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DCEC, DPP afraid of NPF politicians – Kerekang

Kenneth Kerekang, Bakang Seretse’s co-accused in the ongoing P250 million National Petroleum Fund (NPF) money laundering scandal, has told WeekendPost  that he feels used by politicians and has been made a scapegoat by the state agencies.

Kerekang, Bakang, former Minister of Minerals, Sadique and his twin brother Judge Zein Kebonang, Kago Setimela, and Mogomotsi Seretse are accused of laundering 250m from NPF, a charge they all deny. According to Kerekang, first of all there was a formal request made by the then Director in the Directorate of Intelligence and Security (DIS) Isaac Kgosi to the Ministry of Minerals for funding of strategic fuel storages.

A pre-feasibility study was as such commissioned by the Ministry of Minerals, he says. “I was part of this team which comprised of a number of people from our ministry and the DIS office. And the study results were taken by the DIS to be assessed by a company of their choice (name known to this publication). Their reasons for choosing the said company was that the company had done the work for them before in 2010,” said Kerekang.

It is said that a recommendation was then made by a result of the study that an amount of P650m will be required for the work the DIS needed, which was the expansion of fuel storages done in 2010. “DIS then made an application to PPADB to single pick the said company for the construction of the fuel storage facilities. PPADB advised that it should be an open tender.”

“Kgosi then ignored PPADB and approached me asking me for a variation from fuel storage facilities to human trafficking. I told him the issue was beyond me and advised him to consult the permanent secretary, Dr Obolokile Obakeng,” Kerekang averred. He says from that point the issue of variation never returned to him. “What I knew next from communication was Dr Obakeng has approved the variation to anti-poaching because according to DIS, this had now become a priority.” Kerekang pointed that all this was an internal communication, and further that at the stage Khulaco PTY (Ltd) had not been appointed transactional service provider.

APPOINTMENT OF KHULACO PTY (Ltd)

Kerekang said soon after Dr Obakeng approved the variation, he received a communiqué from Kgosi directing him to deposit an amount of P250m to Khulaco account as they had been appointed transactional service providers. The reason for the P250 million not P650 million, he said was because the monies were in different investments and couldn’t be taken at a go.

“Acting on the strength of that directive from DIS, I wrote a mandate to Kgori Capital, the fund manager of NPF to the extent that the money be released as per the directive from Isaac Kgosi. Quite to the contrary, I never introduced Khulaco to Kgosi. In fact, I knew about Khulaco through the directive that Kgosi wrote to me,” Kerekang told this publication, stressing that Khulaco’s appointment was a matter that would be known to Kgosi and his seniors at the ministry, the minister and his PS.

Kerekang said the amount due to Khulaco was P230, not P250, the reason being to avoid hurting the fund by taking large sums at once.  He says at no point had he dealt with Botho Leburu, Bakang’s co-director at Khulaco or Bakang. “I only knew Bakang because he was part of Kgori Capital who were the fund managers. And we had no business relationship or common interest between us. At no time did Khulaco ask me to credit any money to it. The only email I received to credit Khulaco was Kgosi’s directive.”

Kerekang averred that it came to him as a shock when the charge sheet was read to him two months ago that he misled Kgosi into believing that Khulaco was a government company, adding that they have never been in a meeting where the status of Khulaco was discussed.
“And it was never my intention to question the status of people and or companies the DIS was dealing with. I have always trusted as the country’s prime intelligence agency that they have done their due diligence. And the DIS is an office with the country’s most senior people and they were reporting directly to the president. Really, it was not for me to challenge their integrity.”

KEREKANG EXPLAINS 20% COMMISSION

“I am aware by reference to correspondence on the file that Khulaco had demanded payment of 20 percent of total amount. This however, has not been a matter discussed with me. It was a matter for the attention of my supervisors who even kept the file in their offices.”

WHAT ABOUT DIGNIA SYSTEMS?

According to Kerekang, he was made aware of Dignia Systems by Kgosi and had at no point communicated with its officials. My dealings with Khulaco were limited to the payment that I was authorized to make. “I am aware that there are suggestions that some property has been bought for me through the NPF money. I wish to state for the record for that I have no property registered in my name bought through NPF proceeds,” he said.

