BERA probe implicates Seretse in tender row
A Commission of inquiry has faulted Botswana Energy Regulatory Authority (BERA) Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Rose Seretse for engagement of a consultancy owned by a Tanzanian, Edwin Kiddifu under controversial circumstances.
The Commission of Inquiry follows a BERA board meeting resolution on its sitting of the 5th June 2018 to conduct an inquiry on engagement of Kidiffu to undertake consultancy services for BERA. This followed a concern of some anomalities on the procurement of the services of the consultant, owned by Kidiffu who is a legal practitioner employed by Energy and Water Regulatory Authority in Tanzania.
According to confidential documents passed to Weekend Post this week titled “Findings from a Commission of Inquiry conducted on the engagement of Mr. Edwin Kidiffu,” the BERA CEO acted in complete negligence of duty. “The CEO not only acted in complete neglect of her duties to oversee the day to day running of the Authority but was also aware and participated, from inception, in the approvals and transactions for the project,” the reports states.
In this respect, it found out that, the CEO’s submission is that the project was discussed during the Ministerial Tender Committee (MTC) or that the decision to engage Kidiffu was made at a management meeting – was misleading. It therefore posits that the CEO was quite dishonest in her submissions to both the board and the inquiry.
Therefore the findings of the Commission of Inquiry says “that the CEO should be asked to show cause why the board should not make a recommendation for her suspension to the Minister pending disciplinary action against her on the basis of the findings, the sworn statement from Kidiffu and for deliberately misleading the board and neglect of duty.” In addition to proposed suspension of the CEO, in terms of the recommendations, it is said that the Chief Operations Officer be asked also to show cause why disciplinary proceedings should not be instituted against him.
BERA IN CORPORATE GOVERNANCE BREACHES
It also highlights that the engagement of Kidiffu was spearheaded by Chief Operations Officer (COO) Duncan Morotsi who did most of the job in the process. The CEO confirmed that Morotsi spearheaded the project right from the procuring the consultant up to project implementation. The findings highlight: COO is the Procuring Officer, Project Manager, Authorising Officer for payment and a Liaison Officer as well as working with the same consultant.
“The only time the issue of engagement of Kidiffu was discussed was during a normal meeting and what was mainly discussed was logistics to host him in Botswana. Present was CEO, COO, Director of Finance and Director of HR,” it says. The Inquiry revealed: “our findings are that the consultant may have been engaged at the instance of the COO Morotsi, without the necessary authority from the Board; that there were no Terms of Reference for the project; and that there was absolutely no tendering process that was followed. Simply put there was no process that was followed.”
As part of the findings is also that there was neither a budget set aside for the project nor the authority from the board to implement the project in the absence of the approved budget. The highly classified document further highlights that “there was no Management Tender Committee meeting to subject the project to the necessary due process as there is no record to confirm such and management failed on request to present minutes and the agenda items for the alleged management meeting.”
In addition some of the findings of the Commission of Inquiry include that in essence the Tender Committee does not exist at BERA as such it has never met to adjudicate over any tender. The confidential report also observes that there has been no request for proposals and responses received from Kidiffu and that there are no minutes for the Management Tender Committee and the relevant agenda for the meeting.
“Kidiffu was single sourced without the necessary due process followed. There has never been no open competitive tender for the project. Kidiffu’s qualifications and experience has never been scrutinized so as to compare it to those of the locals. There is no indication that the project was an emergency. There is no indication that the project was budgeted for,” Inquiry states. It also found out that the manner in which the consultant was paid the 1st installment is strange where a driver was sent to cash his fees (US$3000) and give the money to him in US dollars.
“The consultant was further paid P2500 in cash per day as living allowance. The cash in all occasions was handed to Kidiffu after being withdrawn by the driver Tebogo Pladge in all occasions. BERA still owes the consultant US$5000.” Report states that there is no indication that Energy and Water Utilities Regulatory Authority (EWURA) sanctioned the whole process and that there is no correspondence that EWURA and BERA on the project. In addition, it states that there is no letter releasing Kiduffu to BERA and the associated conditions thereof; and that there are no clear terms of reference for the project and the consultant has never presented the deliverables to BERA senior management.
