The much anticipated National Petroleum case (NPF) that has been before the magistrate courts for two and a half years now, appears to be stagnant.
This week, the Directorate of Public Prosecutions swiftly amended their charge which was read to the accused persons Bakang Seretse, Kenneth Kerekang, Member of Parliament (MP) for Lobatse and former Minister of Mineral, Resources, Green Technology, Energy and Security; Sadique Kebonang, his twin brother High Court Justice Zein Kebonang, Mogomotsi Seretse, Kago Stimela, Khulaco (Pty) Ltd, and Basis Points Capital, are charged with 126 counts of money laundering.
This is the ninth time the charge sheet has been amended since the case was brought before the Broadhurst Magistrate Court in 2017, before Magistrate Masilo Mathaka. The counts against the accused began at 65 and are now at 126 counts of money laundering. Nonetheless, the case has been taken over by Magistrate Goodwill Makofi at the Village Magistrate Court.
However, the defense attorneys, Unoda Mack, Kgosi Ngakaagae and Bogopa Manewe, told the court that ever since the case was brought before court the state has been going back and forth with the charge sheet. They further emphasized to the court none of their clients understands neither of the charges they are faced with therefore requesting an application for further particulars. “As far as I am concerned we shouldn’t be here. We do not agree with the charge sheet.
With no charge sheet there cannot be any committal,” alleged Unoda Mack
Agitated Mack could be heard in a dispute with Prosecutor Mandu during the court adjournment stressing that the DPP should admit that they do not have a case therefore quash the charges. “It’s been two years four months now and you are still amending your charge sheet, admit it you do not have sufficient evidence against our clients, why not quash the charges and revise your investigations?”
Mandu begged to differ, telling the court that he does not see any reason for the Magistrate to delay because he has served them with all requirements for committal. “I cannot blindly commit the matter to the High Court. Why do you want me to make committal before arguments? Wait for the arguments, let us follow process,” responded Magistrate Makofi.
The State has since demanded for the court to commit the matter to the High Court. Incidentally, last month the case was committed to the High Court by Magistrate Masilo who was of the view that the case had dragged for too long and it was about time that it be given the seriousness it deserves.
A week later, the DPP brought before the court a new charge sheet. According to Mack, the new charge sheet was dated 16th August, before committal was made on 21st August, emphasizing that the state knew about the amended charge sheet but were reluctant to bring it before court questioning vigorously the DPP’s process.
Ngaakagae highlighted that they will file a memorandum count-by-count, “we have been down this road before and we will go through it again, count-by-count.” In conclusion the Magistrate Makofi requested that both parties submit answers to the question: “What is committal to an accused person, section 63 (which explains reading of the charge sheet before committal), what is the significance of dividing provisions of the law and classifying in the present situation?” The DPP and the defense attorneys are to file their submissions on October 31st followed by a ruling on December 4th 2019.
Government is currently sitting on 4 400 vacant posts that remain unfilled in the civil service. This is notwithstanding the high unemployment rate in Botswana which has been exacerbated by the recent outbreak of the deadly COVID-19 pandemic.
Just before the burst of COVID-19, official data released by Statistics Botswana in January 2020, indicate that unemployment in Botswana has increased from 17.6 percent three years ago to 20.7 percent. “Unemployment rate went up by 3.1 percentage between the two periods, from 17.6 to 20.7 percent,” statistics point out.
Leading commercial bank, First National Bank Botswana (FNBB), expects the central bank to sharpen its monetary policy knife and cut the Bank Rate twice in the last quarter of 2020.
The bank expects a 25 basis point (bps) in the beginning of the last quarter, which is next month, and another shed by the same bps in December, making a total of 50 bps cut in the last quarter. According to the bank’s researchers, the central bank is now holding on to 4.25 percent for the time being pending for more informed data on the economic climate.
