most strategic corruption-prone areas
as already indicated above. The latest addition is the growing tourist
industry around Maun.
DCEC has assisted organisations such as the Botswana Federation of
Commerce and Industry and Manpower to produce draft codes of ethics.
It has also produced a government standard of Supervisory
accountability and has succeeded in getting a procedure for
scrutinising the certificates of foreigners seeking employment in
- The public education programme of the DCEC is one of the most
important achievements of the organisation. It has taken its crusade
against corruption to all the nooks and corners of the country:
schools and especially the university, ministries, co-operatives and
other voluntary organisations such as trade unions and churches.
It might be important to note that DCEC is a well funded organisation.
It has adequate funds to attract and retain the best personnel and
make them operationally effective. It sponsors its officers in
training programmes nationally and internationally. Some of its
officers have gone to ICAC for training and there is strong donor
support for the DCEC. Some 13 expatriates (1 Canadian and others,
British) were still working in the organisation in May 1998 although
there were already plans to gradually localise the staff of the
IV. Problems Confronting DCEC
In spite of these important achievements, DCEC is also confronting a
number of problems, some of them quite serious.
The first of these is manpower problem. It has an employee size of
only 108 but a vacancy of 14 senior positions still exist - and this
in the most critical areas of investigation. As the expatriate
personnel make plans to leave, efforts to secure local personnel have
not been successful thus far. In addition, with the departure of the
first Director, Mr. Stockwell, there are fears that the agency may not
be able to maintain its energetic and combative posture.
Secondly, there are also serious institutional problems. The courts
are not able to respond adequately and promptly to cases brought
before them. Some cases drag on for very long (over 6 or 7 months) as
a result of this. In addition, the requirement - not in the Act
establishing DCEC but in practice imposed by judges - that they must
secure warrant also makes it difficult to catch potential culprits.
This is because magistrates have to be convinced that a particular
case merits being pursued, and that the human rights of the suspected
criminal were not impugned. This leads to the loss of much valuable
time, especially for those who are well connected. Another problem
area is the relationship between the DCEC and the Attorney General's
(AG) Office. The agency claims that the staff of the AG's office have
not been able to cope with the flow of work from the agency. It is
surprising why the agency must obtain approval to prosecute from the
Moreover, the Agency has also faced problems from the Public Service
Management department which, like for all other parts of the civil
service, recruits for DCEC. Indeed, the last Director of the DCEC was
convinced that its agency's inability to secure staff in good time is
due to the procedures of PSM which requires that vacancies must
actually occur before they are filled instead of being filled
Thirdly, the Agency faces a serious problem of public perception as a
whitewash for the present government - which is increasingly loosing
grounds to the opposition, which at the last election received 37% of
the votes and presently controls many of the city/municipal councils.
As earlier noted above in the review of the landmark corruption cases
which led to the inception of the agency, most of these cases were big
cases involving several millions of pulas. On the other hand, a review
of the cases in which it has prosecuted or received convictions
involve no more than a few hundreds of thousands. None has been more
than half-a million pulas.
In spite of these problems, the Botswana DCEC throws up a number of
interesting lessons and it is these that are focused in the next and
V. Lessons of the Botswana DCEC.
One important lesson is that economic transition even in the rosiest
circumstances highlights a number of challenges which make corruption
become important as political and economic issues. Botswana is
fortunate in that its civil service is relatively well paid by
international and private sector standards. Considerable resources are
also expended on their training. In many other African countries where
this is not the case, the situation has become very complicated. For
instance, the Tanzania report identified cases of institutionalised
corruption in the various ministries and departments of government:
bribes are demanded and paid for registering children in schools, for
receiving attention in clinics or hospitals, to obtain licences, for
promotion, attending training or duty trips, etc. The whole effort
here is directed to securing incomes to supplement the meagre incomes
offered by the civil service. Unfortunately, this is an issue which
many civil service reforms only touch superficially.
Secondly, much as the other critical conditions for tackling
corruption are important and relevant, an institutional approach is
necessary to confront corruption head- on in most countries and to
serve as the catalyst for orchestrating reforms in other sectors and
social institutions. The anti-corruption watchdog must be supplemented
with the other interventions identified earlier
An independent anti-corruption institution is crucial for the success
of anti-corruption programmes in many African countries because, like
the DCEC it can help to stimulate or press for change in other
institutions such as the courts, the legislature and the Attorney
General's Office in focusing their energies on anti-corruption issues.
It has also kept the issue of corruption in the front burner in other
public and private sector organisations.
