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Anarchy at BERA leaves CEO powerless

The beleaguered Botswana Regulatory Authority (BERA)’s corporate governance structure has come under attack in the latest in the latest Auditor General report. The auditors general noted that the executive board members were reporting directly to the Board hence by-passing the Chief Executive Officer, which was not consistent with good corporate governance.

“Good corporate governance requires for all employees including executive board members to report to the Chief Executive Officer. In response management stated that they had engaged the Ministry to review the Act with the view to correcting the anomaly,” observed the auditor general. The organisation is currently at loggerheads with former Chief Operating Officer (COO), Duncan Morotsi who was fired from the institution last week. Morotsi was sacked last week following a suspension by the board which lasted for close to nine months.

WeekendPost can confirm that Morotsi was fired through a letter dated 26 April 2019 signed by Jonathan Moseki who was authorised by and on behalf of the BERA board. The letter was copied to BERA Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Rose Seretse; Director of Finance Chawada Machacha as well as Director of Human resource.

 “Despite the board having taken a cautious approach in dealing with your matter and it having done so in good faith, your actions have rendered any action by the board futile. As a result the employment relationship has suffered irreparable damage and cannot be reasonably expected to continue. Thus, you are dismissed forthwith,” Moseki on behalf of the board told Morotsi.

It further states that they have carefully considered the Panel’s recommendation, the adhoc board inquiry committee’s findings and the evidence supporting the charges levelled against Morotsi, the board on April 25, 2019 and therefore resolved that it is satisfied that Morotsi “has committed the alleged misconducts and that you are guilty of all the three charges.”

The dismissal letter also states that Morotsi will be paid one month salary in lieu of notice and all his benefits, and was reminded that Mr. Bernard Ndove had no authority to author the letter addressed to him, dated April 18, 2019 (in which he purported to act as the chairperson of the board) and thus the letter is unlawful and of no effect and does not, in any shape or form represent the decision of the board nor signify any form of communication from the authority.

“You can therefore expect a separate benefits status letter that will outline the status of your benefits upon termination and you will receive payment of all benefits.” According to the board, Morotsi will be allowed access into the BERA premises only for purposes of packing up his personal belongings, and thereafter shall not be allowed any access to his workstation.

Moseki on behalf of the board charged: “If you fail to comply, your belongings will be packed up for you and you will be escorted off the premises by the security. You are immediately required to surrender all BERA assets within your possession. We sincerely regret that this action is necessary, and wish you all the best in future endeavours.”   

The board further blamed Morotsi for not attending the disciplinary hearings. “That notwithstanding, you elected not to do so and deliberately deterred the Panel from considering the charges. The board viewed this as a deliberate attempt to preserve yourself from having to answer to the charges levelled against you because you had no plausible defence against your actions. Your conduct, in all fairness, amounted to blatant abuse of process when the board tried to subject you to a disciplinary enquiry,” it highlighted to Morotsi.

Moseki continued: “since charges 2.2 and 2.3 pointed to gross misconduct which rendered you liable to summary dismissal, it was imperative that a finding be made on the charges.” Quite unfortunately, he observed that it was by Morotsi’s conduct that the Panel did not make an enquiry on the disciplinary charges and the merits thereto.

“You only have yourself to blame in that you did not avail the opportunity to state your defence and explain your actions. This therefore left the Board with no option but to proceed with matter on the basis of the evidence before it.” The COO, Morotsi, was suspended in June earlier this year for dubious appointment of a consultant from Tanzania, Edwin Kidiffu who would produce regulations for the Authority. Kidiffu is a legal practitioner employed by Energy and Water Regulatory Authority in Tanzania.

The COO’s then took BERA to court on grounds that the suspension be set aside and that the commission of inquiry violated the rule against bias in taking the decision to suspend him.The argument advanced by the COO is that the members of the Commission of inquiry assumed the roles of complainant, judge and jury in respect of his suspension. He further states that there was no meeting called to set up the commission of inquiry; and that he was being unfairly targeted because the decision to appoint Mr. Kidiffu was authorized by the CEO Rose Seretse.

The Committee of Inquiry was constituted by three board members; Jonathan Moseki, Kenneth Kerekang and Matsapa Motswetla, of which Moseki was appointed Chairperson. The letter then posits: “Following constitution of Commission of Inquiry and after commencing its work, the Commission resolved on 11 June 2018 to suspend the COO pending a full investigation. They observed that the suspension was necessary in order to preserve the integrity of investigations. A suspension letter dated 11 June 2018 was issued to the COO. The letter advised that the suspension will be on full pay and that COO should not enter the Authority’s premises.”