An audit of the accounts and records for the supply of food rations to the institutions in the Northern Region for the financial year-ended 31 March 2019 was carried out. According to Auditor General’s report and observations, there are weaknesses and shortcomings that were somehow addressed to the Accounting Officer for comments.
Auditor General, Pulane Letebele indicated on the report that, across all depots in the region that there had been instances where food items were short for periods ranging from 1 to 7 months in the institutions for a variety of reasons, including absence of regular contracts and supplier failures. The success of this programme is dependent on regular and reliable availability of the supplies to achieve its objective, the report said.
There would be instances where food items were returned from the feeding centers to the depots for reasons of spoilage or any other cause. In these cases, instances had been noted where these returns were not supported by any documentation, which could lead to these items being lost without trace.
The report further stressed that large quantities of various food items valued at over P772 thousand from different depots were damaged by rodents, and written off.Included in the write off were 13 538 (340ml) cartons of milk valued at P75 745. In this connection, the Auditor General says it is important that the warehouses be maintained to a standard where they would not be infested by rodents and other pests.
Still in the Northern region, the report noted that there is an outstanding matter relating to the supply of stewed steak (283×3.1kg cans) to the Maun depot which was allegedly defective. The steak had been supplied by Botswana Meat Commission to the depot in November 2016.
In March 2017 part of the consignment was reported to the supplier as defective, and was to be replaced. Even as there was no agreement reached between the parties regarding replacement, in 51 October 2018 the items in question were disposed of by destruction. This disposal represented a loss as the whole consignment had been paid for, according to the report.
“In my view, the loss resulted directly from failure by the depot managers to deal with the matter immediately upon receipt of the consignment and detection of the defects. Audit inspections during visits to Selibe Phikwe, Maun, Shakawe, Ghanzi and Francistown depots had raised a number of observations on points of detail related to the maintenance of records, reconciliations of stocks and related matters, which I drew to the attention of the Accounting Officer for comments,” Letebele said in her report.
In the Southern region, a scrutiny of the records for the control of stocks of food items in the Southern Region had indicated intermittent shortages of the various items, principally Tsabana, Malutu, Sunflower Oil and Milk which was mainly due to absence of subsisting contracts for the supply of these items.
“The contract for the supply of Tsabana to all depots expired in September 2018 and was not replaced by a substantive contract. The supplier contracts for these stocks should be so managed that the expiry of one contract is immediately followed by the commencement of the next.”
Suppliers who had been contracted to supply foodstuffs had failed to do so and no timely action had been taken to redress the situation to ensure continuity of supply of the food items, the report noted.
In one case, the report highlighted that the supplier was to manufacture and supply 1 136 metric tonnes of Malutu for a 4-months period from March 2019 to June 2019, but had been unable to honour the obligation. The situation was relieved by inter-depot transfers, at additional cost in transportation and subsistence expenses.
In another case, the contract was for the supply of Sunflower Oil to Mabutsane, where the supplier had also failed to deliver. Examination of the Molepolole depot Food Issues Register had indicated a number of instances where food items consigned to the various feeding centres had been returned for a variety of reasons, including food item available; no storage space; and in other cases the whole consignments were returned, and reasons not stated.
This is an indication of lack of proper management and monitoring of the affairs of the depot, which could result in losses from frequent movements of the food items concerned.The maintenance of accounting records in the region, typically in Letlhakeng, Tsabong, and Mabutsane was less than satisfactory, according to Auditor General’s report.
In these depots a number of instances had been noted where receipts and issues had not been recorded over long periods, resulting in incorrect balances reflected in the accounting records. This is a serious weakness which could lead to or result in losses without trace or detection, and is a contravention of Supplies Regulations and Procedures, Letebele said.
Similarly, consignments of a total of 892 bags of Malutu and 3 bags of beans from Tsabong depot to different feeding centres had not been received in those centres, and are considered lost. These are also not reflected in the Statement of Losses in the Annual Statements of Accounts for the same periods.