New dawn beckons for DCEO

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Minister of Justice and Correctional Services Moeketse Malebo
Minister of Justice and Correctional Services Moeketse Malebo

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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