A source close to development revealed that prior to his suspension Morotsi defied his expulsion and continued going to work claiming that the Chairman of the board had reinstated him.  It is also alleged that the Chief Executive Officer of BERA had to beef up security to deny Morotsi from gaining any access to the premises. A memorandum was put out to all employees by Seretse cautioning them that Morotsi was no longer an employee of BERA therefore he should be allowed to represent BERA in any official capacity.  It is also alleged that Seretse has claimed that she has been threatened by Morotsi hence the additional security.

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P500 million Tshesebe-Masunga road dispute lands in Court

25th January 2021
500-Million-Tshesebe-Masunga-road-on-a-stand-still

The Tshesebe-Mosojane-Masunga road estimated costs stand at P500 million, the tender which was awarded to Bash Carriers in 2017 has not taken shape four years after the project was commissioned.

Tshesebe-Mosojane-Masunga road when it was commissioned, was estimated at P500 million in value, this included construction of 22.50km of the two lane carriage way and 28.70km of access roads including associated bridge works, cross drainage works, storm water drainage works and relocation of services.

When it was first tendered the contract was awarded to Bash Couriers but was terminated after it was alleged that the contractor failed to deliver. It was said that Bash Couriers Construction Company was lagging behind schedule.

This publication visited the sites of Tshesebe-Masunga road last year December and it was evident that the project was at a standstill as deserted machinery on site could be seen with the gravel road also in a devastating state.

Information revealed then indicated that there had been issues of mining rights for aggregates, availability of structural engineers and manpower and a criteria for awarding tender to the specific company when the contract was terminated.

In 2016, as part of the ESP projects, government funded the 25 kilometres (Km) road project to link Tshesebe and Masunga.

Construction of the road, which also connects some of the villages within the district, commenced early in 2016 and was scheduled to be completed within 18 months.

The company had done nothing when their contract was terminated with allegations that it never had the capacity to carry out the project in the first place.

The major ESP project had ultimately robbed a lot of people potential employment when it succumbed to termination.

It was then that the government restarted the tendering process.

The project was awarded to Bango Trading Company and Zebra Construction in a joint venture at a value of P319 Million Pula.

However, information reaching this publication from the Ministry of Transport and Communications confirms that indeed there are no current works carried out on the Tshesebe Masunga road.

Responding to a questionnaire sent to them by this publication through their Public Relations Officer Doreen Moapare, the Ministry indicated that the Tshesebe-Masunga road project is before the courts therefore their response is limited by such a pending outcome.

“As a background the project had been awarded to Bash Carriers at a contract sum of P400, 044,365.68 to begin the works in May 2017 and complete the project in January 2019. Scopes of works included 51.2km main road inclusive of seven access roads. Due to non-performance, Bash Carriers contract was terminated on the 25th of September 2018. ”

Further, Moapare indicated that upon termination of Bash Carriers, a process began to ensure that the development project completes.

Five companies went for a selective tendering bid which she listed as; Lobkom Investments (Pty) Ltd, Landmark (Pty) Ltd and Truck Hire (Pty) Ltd Joint venture, ACE /Excavator Hire (Pty) Ltd and Asphalt Botswana (Pty) Ltd Joint venture, Cul De Sac, Bango Trading and Zebra Construction Joint venture.

“Some companies have since queried the results of the tendering adjudication landing the issue in the courts. We are currently awaiting a ruling expected in February/March 2021, and this will determine the course of action thereafter,” concluded Moapare.

At one point last year, reports indicated that Bango Trading Construction Company had faced raiding by the Directorate on Intelligence and Security, Botswana Police and Botswana Unified Revenue Services, with allegations that there was an emerging pattern targeting overscheduled construction companies with powerful political connections.

Bango Trading Managing Director, Moffat James, was reported to have had close links to former DIS Director Isaac Seabelo Kgosi. Bango Trading and Estate Construction Company which has obtained close to P 1, 5 billion government contracts under former President Lt Gen Ian Khama has been the subject of a parliamentary probe due to the many government contracts awarded to them.

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DPP halts JSC, Judge’s back to work plan

25th January 2021
Kebonang

The Directorate of Public Prosecutions (DPP)’s decision to reject and appeal the High Court’s verdict on a case involving High Court Judge, Dr Zein Kebonang has frustrated the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) and Judge Kebonang’s back to work discussions.