Thirdly, the Botswana case demonstrates the conditions for the
effectiveness of the institutional approach. The institution must not
only be independent it must be seen to be independent by all the
actors in the society. The fact that DCEC is treated as a branch of
the Botswana Presidency which has to wait on the regular courts, the
A/G's office for prosecution and the civil service department for its
staffing has not helped the image of the organisation. It seriously
detracts from its image as an independent agency which can take
effective actions against important political figures in the
government or the larger economy.
Finally, the Botswana approach also illustrates the opportunities for
collaboration that can exist between the various actors in society in
combating corruption: domestic and external actors, public and
private, state and society actors.
In conclusion, the Botswana DCEC is still in its formative stage.
There are opportunities for improvement. This paper has tried to
demonstrate the relevance of an effective fight against corruption as
an important strategy for economic health. It has also drawn attention
to the lessons of the Botswana experience for other African countries
in spite of its limitations and peculiarities to Botswana.
|TABLE 1: BOTSWANA DCEC -REPORTS AND INVESTIGATIONS (1994 - 1997)
| ||NO.|| ||
|| || ||%|
|| || || ||100|
|| || || ||46.3|
|REPORTS BROUGHT TO COURT||141||
|| || || ||30|
|| || ||53|
|| || ||80|
|| || ||2|
|| || ||46|
Notes and References
For a good review of African governmental corruption see: Ekpo 1979,
Olowu 1988, Rasheed & Olowu 1993, Kpundeh 1995 and Reno 1995.
Perspectives on approaches to tackle bureaucratic corruption can be
found in United Nations Economic Commission for Africa 1996 and some
recent World Bank-related studies on the subject: Johnston 1997, Rose-
Ackerman 1997, Langseth et.al 1997, Global Coalition for Africa 1997
and World Bank 1997.
Botswana's GNP per capita in 1995 was US$ 3,020, the second highest in
Black Africa where the median per capita income for the same year was
only $320 (Gambia) . Life expectancy and respective growth rates for
both countries are: 68 and 46 years and 4.1% and 1.6%. (World Bank 1997b).
For a treatise on Botswana's economic performance, see Steadman 1993.
One US$ fetched the equivalent of 3.8
pulas in May 1998. For a full discussion of these corruption cases,
see Good 1994.
Botswana, Republic of (1994) Corruption and Economic Crime Act, 1994
Gaborone, Government Printer
Charlick, R.B. (1993) 'Corruption in Political Transition: A
Governance Perspective' Corruption and Reform Vol 7, No. 3, pp. 177-
Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime (1996) Annual Report 1997
Doig, A (1995) 'Good Government and Sustainable Corruption Strategies:
A Role for Independent Anti-Corruption Agencies?' Public
Administration and Development Vol 15, No.2, pp. 151-165.
Ekpo, M. U ed. (1979) Bureaucratic Corruption in Sub-Saharan Africa
New York, University Press of America.
Good, K (1994) 'Corruption and Mismanagement in Botswana: A Best Case
Example?' Journal of Modern African Studies Vol. 32, No. 3, pp. 499-
Global Coalition for Action (1997) Corruption and Development in
Africa Policy Forum. Pennsylvania Document GCA/PF/No. 2/11/1997.
Johnston, M (1997) 'What Can Be Done About Entrenched Corruption?'
Annual Bank Conference of Development Economics Washington D.C.
Kpundeh, 5 (1995) Politics and Corruption in Africa: A Case Study of
Sierra Leone Lanham, University Press of America.
Langseth, P, R.Stapenhurst & J.Pope (1997) The Role of a National
Integrity System in Fighting Corruption Washington, D.C, Economic
Leftwich, A (1995) 'Bringing Politics Back In: Towards a Model of the
Developmental State' Development Studies Vol. 31, No. 3, pp. 400-428.
Olowu, D (1988) 'Bureaucratic Morality in Africa' International Review
of Political Science Vol. 9, No. 3, pp.215-230.
Olowu, D (1993) 'Roots and Remedies of Governmental Corruption in
Africa' Corruption and Reform Vol. 7, No. 3, pp. 227-236.
OECD (1998) Convention on Combatting Bribery of Foreign Public
Officials in International Business Transactions DAFFE/IME/BR (97)20.
Rasheed, S & D. Olowu eds. (1993) Ethics and Accountability in African
Public Services Nairobi, ICIPE Science Press.
Stedman, S ed. (1993) Democratic Development Botswana: The
Political Economy of Boulder, Lynne Rienner Publishers, especially
'Tanzania Confronts Corruption' Partnership Spring/Summer 1997.
United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (1996) Enhancing Ethics
in the Ethiopian Civil Service Addis Ababa.
World Bank (1997) Helping Countries Combat Corruption: The Role of
the World Bank Washington D.C. Poverty Reduction and Management