Thabane not exempt from DCEO investigations
NEXT week, the director general of the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Offences (DCEO), Advocate Mahlomola Manyokole, celebrates his first anniversary at the helm of the anti-graft body.
Ahead pf the milestone, the Lesotho Times (LT) Editor Herbert Moyo sat down with Adv Manyokole to discuss his tenure to date. Below are excerpts of the interview.
LT: We are just a week shy of you completing a full year as the DCEO Director General. Please take us through the year.
Adv Manyokole: I would be lying if I said things were easy but as a praying man I never worry because everything eventually comes to an end. But with you people in the media, there is always something to talk about and sometimes these can be lies and half-truths.
Luckily as a true believer in Christ I never worry much instead I turn this negativity into positivity. The destructive criticisms and social media grapevine are snares of the evil one to wear me down but no weapon fashioned against me will proper. Though it is not easy for those who love me but I always tell myself all things work together for my good because I love the Lord and I am called according to His purpose. Then the peace of Christ returns to me.
I took this position knowing how important it is. It is as important as the office of the prime minister more so as it has to tackle the high level of corruption in our country. The DCEO has to be a beacon of hope for all Basotho.
LT: What have been the challenges? How would you describe your relationship with the former prime minister? Some say he appointed you to stop any investigations into his affairs and those of his close allies.
Adv Manyokole: What worries me at times is the high level of leakages of information by some elements within the authority in a distorted fashion thereby giving the public a wrong perception about our institution.
It is sad because some international donors withdrew their support due to bad publicity by the media about our work. I understand that not everyone within and outside the DCEO was happy with my appointment. So many candidates had been promised the job and I just surfaced from nowhere and took over.
King David took the reins of Israel when everybody least expected. However, I am happy to work with the new government and it has pledged support to the DCEO. I was appointed by Dr Tom Thabane to head this organisation that I love so much and I will always be grateful to God for the way He used Ntate Thabane in my life. Dr Thabane is not perfect, he is not God. But he deserves a pat on the back for the good things he did for this country.
But it does not mean that we will not investigate him for any wrongs he may have committed. We investigate everybody in this country. There are unfounded allegations that I was appointed to ensure the he (Mr Thabane) would not be investigated. That’s so wrong.
I received a lot of verbal attacks even life threats when I investigated those who were close to Dr Thabane or the All Basotho Convention (ABC). But Dr Thabane and his wife (‘Maesaiah) respected my office. Dr Thabane would call me to his office when received complaints from ABC tenderpreneurs we were investigating. They would complain that I was unfairly targeting them to stop their tender deals. But whenever I explained to Dr Thabane, he accepted it and never interfered with my work. He would encourage me to do my job.
He never asked me to spare anyone even when his allies and or supporters wanted immunity. The politicians and Pharisees of today will always talk whatever they want because we live in a free and democratic country. But you should watch out for those who speak the loudest. There is always something they are hiding or we are beginning to pierce their veil. It is sad that they use some of our rogue investigators for money and power but all this will pass. We shall be victorious. It may seem difficult but nothing is impossible to God.
LT: What are you currently seized with?
Adv Manyokole: At the moment we are completing the procurement of companies and individuals to do a communication audit for the DCEO. This will help us develop our communication strategy because communication is very important to the execution of our mandate.
We have just engaged a consultant to develop the National Anti-Corruption Strategy (NACSAP) with the assistance of UNDP. We could have developed a corporate strategy in the last financial year but we couldn’t do so because of lack of funds. Even this year it will be difficult but we will try our best.
Parliament in its wisdom has only allocated the DCEO about M26 million for this financial year. M15.1 million is for salaries and allowances and M10 million for operating costs. That is too little for the tasks ahead.
For instance, this financial we need to focus on the recovery of government properties that were irregularly acquired. His Majesty’s Cabinet and the PAC also want us to carry out life-style audits and we have just made a justification to treasury for extra funding to hire staff and interns to assist us in the aforesaid projects.
