This paper is to discuss civil society and its role in promoting accountability in Botswana. This is to discuss the duties of civil society in Botswana and how they promote accountability. BOTSWANA COUNCIL OF NON-GOVERMENTAL ORGANISATIONS ( BOCONGO) as a civil society in Botswana is to be analyzed and assessing its role in promoting government accountability. The paper will discuss the role of the above organization in Botswana in terms of its duties with example’s focusing on how the organization promotes government accountability to ensure democracy. The paper will also look into the response of the government to the existence of civil societies i.e. does the government of Botswana see civil society as an entity to hold it accountable for certain issues.
This is where by government is obliged to provide information or justification of their actions or decisions on certain duties. It is there to insure that actions and decisions taken by public officials meet their stated objectives and are of the interest of the citizen or the community they service. This include reasons behind every action and every decision that include the interest of people. Government accountability is important because by evaluating the ongoing effectiveness of public officials or public bodies, it ensures that they are performing to their full potential and not using government properties on personal interest, providing value for money in the provision of public services, instilling confidence in the government and being responsive to the community they are meant to be serving.
Civil society is the population of groups formed for collective purposes primarily outside of the state and market. This are groups of people formed outside the government and not for profit. This societies can be either recognized within the country by the law or internationally. They can also be unlawful but existing as private sectors or organizations. For example emang basadi is a civil society that is recognized under Botswana but not international, but the media is an international organization that is recognized in more than one countries. Either international or national, civil societies have the same goal the difference being the other operates within a nation and the other operates in more than one country. According to World Bank “The term civil society refers to the wide array of non-governmental and not-for-profit organizations that have a presence in public life, expressing the interests and values of their members or others, based on ethical, cultural, political, scientific, religious or philanthropic considerations. Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) therefore refer to a wide of array of organizations: community groups, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), labor unions, indigenous groups, charitable organizations, faith-based organizations, professional associations, and foundations.”
Civil society emerged during 1980s in eastern and central Europe and Latin America as a response to issues on that time. During the time citizen were denied basic rights. They was lack of civil and political liberties. This was the time when the state had the power over economic and social transactions leading to lack of participative citizenship. As people searched for an alternative in governance they organized into that could make and pursue democratic projects of all kinds of freedom from the state power. The groups will use peaceful demonstrations to send a message or to show uncertainty about different issues of democracy. People will turn to strike or do peaceful walks seeking answers from the authorities on certain issues.
Through this organizations and institutions civil society plays a vital role in running of governments and ensuring democracy. This organizations and institution support, challenge and ensure that all decisions and activities are transparent to the citizens and accounted for. They also have a say on human rights and makes sure that neither the government nor any individual violates them. Botswana has different civil society organizations that are classified basically according to their role or the main aim of the organization. They are 3 main roles:
- Organizations that promote the welfare or interests of members and the population at large- this are organizations that deals with making sure the interests of certain or specific minority groups are met. For example child line.
- Organizations that play advocacy role- this are organization that deals with being a voice and preventing discrimination against certain group of people by the government or the nation at large. For example Ditshwanelo
- Ad-hoc organizations- this are organizations which emerged to deal with certain issues and people affected by such storm. For example organizations that came about to deal with HIV/AIDS.
NB: For NGOs to be recognized by the government of Botswana it must register with the Registrar of Societies.
The Botswana Council of NGOs (BOCONGO)
The Botswana Council of NGOs (BOCONGO), a leading voice in Botswana’s civil society, is the national umbrella body for NGOs. It assists in establishing an enabling environment for the NGO sector to become a recognized partner in governance and the development process. To ensure transparency and accountability among Botswana-based NGOs, BOCONGO has set out an NGO code of conduct.
This Organizations (BOCONGO) was established in 1995 to coordinate the work of Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) in Botswana. The NGO Policy provides for a coordinated approach to the implementation of the national development plans and priorities as well as enhancing communication and partnerships between government and CSOs. BOCONGO also advocates for different NGOs to be recognized and their voice to be taken into consideration. BOCONGO works with NGOs and other stakeholders to strengthen the NGO sector through coordinating the sector’s contributions to the development in country and beyond. The organization works with merging the ideas of different organizations together with the government to build a better Botswana.
The organization focuses on four aspects or themes that promote accountability and democracy in the country:
- Inclusive Social Policy
- Building accountable and transparent institutions at all levels.
- Advocating for responsive, inclusive, participatory and representative decision making at all levels.
- Advocacy for women’s full and effective participation and equal opportunities
- Strengthening sound policies and enforceable legislation for the promotion of gender equality and empowerment of all women and girls at all levels.
- Advocating for the rights of marginalized and vulnerable groups
- Sustainable Environment and Resource Management
- This focuses on environmental damage assessment of all projects that are to be done or that exists. The organization is an advocate for the flora and fauna in Botswana concerning their use conservation.
- Democratic Governance
- Civic Education and electoral processes.
- Building of democratic and accountable Institutions.
- Capacity Building for Transparency Monitoring.