I AM INNOCENT – KEREKANG

“I am still waiting for my accusers to explain what role I played in the variation by Dr Obakeng because if at all there was a conspiracy it would have been the variation. Dr Obakeng cannot say that I was present in their meeting. As far as I am concerned, it was between the DIS and my superiors,” Kerekang noted. He said the issue of variation could not have come up with Bakang. Khulaco came after the issue of variation was settled, he stated.

Kerekang further shares: “I cannot understand why conspiracy can be alleged between us that we conspired to launder P230m or any amount over a project that is not ours. How can I conspire over a project outside my mandate? My mandate has been to do with the transaction that I was authorized to, and other things I only saw them in the DIS invoice.”

KGORI CAPITAL AND BASIS POINTS

Kerekang also spoke to the allegation that he has abused office by signing an unauthorized contract with Kgori Capital, and as a result lost an amount of P10m in asset management fees.  He stated that after Basis Points was awarded the tender from NPF and having subcontracted Kgori it was stated by Non-Bank Financial Regulatory Authority (NBFIRA) that the asset manager must have a contract with the fund manager.

“The interim mandate had to be signed to allow the work of asset manager to continue as the laws dictated. And part of that request was that fees chargeable by the asset manager should be clear as per the contract,” he narrated. “As a matter of fact, the issue of 0.8 percent which was the annual fee was fully disclosed in the quotation to the fund management committee,” he said, adding that at no point did any committee member or a minister ever question what he had done regarding the duties he was assigned to do.

“I never acted outside my mandate.”  It is further Kerekang’s evidence that Basis Point was awarded a tender for consultancy to revise energy projects with a view of recommending optimal funding models.  The asset management fees would be dependent on market value, as they were not fixed.  “I did not come up with the 0.80 percent, it has always been in the tender document. And it is not like Kgori or Basis Points paid themselves. It was an agreed thing between the parties. And if it had not been about me, the documents that I signed would not have been processed by any officer before coming to me for signature,” he said.

KEREKANG BLAMES DCEC AND DPP

Kerekang alleges that the truth of the matter is that the Department of Public Prosecution (DPP) and the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC) needed someone to use to explain away the alleged conspiracy. “The only people they could use will certainly not be the untouchable politicians. So they took a decision to use me so that these highest and mighty named be absolute from their decision.

I was the easy one to blame because they (politicians) are untouchable people.” “Government had to be seen acting and decided that me and Bakang be charged when the decision makers were never called to account. They are afraid of politicians involved,” Kerekang said.

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Jackdish Shah loses interest in BDP

17th May 2022
Jackdish

As the preparations for the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) congress are about to kick off, reports on the ground suggest that the party’s Deputy Treasurer Jackdish Shah will not defend the position in August as he contemplates relocation.

According to sources, the businessman who joined the BDP Central Committee in 2015 at the 36th Congress held in Mmadinare is ready to leave the party’s politburo. It is said he long made up his mind not to defend the position last year. A prominent businessman, Shah, when he won the position to assist Satar Dada in 2015 was expected to improve the party’s financial vibrancy. By then the party was under the leadership of Ian Khama.

According to close sources, Shah long decided not to contest because he has fallen out of favour with the party leadership. It is said he took the decision after some prominent businessmen who are BDP members and part of football syndicate decided to push him out and they used their proximity to President Mokgweetsi Masisi to badmouth him hence the decision.

“The fight at the Botswana Football Association (BFA) and Botswana Football League (BFL) has left him alone in the desert and some faces there used their close access to the President to isolate him,” said a source. Media reports say, Shah does not see eye to eye with BFA President MacLean Letshwiti who is also Masisi’s buddy hence the decision.

BFL Chairman Nicholas Zackhem is said to be not in good terms with Shah, who at one point Chaired the then Botswana Premier League (BPL). “He is seriously considering quitting because of what is unfolding at the team (Township Rollers) which is slowly not making financial gains and might be relegated and he wants to sell while it is still worth the investment,” said a highly placed source.