It is stated in the report that the team also visited the Records office at BERA head office and they found out that there was absolutely no record of the transaction. “The project was termed emergency but to date the results have not been implemented which defeats the emergency. The consultant undertook the consultancy in his personal capacity. The contract was negotiated by both Morotsi and Seretse at Grand Palm in Gaborone,” Inquiry points out.
BERA officials whom were interviewed in the Commission of Inquiry includes BERA Records Office, CEO Rose Seretse, Driver Tebogo Pladge, Consultant Edwin Kidiffu, Nnosang Mhutsiwa and Chawada Machacha. The board members that conducted the inquiry on the appointment of the services of the said consultant are Part time board member being the chairman of the adhoc committee Jonathan Moseki; full time board member being a member of the adhoc committee Kenneth Kerekang; as well as full time board member being a member of the adhoc committee Matsapa Motswetla.
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ENVIRONMENT ISSUES: Masisi asks Virginia for help
President Mokgweetsi Masisi says the issue of sustainable natural resources management has always been an important part of Botswana’s national development agenda.
Masisi was speaking this week on the occasion of a public lecture at Virginia Polytechnic, under theme, “Merging Conservation, Democracy and Sustainable Development in Botswana.”
Botswana, according to Masisi, holds the view that the environment is fragile and as such, must be managed and given the utmost protection to enable the achievement of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
“It is necessary that we engage one another in the interchange of ideas, perspectives, visualizations of social futures, and considerations of possible strategies and courses of action for sustainable development,” said Masisi.
On the other hand, dialogue, in the form of rigorous democratic discourse among stakeholders presents another basis for reconfiguring how people act on their environments, with a view to conserving its resources that “we require to meet our socio-economic development needs on a sustainable basis,” Masisi told attendees at the public lecture.
He said government has a keen interest in understanding the epidemiology and ecology of diseases of both domestic and wild animals. “It is our national interest to forestall the dire consequences of animal diseases on our communities livelihoods.”
President Masisi hoped that both Botswana and Virginia could help each other in curbing contagious diseases of wildlife.
“We believe that Virginia Tech can reasonably share their experiences, research insights and advances in veterinary sciences and medicines, to help us build capacity for knowledge creation and improve efforts of managing and containing contagious diseases of wildlife. The ground is fertile for entering into such a mutually beneficial partnership.”
When explaining environmental issues further, Masisi said efforts of conservation and sustainable development might at times be hampered by the emergence and recurrence of diseases when pathogens mutate and take host of more than one species.
“Water pollution also kills aquatic life, such as fish, which is one of humanity’s much deserved sources of food. In this regard, One Health Approach imposes ecological responsibility upon all of us to care for the environment and the bio-diversity therein.”
He said the production and use of animal vaccines is an important space and tool for conservation, particularly to deal with trans-border animal diseases.
“In Botswana, our 43-year-old national premier pharmaceutical institution called Botswana Vaccine Institute has played its role well. Through its successful production of highly efficacious Foot and Mouth vaccines, the country is able to contain this disease as well as supply vaccines to other countries in the sub-region.:
He has however declared that there is need for more help, saying “We need more capacitation to deal with and contain other types of microbial that affect both animals and human health.”
Masisi saddened by deaths of elephant attacks
President Mokgweetsi Masisi has expressed a strong worry over elephants killing people in Botswana. When speaking in Virginia this week, Masisi said it is unfortunate that Batswana have paid a price with their own blood through being attacked by elephants.
“Communities also suffer unimaginable economic losses yearly when their crops are eaten by the elephants. In spite of such incidents of human-elephant conflict, our people embrace living together with the animals. They fully understand wildlife conservation and its economic benefits in tourism.”
In 2018, Nthobogang Samokwase’s father was attacked by an elephant when travelling from the fields, where he stayed during the cropping season.
It was reported that the man couldn’t run because of his age. He was found trampled by the elephant and was pronounced dead upon arrival at the hospital.
