‘We hit wherever we want without fear or favour’, says agency boss Borotho Matsoso
Directorate on Corruption and Economic Offences (DCEO) boss, Borotho Matsoso, says “99 percent” of cases handled by his agency relate to “flawed procurement processes”.
Mr Matsoso was speaking in an exclusive interview with the Sunday Express ahead of this week’s International Anticorruption Day commemoration set for Avani Maseru Hotel on Wednesday.
The celebration would be preceded by a two-day anticorruption symposium which begins tomorrow at the same hotel.
This week’s events are being jointly held by the DCEO, Lesotho Revenue Authority (LRA) and Lesotho Mounted Police Service (LMPS and supported by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) under the theme, ‘Break the Corruption Chain’.
According to Mr Matsoso, the upcoming event is a clear sign that corruption remains an enemy of society which needs to be eradicated. Mr Matsoso also said the DCEO was ready to take down anyone involved in criminal activities no-matter that individual’s standing in society.
“We have come together as the three organisations, not only to organise this event which is commemorated throughout the world on the same date, but to really engage in serious efforts to break the chain of corruption and combat this scourge in our country.
“Corruption is like a chain; it is connected from one person to the next and so on. And if we can break that chain, which I believe we can, we will win this war against this menace. Our main objective is to break that chain. We need to revive the people’s readiness to fight corruption, which includes bribery, embezzlement and other related crimes,” Mr Matsoso said.
“The biggest challenge is our nation is not very eager to fight corruption. Secondly, some people don’t even understand what corruption is. To some, it is just but a way of life. You find people uttering statements that encourage corruption. This is a problem.
“The other big challenge is because corruption does not necessarily affect communities as individuals, people do not bother about it. That’s where they begin to even glorify the people involved. They say what difference does it make? Their understanding is government belongs to some people elsewhere and not them.”
The DCEO boss further revealed the bulk of cases handled by his agency relate to government purchasing.
“Ninety-nine percent of our cases relate to procurement processes; this is very serious. I only discovered this recently that actually 99 percent of our cases relate to flawed procurement procedures, one way or the other. We have since reconsidered refocusing our efforts towards procurement issues; how do we help people to understand and respect procurement rules. In most cases, you find that it is because people abuse their powers. Others violate procurement laws due to pressure from their superiors,” Mr Matsoso said.
Moneylaundering was also an issue in Lesotho, according to Mr Matsoso. Moneylaundering is the process of transforming proceeds of crime into legitimate money or other assets.
“Just this past Saturday, we confiscated some property we suspect was gained through such unlawful means. This time, we are ready to seize all properties we believe are proceeds of crime.
“From now onwards, that is the direction we are going to take because we believe it will deter people from engaging in acts of corruption. We have decided on this approach after realising it takes us a very long time, which is another challenge, to put suspects before courts of law. So while we are waiting for the courts to finalise such cases, we should, on the other hand, hit hard where it hurts by confiscating that property we believe to be proceeds of crime.
“In terms of moneylaundering laws, we are allowed to seize such property pending the outcome of such cases in court. I should also mention that we are doing this after learning that confiscating property has proved to deter corruption in several other countries.”
Mr Matsoso also indicated he was among heads of anticorruption bodies from different countries who recently met during a United Nations symposium held in Russia.
“The question of confiscation of illegally acquired properties was prominent in that meeting. Countries were encouraged to adopt that practice to deter corruption. It is not only the practice in Lesotho.
“If we don’t do this, criminals will continue buying houses and other properties knowing that cases will drag even for a period of 20 years before the courts. Where they have acquired such properties through legal means, they will have to justify that. People cannot be living beyond their legal means; that calls for the DCEO to start investigating.
“As the DCEO, we have joined hands with the LMPS and LRA to see how best we can fight the corruption scourge. Criminals don’t pay tax but we have evidence they possess expensive assets. So with the LRA as our partner, it’s going to be easy to crackdown on the criminals.
“If we really want to hit hard on the criminals, this is definitely what we should do—join hands and share resources to fight this scourge.”
Asked if there was political interference in the operations of the DCEO which could make certain individuals untouchable, Mr Matsoso said: “As corruption-busters in our respective countries, we know we are regarded as endangered species, especially we the heads of these units. That is because every time you try to go for government authorities, you are quickly threatened with redeployment, if not dismissal.
“However in countries that are seriously determined to fight corruption, this is not the case. And so far I must tell you that we have not, as the DCEO, encountered such instances that we can really say our investigations and cases were hindered due to political interference. We just have cases of individuals trying to resist through proper channels of the law and at the end of the day, there is only one winner, the DCEO.
“We all know that there are challenges everywhere. We don’t anticipate our job to be smooth. We come across challenges where some authorities will make it difficult for us to access the information we want. But we have to apply our tactics to get the information we want. In my experience, I have never come across a situation of complete resistance from the authorities, preventing us from doing our job. We hit wherever we want without fear or favour. We are ready to take down anyone involved in crime no-matter their status.
“We have a government that has undertaken to fight corruption and it has shown this by increasing the budget allocation for the DCEO for this financial year. For the first time, we are able to improve our forensic unit through the budget.”
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