A group calling itself, BPOPF Watchdogs, with a tagline “Our Pension Our concern” has emerged to tackle “the unfortunate incidences of the Botswana Public Officers Pensioners Fund (BPOPF) financial scandals emanating from deceitful and misappropriation of funds.”
The BPOPF Watchdogs, which is scheduled to meet teachers who are in Gaborone for marking has already written letters to the BPOPF and other stakeholders. In a letter written to the Chief Executive Officer of BPOPF, BPOPF Watchdogs notes that the Pension Fund has a list of local and offshore fund managers legally sanctioned to invest on behalf of the fund, consequently bringing dividends that are supposed to benefit members as interest.
The coming to life of this pressure group is linked to the ongoing tussle between BPOPF and Capital Management Botswana (CMB). The Group is convinced that the information coming out is not complete and wants to get to the bottom of the matter. It has already engaged international organisations and local partners to gather information which they will then share with the public about the status of the BPOPF.
It is now public knowledge that the BPOPF invested the sum of P477 million in the Botswana Opportunity Partnership (BOP) to be managed by CMB in terms of the BOP agreement between the two. CMB then disposed of the investment and only paid P50 million to BPOPF. The BPOPF has tried to tell the court that a balance of P400 million is missing.
The tussle between the two entities is motivated by the urge to regain assets which are estimated at a value of close to P477 million. Shareholders of CMB are accusing Non-Bank Financial Institution Regulatory Authority and Botswana Public Officers Pension Fund (BPOPF) of using false information to motivate the court to liquidate CMB. “CMB was appointed by BOP as its fund manager and CMB, in its capacity as General
Partner delegated responsibility for the management of BOP to CMB in its capacity as fund manager. BPOPF made a capital commitment1 to contribute up to BWP500,000,000 to BOP. In 2015 and 2016 various drawdown notices were issued to BPOPF by CMB on behalf of BOP for the purpose of investing in certain identified private equity investments and for agreed fund expenses and fees. BPOPF duly paid the aforesaid drawdown notices amounting in aggregate to some BWP470,000,000.00.”
According to the BPOPF Watchdogs Coordinator, Mpho Maruping, “For almost the past ten years, Botswana public service employees have endured painful financial period, some years passed without salary hikes, while others had insignificant salary increase. Public service employees had to take focus to their pension fund since workers had no salary increment. Some public service workers had to make additional contributions in order to increase their revenue.”
In a letter to the BPOPF CEO, Maruping notes that though the BPOPF has Board of Trustees consisting of representatives drawn from various segments; the employer representation, the trade representation, the management representation and the independent personnel – The representation has a fiduciary role of ensuring that people’s money are used prudently and by taking responsible decision on disbursement of money for investment.
He further states that there are allegations that some Board of Trustees have connections with fund managers. Unfortunately there had been corruption cases involving some fund managers which and led to marathon legal battles, and that does not boarder well with the owners of the fund, being bona-fide members.
“There have also been lapses in administration duties of BPOPF duties, inability to issue out members’ individual financial statements and no prompt official report has been rendered out. Members are quite aware that their accrued capital used for investment, however in the mist of these funds misappropriation news, BPOPF recently lost shares they purchased from one comp0any listed in the stock market. This had caused more uncertainties amongst members.”
He further notes that “BPOPF WATCHDOGS” vows to raise alarm and play an oversight role to sensitize that public on dutiful responsibility of the Board of Trustees and fair usage of people’s pension. “Additional, allegations are rampant that retired public service employees often face difficulties in getting their dues due to administration lapse of readily available finances. Painful the tax instituted against the total accrued is unjustified.
For retirees to get their benefits the employer gathers historical information of the retirees’ assets and insures they are properly taxed. Though taxes are regulated by Botswana Unified Revenue Services we have strong conviction that pensioners should be exempted from tax, or if any, pensioners should be charged a low percentage.” Maruping notes that they have a plan of action that we intend to execute without fail, which is attached herein to appreciate our plan of actions.
“We would like your organizations to assist us carry-out our campaign diligently without fail. Your organization will be remembered for being paragon of change and protection of poor public service employees from deceitful and corrupt characters.” Maruping wants the Watchdogs to meet BPOPF management “pertaining to disturbing news concerning Botswana Public Officers Pension Fund.
We strongly believe that as members we are entitled to protect our accrued capital and ensure that the ideas of BPOPF are fulfilled. Additionally, our watchdog roles encompass the obligation to ensure that those entrusted with the responsibility of protecting our valued assets perform their tasks dutifully.” He says their first objective is to ensure that our social insurance is in safe hands, therefore our initiative to engage in truth-finding actions which include visitation to BPOPF Management.
What the Watchdogs want to establish:
State of choppies shares Ensuring our funds are in safe hands State of retired public service employees Members individual financial statements BPOPF Fund managers both local and offshores Allegations o9f misappropriation and corruption cases
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.
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.
President of the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) Duma Boko’s alliance with former President Lt Gen Ian Khama continues to unsettle some quarters within the opposition collective, who believe the duo, if not managed, will once again result in an unsuccessful bid for government in 2024.
While Khama has denied that he has undeclared preference to have Boko remaining as leader of UDC, many believe that the two have a common programme, while other opposition leaders remain on the side-lines.