In the same year, in Maun, a 57-year-old British woman was attacked by an elephant at Boro and died upon arrival at the hospital. The woman was with her Motswana partner, and were walking dogs in the evening.
Last month, a Durban woman named Carly Marshall survived an elephant attack while on holiday in the bush in Botswana. She was stabbed by one of the elephant’s tucks through the chest and was left with bruises. Marshall also suffered several fractured ribs from the ordeal.
President Masisi Botswana has the largest population of African elephants in the world, totaling more than 130 000. “This has been possible due to progressive conservation policies, partnerships with the communities, and investment in wildlife management programmes.”
In order to benefit further from wildlife, Masisi indicated that government has re-introduced controlled hunting in 2019 after a four-year pause. “The re-introduction of hunting was done in an open, transparent and democratic way, giving the communities an opportunity to air their views. The funds from the sale of hunting quota goes towards community development and elephant conservation.”
He stressed that for conservation to succeed, the local people must be involved and derive benefits from the natural resources within their localities.
“There must be open and transparent consultations which involve all sectors of the society. It is against this backdrop that as a country, we lead the continent on merging conservation, democracy and sustainable development.”
Masisi stated that Botswana is open to collaborative opportunities, “particularly with identifiable partners such as Virginia Tech, in other essential areas such as conservation, and the study of the interplay among the ecology of diseases of wild animals and plants, and their effects on human health and socio-economic development.”
Gov’t commit to injecting more funds in fighting HIV
Minister for State President Kabo Morwaeng says government will continue to make resources available in terms of financial allocations and human capital to ensure that Botswana achieves the ideal of eradicating HIV and AIDS as a public health threat by 2030.
Morwaeng was speaking this morning in Gaborone at the High-Level Advocacy event to accelerate HIV Prevention in Botswana. He said the National AIDS and Health Promotion Agency (NAPHA), in partnership with UNAIDS, UN agencies, the Global Fund and PEPFAR, have started a process of developing transition readiness plan for sustainability of HIV prevention and treatment programmes.
“It is important for us, as a country that has had a fair share of donor support in the response to an epidemic such as HIV and AIDS, to look beyond the period when the level of assistance would have reduced, or ceased, thus calling for domestic financing for all areas which were on donor support.”
Morwaeng said this is important as the such a plan will guarantee that all the gains accrued from the response with donor support will be sustained until the end when “we reach the elimination of HIV and AIDS as a public health threat by 20230,” he said.
“I commit to continue support efforts towards strengthened HIV prevention, accentuating HIV primary prevention and treatment as prevention towards Zero New Infections, Zero Stigma, Discrimination and Zero AIDS related death, to end AIDS in Botswana.”
He reiterated that government commits to tackle legislative, policy and programming challenges that act as barriers to the achievement of the goal of ending AIDS as a public health threat.
In the financial year 2022/2023, a total of 119 Civil Society Organizations, including Faith Based Organizations, were contracted with an amount of P100 million to implement HIV and NCDs prevention activities throughout the country, and the money was drawn from the Consolidated Fund.
Through an upcoming HIV Prevention Symposium, technical stakeholders will use outcomes to develop the Botswana HIV Prevention Acceleration Road Map for 2023-2025.
Morwaeng stated that government will support and ensure that Botswana plays its part achieving the road map. He said there is need to put hands on the deck to ensure that Botswana sustains progress made so far in the fight against HIV and AIDS.
“There are tremendous achievements thus far to, reach and surpass the UNAIDS fast track targets of 95%- 95%- 95% by the year 2025. As reflected by the BAIS preliminary results of 2021, we now stand at 95- 98- 98 against the set targets.”
“These achievements challenge us to now shift our gears and strive to know who are the remaining 5% for those aware of their HIV status, 2% of enrolment on treatment by those aware of their status and 2% of viral suppression by those on treatment.”
Explaining this further, Morwaeng said shift in gears should extend to coming up with robust strategies of determining where these remaining people are as well as how they will be reached with the necessary services.
“These are just some of the many variables that are required to ensure that as a country, we are well positioned to reaching the last mile of our country’s response to the HIV and AIDS pandemic.”