…as staff shortages cripple DCEO
THE Directorate of Corruption and Economic Offences (DCEO) has been severely hamstrung in its fight against corruption by staff shortages amid revelations that it only has 12 investigators to work on numerous cases brought before it from all the country’s ten districts.
The DCEO Director General, Advocate Borotho Matsoso, says the DCEO needs at least 50 investigators to effectively discharge its duties.
So serious are the staff challenges that Adv Matsoso this week told the Lesotho Times that each of the 12 investigators is currently working on at least 40 cases from different parts of the country when they should be working on a maximum of just five cases to ensure efficiency and effectiveness.
Adv Matsoso said that the shortest cases took at least three months to investigate, meaning that an investigator with 40 cases would take at least 10 years to complete those cases.
“When the government established the DCEO, it must have underestimated the work of this office hence the few staff,” Advocate Matsoso said.
“Unlike other forms of crime, corruption is more complicated and it needs to be thoroughly investigated with the shortest cases often taking at least three months. One investigator should handle five cases at most but since there are only 12 covering the entire country, they are overwhelmed with each having to deal with as many as 40 cases.
He said the staff shortages were not only confined to the investigating department as they also needed at least 100 more employees who would also be assigned duties as corruption analysts and in-house prosecutors.
However, as Adv Matsoso explained, the DCEO failed to recruit more staff this financial year after the government indicated that it did not have the funds for that purpose.
He also said a lager staff complement would help to detect corruption before it happened as prevention was much cheaper than attempting to solve cases that had already been committed.
“Corruption is a very serious issue paralysing this nation. Funds in the government ministries and other institutions can be embezzled through undetectable loopholes and by the time we are aware of most cases, it will be either too late or too difficult to recover the funds.
“It would be wise to have people on the ground and even representatives in each ministry so that we can be able to forestall and stop corruption before it happens. Currently, the DCEO has a staff complement of 62 and we need at least 100 more who will include 38 more investigators as well as corruption analysts and in-house prosecutors.”
Adv Matsoso said the increase in the number of cases under investigation was attributable to the fact that the public was now more aware of corruption and willing to report cases due to the DCEO and other government bodies’ public awareness programmes.
“There were not so many cases being reported in the past but due to our ongoing drive to sensitise the public about corruption, people now report corruption regardless of their location.
“It has also come to our attention that for a long time schools have been suffering from maladministration and embezzlement of funds. The Public Accounts Committee has also overloaded us with cases they discover while interrogating government officials,” Adv Matsoso said.
Adv Matsoso further stated that due to complexity of some of the cases, investigators were often forced to team up on a case with the result that only a few cases could be dealt with at any given time.
He said after they completed their investigations, they submitted their findings to the Directorate of Public Prosecutions (DPP) who would then prosecute suspected cases of corruption in the courts of law.
He added that among other measures they had also established the Asset Forfeiture Unit which enabled them to confiscate property and freeze bank accounts of people whose funds were suspected to have been corruptly acquired.
“We established the Asset Forfeiture Unit which is administered under the Money Laundering and Proceeds of Crime (Amendment) Act No.7 of 2016 but even this unit is understaffed as it has only four members instead of at least 10.”
Adv Matsoso said they had also requested that the government enacts measures that would compel people especially those in public service to declare their assets. He however, said thus far the government had been non-committal on this issue which was crucial to fighting corruption.
The DCEO has also introduced training programmes to capacitate its staff to identity and tackle corruption but the training programmes were often hampered by lack of funds.
“We are often forced to forgo the skills training and divert the limited funds to solving critical cases. Sometimes we get assistance to capacitate staff from the country’s development partners such as the United Nations, India and China, but that is not enough and our partners give us assistance at their own leisure pace and time,” Adv Matsoso said.