Shah is a renowned businessman who runs internet providing company Zebra net, H &G, game farm in Kasane, cattle farm in Ghanzi region and lot of properties in Gaborone. He also has two hotels in USA, his advisors have given him thumbs up on the possible decision of relocating provided he does not sell some of the investments that are doing well.

Asked about whether he will be contesting Shah could not confirm nor deny the reports. It is said for now it is too early as a public decision will have to be taken after the national council meeting and prior to the national congress. “As a BDP Central Committee member he cannot make that announcement now,” a BDP source said.

BDP is expected to assemble for the National Council during the July holidays while the National Congress is billed for August. It is then that the party will elect a new CC members. The last time BDP held elective congress was at Kang in 2019. The party is yet to issue writ.

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Govt ignores own agreements to improve public service

17th May 2022
Govt

The government has failed to implement some commitments and agreements that it had entered into with unions to improve conditions of public servants.

Three years after the government and public made commitments aimed at improving conditions of work and services it has emerged that the government has ignored and failed to implement all commitments on conditions of service emanating from the 2019 round of negotiations.

In its position paper that saw public service salaries being increased by 5%, the government the government has also signalled its intention to renege on some of the commitments it had made.
“Government aspires to look into all outstanding issues contained in the Labour Agreement signed between the Employer and recognised Trade Union on the 27th August 2019 and that it be reviewed, revised and delinked by both Parties with a view to agree on those whose implementation that can be realistically executed during the financial years 2022/23, 2023/24 and 2024/25 respectively,” the government said.

Furthermore, in addition to reviewing, revising and de-linking of the outstanding issues contained in the Collective Labour Agreement alluded to above and taking on a progressive proposal, government desires to review revise, develop and implement human resource policies as listed below during the financial year 2022/23,2023/24,2024/25

They include selection and appointment policy, learning and development policy, transfer guidelines, conditions of service, permanent and pensionable, temporary and part time, Foreign Service, expatriate and disciplinary procedures.

In their proposal paper, the unions which had proposed an 11 percent salary increase but eventually settled for 5% percent indicated that the government has not, and without explanation, acted on some of the key commitments from the 2019/2020 and 2021/22 round of negotiations.  The essential elements of these commitments include among others the remuneration Policy for the Public Service.

The paper states that a Remuneration Policy will be developed to inform decision making on remuneration in the Public Service. It is envisaged that consultations between the government and relevant key stakeholders on the policy was to start on 1st September 2019, and the development of the policy should be concluded by 30th June 2020.

The public sector unions said the Remuneration Policy is yet to be developed. The Cooperating Unions suggested that the process should commence without delay and that it should be as participatory as it was originally conceived. Another agreement relate to Medical Aid Contribution for employees on salary Grades A and B.

The employer contribution towards medical aid for employees on salary Grades A and B will be increased from 50% to 80% for the Standard Option of the Botswana Public
“Officers’ Medical Aid Scheme effective 1st October 2019; the cooperating unions insist that, in fulfilling this commitment, there should be no discrimination between those on the high benefit and those on the medium benefit plan,” the unions proposal paper says.

Another agreement involves the standardisation of gratuities across the Public Service. “Gratuities for all employees on fixed term contracts of 12 months but not exceeding 5 years, including former Industrial class employees be standardized at 30% across the Public Service in order to remove the existing inequalities and secure long-term financial security for Public Service Employees at lower grades with immediate effect,” the paper states.

The other agreement signed by the public sector unions and the government was the development of fan-shaped Salary Structure. The paper says the Public Service will adopt a best practice fan-shaped and overlapping structure, with modification to suit the Botswana context. The Parties (government and unions) to this agreement will jointly agree on the ranges of salary grades to allow for employees’ progression without a promotion to the available position on the next management level.

“The fan-shaped structure is envisaged to be in place by 1st June 2020, to enable factoring into the budgetary cycle for the financial year 2021/22,” the unions’ proposal paper states. It says the following steps are critical, capacity building of key stakeholders (September – December 2019), commission remuneration market survey (3 months from September to November 2019), design of the fan-shaped structure (2 to 3 months from January to March2020) and consultations with all key stakeholders (March to April 2020).