JSC and Kebonang have been in constant discussions over the latter’s return to work following a ruling by a High Court panel of judges clearing him of any wrong doing in the National Petroleum Fund criminal case filed by the DPP. However the finalization of the matter has been hanged on whether the DPP will appeal the matter or not – the prosecution body has since appealed.

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BDP rejects Saleshando payment proposal

25th January 2021
MP saleshando

Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) top brass has declined a request by Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) to negotiate the legal fees occasioned by 2019 general elections petition in which the latter disputed in court the outcome of the elections.

This publication is made aware that UDC Vice President Dumelang Saleshando was left with an egg on his face after the BDP big wigs, comprising of party Chairman Slumber Tsogwane and Secretary General Mpho Balopi rejected his plea.

“He was told that this is a legal matter and therefore their (UDC) lawyer should engage ours (BDP) for negotiations because it is way far from our jurisdiction,” BDP Head of Communications, Kagelelo Kentse, told this publication.

This spelt doom for the main opposition party and Saleshando who seems not to have confidence and that the UDC lawyers have the dexterity to negotiate these kind of matters. It is not clear whether Saleshando requested UDC lawyer Boingotlo Toteng to sit at the table with Bogopa Manewe, Tobedza and Co, who are representing the BDP to strike a deal as per the BDP top echelons suggested.

“From my understanding, the matter is dealt with politically as the two parties are negotiating how to resolve it, but by far nothing has come to me on the matter. So I believe they are still substantively engaging each other,” Toteng said briefly in an interview on Thursday.

UDC petitioners saddled with costs after mounting an unprecedented legal suit before the court to try and overturn BDP’s October 2019 victory. The participants in the legal matter involves 15 parliamentary candidates’ and nine councillors. The UDC petitioned the court and contested the outcome of the elections citing “irregularities in some of the constituencies”.

In a brief ruling in January 2020, Judge President Ian Kirby on behalf of a five-member panel said: “We have no jurisdiction to entertain these appeals. These appeals must be struck out each with costs including costs of counsel”. This was a second blow to the UDC in about a month after their 2019 appeals were dismissed by the High Court a day before Christmas Day.

This week BDP attorneys decided to attach UDC petitioners’ property in a bid to settle the debts. UDC President Duma Boko is among those that will see their property being attached with 14 of his party members. “We have attached some and we are on course. So far, Dr. Mpho Pheko (who contested Gaborone Central) and that of Dr, Micus Chimbombi (who contested Kgalagadi South) will have their assets being sold on the 5th of February 2021,” BDP attorney Basimane Bogopa said.

Asked whether they met with UDC lawyers to try solve the matter, Bogopa said no and added. “Remember we are trying to raise the client’s funds, so after these two others will follow. Right now we are just prioritising those from Court of Appeal, as soon as the high court is done with taxation we will attach.”

Saleshando, when contacted about the outcomes of the meeting with the BDP, told WeekendPost that: “It would not be proper and procedural for me to tell you about the meeting outcomes before I share with UDC National Executive Committee (NEC), so I will have to brief them first.”

UDC NEC will meet on the 20th of next month to deal with a number of thorny issues including settling the legal fees. Negotiations with other opposition parties- Alliance for Progressives and Botswana Patriotic Front (BPF) are also on the agenda.

Currently, UDC has raised P44 238 of the P565 000 needed to cover bills from the Court of Appeal (CoA). This is the amount in a UDC trust account which is paltry funds equating 7.8 per cent of the overall required money. In the past despite the petitioners maintaining that there was promise to assist them to settle legal fees, UDC Spokesperson, Moeti Mohwasa then said the party has never agreed in no way to help them.

“We have just been put in debt by someone,” one of the petitioners told this publication in the past. “President’s (Duma Boko) message was clear at the beginning that money has been sourced somewhere to help with the whole process but now we are here there is nothing and we are just running around trying to make ends meet and pay,” added the petitioner in an interview
UDC NEC has in December last year directed all the 57 constituencies to each raise a minimum of P10, 000. The funds will be used to settle debts that are currently engulfing the petitioners with Sheriffs, who are already hovering around ready to attach their assets.

The petitioners, despite the party intervention, have every right to worry. “This is so because ‘the deadline for this initiative (P10, 000 per constituency) is the end of the first quarter of this year (2021),” a period in which the sheriffs would have long auctioned the properties.

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