Anti-corruption expert, Dr Roger Koranteng, from the Commonwealth secretariat in London, United Kingdom, visited Lesotho last week to hold a five-day workshop for the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Offences (DCEO) and its partners, namely Auditor General, Financial Intelligence Unit and Ombudsman.
Dr Koranteng is head of the public-sector governance at the Commonwealth and founder of the Commonwealth Africa Anti-Corruption Centre, based in Botswana.
The workshop he facilitated from Monday to Friday was specifically meant to prepare a modern strategic plan for the DCEO, that would be linked to performance appraisal for the anti-corruption agency’s staff.
In an exclusive interview with the MNN Centre for Investigative Journalism (MNNCIJ)’s Lekhetho Ntsukunyane on the side-lines of the session, Dr Koranteng’s message was clear; that for Lesotho to successfully fight and curb corruption the government needed to provide the DCEO with required resources and enact an anti-corruption law which “reverses the burden of proof.” Below are excerpts of the interview.
MNNCIJ: Tell us about the work of your office…
Koranteng: One of my responsibilities is to look after anti-corruption issues and programs within the Commonwealth. And specifically, with Africa, I realised in terms of the anti-corruption issues some of the countries were doing far more better than others even though we are all in the same continent. Using the International Corruption Perception Index, you realise that in Africa, for so long, some specific countries have been dominant and leading in terms of fighting corruption. Countries like Botswana, Mauritius, Seychelles, Namibia and Lesotho, among them, have consistently been on the top ten. And then you have other countries on the continent who are not doing well at all. What I decided was to bring all these anti-corruption agencies together to share ideas and experiences. I wanted to find out how come we are in the same continent, confronted with same issues and yet others managed to do better in fighting corruption than others. I wanted to create a platform where we shared experiences so that the weak ones will learn from those that are strong. In 2013, I did a needs assessment of what is needed by these anti-corruption agencies. Then I realised that 90 percent of all the anti-corruption agencies in the continent indicated lack of capacity for their staff to do proper investigation, prosecution and public education because there was no school or institution to train them. We then set up a training centre on the continent. That’s how the concept of the Commonwealth Africa Anti-Corruption Centre came about.
MNNCIJ: How does the centre operate?
Koranteng: With support from the Botswana government, we came together with the Commonwealth secretariat and put resources and set up the Centre in Botswana. The centre has been operational in Botswana since 2013. We have trained almost every head of anti-corruption agencies in Africa. We have also trained investigators, public educators and prosecutors coming from various anti-corruption agencies in Africa. The centre is actually my brainchild.
MNNCIJ: Tell us about the workshop you are facilitating in Maseru today.
Koranteng: I am here on the invitation of the director general of the DCEO (Mr Borotho Matsoso) to deliver a programme for them. The reason I am here being that the DCEO has a specific request that they want to link their strategic plan to their performance management. I am here to train the DCEO management staff together with the other sister organisations, like the Financial Intelligence Unit, offices of Auditor General and Ombudsman. We are going through how to prepare a modern effective strategic plan and how we link the strategic plan to the performance appraisal of the DCEO staff.
MNNCIJ: How does the latest corruption perception index rate Lesotho, in particular?
Koranteng: This year’s perception index has just been released, which I have not looked at because I have been on the road for a while. But what I can tell you is that over the years, Lesotho has consistently been part of the top ten countries that seem to be on the right track in terms of fighting corruption. Like I said other countries in the top ten include Botswana, Mauritius, Seychelles, Namibia, Ghana and South Africa. Lesotho has always been among them.
MNNCIJ: What does this mean for Basotho?
Koranteng: This does not mean there is no corruption in Lesotho. But if you compare your performance with other countries, it means that even though there is still corruption Lesotho, the country is doing a little much better than other countries to fight corruption. Note also that there are other countries in Africa that are doing much better than Lesotho.
MNNCIJ: What best advice can you give to Lesotho to improve its rakings in terms of fighting corruption?
Koranteng: Having been in this position for the past ten years, dealing with corruption issues in the Commonwealth, I have only one proposition: One of the best ways to fight corruption in any country is what I call ‘reverse the burden of proof’. In the normal court of law and common law, you are not guilty until you go to court and evidence is submitted to prove that you are guilty. That is a norm. But in countries that have successfully fought corruption, like Hong Kong, Singapore and others, there is powerful tool in the anti-corruption laws which says that you are corrupt until you prove to the court that you are not corrupt. That way, those countries are reversing the burden of proof. They are doing it because corruption by its nature is a secrete operation. It is difficult to get evidence to prove corruption. It takes so long for the anti-corruption agencies to get solid evidence and prosecute perpetrators. So, what these countries have done is that if they look at your lifestyle; assets you acquire and income; if there is something suspicious from that they take you to court for you to explain how you acquired the assets. This means the burden is now on you to prove your innocence. This concept has proved to be working for countries seriously committed to curbing the corruption scourge.
MNNCIJ: Have you been successful selling this idea to different countries in Africa?
Koranteng: Yes, I believe I have been successful because some countries like Sierra Leon and Ghana in the continent have adopted the idea. To reverse the burden of proof is the best way to fight corruption. But that means the parliament in Lesotho has to accept that idea. I recommend highly to Lesotho legislature to seriously consider to empower the DCEO by, among others, reversing the burden of proof in terms of corruption by enacting enabling law for that. Corruption hurts everybody, but in particular the poor. Corruption is a serious business that affects development, investment, reputation of a country and everybody else. A corrupt country runs a risk of being blacklisted by development partners.
MNNCIJ: For many years the DCEO has been accused of being a toothless bulldog by the general public. At the same time the agency has consistently cited resource scarcity, lack of capacity and not being independent enough to do the job. What’s your opinion on this?
Koranteng: If, as Lesotho, we are really serious about fighting corruption, we should provide financial and human resources for the DCEO. We have set up the center in Botswana so that once you have human resource in place you would train them. What comes first is the recruitment of people to do the job. But in order for the DCEO to recruit they need support of the government in terms of finances and other resources. However, I will commend the government because I have seen that coming to Lesotho this time around they have increased resource allocation for the DCEO. In the past the resources were quite low. But I could see a systematic increase in the resources particularly under this government dispensation. That means there is hope that they will continue to resource the DCEO going forward. That is a good sign.
MNNCIJ: What could be your last word of advice?
Koranteng: Corruption fight is not for the DCEO alone, but everybody’s responsibility. The government should be seen to be playing its part to give anti-corruption agency, DCEO, more resources, reverse the burden of proof in the anti-corruption law for them, so that the image of Lesotho can be boasted. There is hope that the government will heed and make the DCEO more independent