A trend of bad corporate governance characterised by corruption, mismanagement, non-accountability and unethical practices in state owned corporations is disconcerting.
The Botswana Meat Commission (BMC) saga epitomize the trouble not only with the country’s public corporation but also with the nation’s agricultural sector, in particular the beef industry.
Public enterprises are creations of statutes; they are owned by the state on behalf of Batswana.
Their transparency, accountability, ethical conduct and good management, therefore, are of paramount importance.
Moreover, they are critical in an economy where the private sector’s role in the economy is still minimal.
The BMC has been in the news for the wrong reasons and it appears that the crisis continues unabated with profound and deleterious impact on the economy, particularly the cattle industry.
BMC has been making loses, hit by exports beef quality issues, envisaged privatization and monopoly issues and feedlots problems inter alia.
The manner in which government is taking the BMC issue shows a rather lackadaisical attitude in that the current team (or a man because it is said that the acting chief executive will investigate and report to cabinet fortnightly) appointed by Khama to investigate the BMC issue is a joke; lacks independence and competence for the job.
President Ian Khama must appoint a judicial commission of inquiry into the BMC saga.
The commission must be held in public and its findings made public.
The BMC issue is much bigger than who did what and to whom, although that question has to be adequately addressed by the investigation.
A public inquiry commissioner will serve as a fact-finder, a proposer for beef industry policy reform and a healer for distressed farming community.
However, President Khama is not a favorite of public inquiries into allegations of corruption, economic crime, unethical practices and maladministration.
In fact his commitment to ethical and corruption free administration is unconvincing.
The inquiry must be headed by a senior sitting or retired high court judge because of the need to have an independent and trustworthy assessment of what happened.
A Judge will be seen by Batswana as having the necessary independence from government and will bring with him/her the credibility of the judicial office.
Pursuant to democratic principles of accountability and transparency, there is an obvious advantage to start a probe with a broadly based confidence in the individual or a team appointed to conduct it.
What's more, judges have the know-how and or proficiency to run proper investigations. Democratic oversight of the executive is still a challenge in Botswana.
The Ombudsman’s office, the Auditor General and Parliament powers are circumscribed to sufficiently ensure good governance of state institutions.
Presently there are no strong institutions and all encompassing laws and policies on corruption and economic crime, business competition, declaration of assets, interest and liabilities, insider trading, targeted lifestyle audits and whistle-blowing.
While the recently created parliamentary committee on statutory bodies is a welcome development, it will always be difficult to ensure good ethical management, corruption and economic crime free and profitable state corporations without strong democratic oversight institutions.
Source: Argentine Beef Packers S.A.
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