The unions and government had also signed an agreement on performance management and development: A rigorous performance management and reward system based on a 5-point rating system will be adopted as an integral part of the operationalization of the new Remuneration System.

Performance Management and Development (PMD) will be used to reward workers based on performance. The review of the Performance Management System was to be undertaken in order to close the gaps identified by PEMANDU and other previous reports on PMS between 1st September 2019 and 30th June 2020 as follows; internal process to update and revise the current Performance Management System by January 2020.

A job evaluation exercise in the Public Service will also be undertaken to among others establish internal equity, and will also cover the grading of all supervisory positions within the Public Service.
Another agreement included overtime Management. The Directorate of Public Service Management (DPSM) was to facilitate the conclusion of consultations on management of overtime, including consideration of the Overtime Management Task Team’s report on the same by 30th November 2019.

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Health Expert rejects ‘death rates’ links to low population growth

17th May 2022
Health-Expert

A public health expert, Dr Edward Maganu who is also the former Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Health has said that unlike many who are expressing shock at the population census growth decline results, he is not, because the 2022 results represents his expectations.

He rushed to dismiss the position by Statistics Botswana in which thy partly attributes the low growth rates to mortality rates for the past ten years. “I don’t think there is any undercounting. I also don’t think death rates have much to do with it since the excessive deaths from HIV/AIDS have been controlled by ARVs and our life expectancy isn’t lower than it was in the 1990s,” he said in an interview with this publication post the release of the results.

Preliminary results released by Statistics Botswana this week indicated that Botswana’s population is now estimated to be 2,346,179 – a figure that the state owned data agency expressed worry over saying it’s below their projected growth. The general decline in the population growth rate is attributed to ‘fertility’ and ‘mortality’ rates that the country registered on the past ten years since the last census in 2011.

Maganu explained that with an enlightened or educated society and the country’s total fertility rate, there was no way the country’s population census was going to match the previous growth rates.
“The results of the census make sense and is exactly what I expected. Our Total Fertility Rate ( the average number of children born to a woman) is now around 2.

This is what happens as society develops and educates its women. The enlightened women don’t want to bear many children, they want to work and earn a living, have free time, and give their few children good care. So, there is no under- counting. Census procedures are standard so that results are comparable between countries.

That is why the UN is involved through UNFPA, the UN Agency responsible for population matters,” said Maganu who is also the former adviser to the World Health Organisation. Maganu ruled out undercounting concerns, “I see a lot of Batswana are worried about the census results. Above is what I have always stated.”

Given the disadvantages that accompany low population for countries, some have suggested that perhaps a time has come for the government to consider population growth policies or incentives, suggestions Maganu deems ineffective.

“It has never worked anywhere. The number of children born to a woman are a very private decision of the woman and the husband in an enlightened society. And as I indicated, the more the women of a society get educated, the higher the tendency to have fewer children. All developed countries have a problem of zero population growth or even negative growth.

The replacement level is regarded as 2 children per woman; once the fertility level falls below that, then the population stops growing. That’s why developed countries are depending so much on immigration,” he said.

According to him, a lot of developing countries that are educating their women are heading there, including ourselves-Botswana. “Countries that have had a policy of encouraging women to have more children have failed dismally. A good example is some countries of Eastern Europe (Romania is a good example) that wanted to grow their populations by rewarding women who had more children. It didn’t work. The number of children is a very private matter,” said Maganu

For those who may be worried about the impact of problems associated with low growth rate, Maganu said: “The challenge is to develop society so that it can take care of its dependency ratio, the children and the aged. In developed countries the ratio of people over 60 years is now more than 20%, ours is still less than 10%.”

The preliminary results show that Mogoditshane with (88,098) is now the biggest village in the country with Maun coming second (85,293) and Molepolole at third position with 74,719. Population growth is associated with many economic advantages because more people leads to greater human capital, higher economic growth, economies of scale, the efficiency of higher population density and the improved demographic structure of society, among many others.

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