- Engaging checks and balances.
- Promoting participation.
- Economic Justice
- Promoting development oriented policies that support productive activities and decent jobs.
- Creating entrepreneurship, creativity and innovation.
- Promoting productivity and effective service delivery and tax justice
How BOCONGO promotes accountability
From the above themes that the organization focus on, democratic governance is the one that focuses more into promoting government accountability. As stated on the point the organization promotes transparency. This is to say every action done by the government shall be done under public notice or under the knowledge of the citizens. Through checks and balances the organization promotes accountability for example:
On July 07 2017 BOCONGO released an article titled we demand accountability and good governance. This was after the organization demanded a report from the auditor general for the year ended March 2016 and from the findings of the AG it was made to point that they was serious wastage of public funds and failure to account by senior public servants. The findings included failure to trace how the money was used together with the budget made to come to the summation of some amounts. Below are some findings from the Auditor General that the organization demanded answers on;
Department of Tertiary Education Financing (DTEF)
The Auditor General highlighted on serious misuse of the account from which the living allowances of government sponsored tertiary students are paid. The findings stated that though the auditor general had several times warned the officers responsible for monitoring the account, they still failed in offering a valid reason on why the account is not well monitored, the account which had a balance in excess of P1-billion as at March 2016. It was put to concern that even the permanent secretary did not fulfill his or her duty of attending to the matter in time
Ministry of Youth Empowerment Sports & Culture Development
The AG also questioned why about P1.5 million was spend on international trips by the Ministry during the Independence Day celebrations in September and why they exceeded the budget heavily and with no evidence of what did the excess money do.
Serule Police Station
The Auditor General also carried out an audit inspection at Serule Police Station and discovered shortcomings in the planning and execution of projects. In one instance, a fuel point facility that was constructed in 2004 was still sitting idle in 2015/16. In another instance, a contractor who was awarded a tender for upgrading a sewerage system at the police station in February 2010 had still not completed the project six years later, despite the fact that he/she had already been paid over P1.9 million. This brought a concern on the over cost of government projects due to delay.
Botswana Innovation Hub (BIH)
Since its inception in 2010, Botswana Innovation Hub (BIH) has failed to utilize P12million set aside by government as startup capital for the Innovation Fund. Though the chief executive officer (CEO) of BIH has in previous years promised to take the matter up with the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development, he had not done so by end of March 2016. Neither had he given any reasons for the delay.
Below is a response of BOCONGO as said by Executive Director BOTHO SEBOKO
“As the umbrella body of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in Botswana, BOCONGO feels obliged to respond to such alarming findings by the Auditor General. This is in line with our responsibility to forge participatory democracy in Botswana by educating government, the people and political parties about their rights and obligations as democratic citizens. As BOCONGO, we have a vision of NGOs working together for a more just, equal and integrated Botswana.
Therefore it is our responsibility to lead the people of Botswana in demanding responsiveness, accountability and transparency from government. From the Auditor General report, we have observed a worrisome trend where Accounting Officers – some as senior as permanent secretaries and CEOs – have repeatedly failed to account to the Auditor General. Public accountability is a hallmark of modern democratic governance. Therefore those entrusted with management of public resources must account fully to the Auditor General, failing which they must be relieved of their duties. The people have a right to know how public funds are being used.
Those who have been entrusted with power, or with control of state resources, cannot use them for private gain or to the detriment of citizens. Corruption can lead to abuse of fundamental human rights and denial of certain entitlements of some members of society. It is fraud and theft of public assets for public officers to authorize payment to contractors for no work done, as was the case at Serule Police Station. Public officers at DTEF should not be allowed to get away with failing to properly manage an account carrying billions of tax payers’ money meant to pay for students’ living allowances. Those students have in the past gone on strike after their living allowances were not paid and that lends credence to allegations of embezzlement of public resources and illicit self-enrichment by paying allowances to ‘ghost students.’ As BOCONGO, we cannot keep quiet while there is wanton dissipation of public resources at the expense of more pressing needs. On the one hand, government policy is flouted as millions are wasted on international frolics. On the other hand, government is cutting down on tertiary education sponsorships; children are left in limbo in schools as there are no books for them to read and no food for them to eat; while thousands of Batswana face threat of death due to rampant shortage of drugs and personnel in health facilities. We understand that there are competing needs, but government resources must be deployed based on need and deprivation. The people must come first. We demand transparency, financial prudence and good governance especially in these tough economic times.”
Looking at the above response BOCONGO as a civil society managed to request accountability from government authority. This information was then released to the citizens of Botswana as a whole which promotes transparency. Indeed proving that civil society play a vital role in promoting accountability. Their existence as non-governmental organizations keeps the concept of checks and balances between them and the government hence the government entities and branches may work at their best in meeting the interest of the citizens without misusing resources and with valid reasoning behind every decision the government takes. Since in Botswana not every citizen can demand accountability individually from the government civil societies like BOCONGO act as the voice of the nation in making sure that all government activities are well accounted for and those reasons are spread to the nation.