We are also conducting an inquiry at the Ministry of Labour on the illegal issuance of work permits in the mining industry. We will complete the inquiry before year end.
We are proud to report that the Acting Chief Justice (‘Maseforo Mahase) has approved the DCEO’s request to establish a specialised anti-corruption court. The stakeholders have already established a task team with the leadership of the Registrar of High which we are grateful for. This will help a country a lot because we have many cases pending before our courts. Some of our honourable judges admit that they are old and these financial crimes are a new thing to them. Therefore, we will need to train current able-bodied judges and young ones to deal with financial crimes.
LT: What challenges have you faced with regards to investigations and prosecutions?
Adv Manyokole: Investigations take too long. In some instances where the cases happened a long ago, information and records are no longer available.
We also get inordinate delays when we request information because of poor record keeping. In circumstances where there is difficulty in getting information from government departments, we now request the relevant authorities to reshuffle the affected individuals so that things cane move faster. But this requires a strong political will on the part of the executive.
It would be unfair on my part not to mention our internal inefficiencies. Some of my colleagues in the investigation department have been demotivated a lot by their seniors who stall their investigations without clear reasons.
Other colleagues have ill-motives and have fallen prey to politicians and suspects who capture them. There were no performance management contracts for investigators. There was also lack of collaboration between investigators and prosecutors.
We are now busy trying to build a team to adopt a prosecution-led investigations strategy. It has not been easy but if investigators and prosecutors work together as a team. we will see good results.
We need to hire forensic experts to assist our investigations but to achieve that, we need increased funding.
Another challenge is that once our investigations are complete our law demands us to take the docket or case to the DPP’s office for her consent before we prosecute. That in itself poses another delay in the prosecution of cases because the DPP’s office is under-staffed.
It needs skills capacitation to be on the same page with our prosecutors who were graciously trained by ARINSA in matters of corruption and money laundering.
Botswana is facing the same challenge but Malawi and other jurisdictions have moved away from DPP’s office and they now prosecute economic offices without having to seek consent. However, the new 2020 DCEO bill will address this problem because the Honourable Minister of Law and Constitutional Affairs, Professor Mahao, will soon table the bill before cabinet. It aims to grant the DCEO powers to prosecute corruption and economic offences cases directly without having to seek the DPP’s consent. The DPP will be relieved by this because currently she has to deal with the prosecutions of all cases in the country.
The new DCEO bill will also ensure that the Director General will be appointed by the prime minister on the recommendation of the parliamentary committee responsible for Law and Justice. The DCEO will also be elevated to the level of constitutional bodies like the Ombudsman, the DPP, the Attorney General office and the Auditor General so that it can enjoy the same protections under the constitution.
LT: What have you achieved thus far?
Adv Manyokole: The chunk of cases we took from the PAC are almost complete. We were initially hampered by the outbreak of Covid-19 but now we are up to speed and majority of cases are now before our internal prosecutors for submission to the DPP’s office. But some of the cases are so complex because of missing records like old age pension fund probe.
I know majority of our lay people believe that the PAC cases are straight forward but it is not true. We need solid evidence to prove a case beyond reasonable doubt in a proper court of law. However, the DCEO is committed to completing all investigations recommend by the PAC.
We managed to take three corruption cases to court in the last financial year but this was not good enough and we promise to do better this financial year.
We managed to finish a review exercise that will allow us to investigate cases that fall within our mandate. We discovered that 772 dockets were referred to investigations and of these, 265 cases are pending before our investigators. Another 500 are unaccounted for and remain missing.
We were also successful in advising the government to dissolve the old National Command Centre. We further advised government to use Disaster Management Act of 1997 for the procurement of Covid-19 materials and not to allow the former command centre to procure by itself. This was after we had found out that different ministries were unlawfully competing to tender for Covid-19 materials.
As parting shot, I must say I am happy to work for my country at the DCEO. God couldn’t have given me a better job to make a difference to my polarised nation that I love so much. We are not poor my fellow countrymen God has blessed us with so much resources to accommodate everyone but we are too greedy to share.