A gateway for corruption

Business Botswana concerned about public servants running businesses

Business Botswana (BB) has expressed renewed concern at government’s persistence to allow public servants to form companies and run businesses.

In 2015, government, under the then President, Ian Khama, issued a directive allowing civil servants to own and run businesses. The move irked the business community, who felt it would open the door for corruption.

BB took the lead in condemning the directive, further arguing it would lead to conflict of interest.

Four years on and the organisation have not changed their stance.

Airing his concerns during the High Level Consultative Council (HLCC) meeting addressed by President Mokgweetsi Masisi recently, BB President, Gobusamang Keebine labelled the move a mistake.

“Our views then and now are based on the imperative of preserving the professional integrity of the civil service, which was ranked among the finest in Africa, if not the best,” he explained.

Keebine said the body was, and is still worried that allowing civil servants to participate in business operations would cause serious conflict and governance issues, as ‘the referee also becomes the player’.

“Business Botswana hold a strong view that allowing civil servants to do business has reversed all governance and noble and gallant efforts to fight corruption,” he stressed.

With government in the process of reviewing labour laws, Keebine has urged it to consider this matter as part of the reviews.

The BB President further revealed many members of his organisation find it strange that they are made to compete against people with inside information about public contracts, some who even adjudicate the same tenders.

Meanwhile, Business Botswana has expressed concern at the lack of meaningful participation of citizens in the diamond sector.

Keebine said they had hoped the 2011 Sales Agreement between government and De Beers, which ushered in beneficiation in diamond and polishing, would improve the lives of locals.

However, he ruefully noted it has delivered precious little.

“The Okavango Diamond Company was similarly set up emanating from the 2011 Sales Agreement. While Batswana business people hailed the move, they mistakenly assumed that ODC would be a state owned vehicle whose responsibilities would include the active promotion of beneficiation and citizen empowerment,” said Keebine, adding it soon came clear that ODC was a commercial entity solely focused on making a profit.

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