The State is expected to bring additional accused persons in the P250m National Petroleum Fund (NPF) scandal on November 29, 2018. Currently before the court are Bakang Seretse, Botho Leburu and Kenneth Kerekang.
They were said to have between September 5, 2017 and November 27, 2017 in Gaborone acting jointly and with common purpose received, possessed, disguised and disposed P250million knowing or suspecting or having reasonable grounds to know or suspect that the money was derived or realised in whole or in part, directly or indirectly from the commission of a confiscation offence.
When appearing before Broadhurst Magistrate Gaseitsewe Tonoki on Wednesday, Prosecutor Tyron Mokgathong told the court that they could not allow the three accused persons to take a plea as they intended to add more accused persons. “It was ordered during the last mention that today the three accused persons before the court take a plea. But, we are sorry to tell the court that the plea will be taken on the next mention as there are still more people to be charged,” said Mokgathong.
“The State intends to add more accused persons and they have not yet been summoned. The case will also on the said date be remitted to the High Court for trial.” It was then that the magistrate made it an order that in the next mention the said accused persons be brought to court; the charge sheet be amended; a plea be taken and the matter be committed to the high court. The magistrate also ordered the State to serve the said accused persons on time to enable speedy progress on the matter.
One of the defence attorneys representing Seretse, Khulaco Pty (LTD) and Kerekang Kgosietsile Ngakaage decried that his clients were being prejudiced by the State. He said it was now 10 months after his clients were charged without being told why they were brought to court. “My clients deserve to be tried on a reasonable time. If the matter is going to delay like this, my clients should be given back their passports permanently,” he said. Another defence attorney Joao Salbarny representing Leburu, asked that witness statements and investigative docket be availed to his client.
Ngakaagae had during the first mentions of the case argued that the key players in the ‘money laundering movie’ were walking free men, saying the law enforcement officials were afraid of them.â€¨â€¨“The issue was a ministerial issue which involved people at the top. My clients were just working on instructions.” Ngakaagae argued that if indeed this was a money laundering scheme, it should then involve the source. If it is a money laundering scheme, why have Isaac Kgosi and Dr Obolokile Obakeng not been charged?” he questioned.
“Kgosi has paid P118 million to a company in Israel, and DPP is just running away from this reality.” According to Ngakaagae, the money was properly released in all the transactions that involved his clients as transactions were made with the best knowledge of the ministry. “If not, then Kerekang and Kgosi have stolen the money as they were the ones authorising the transactions. And they should be put to jail,’’ Ngakaagae submitted.
He said to his surprise, the DCEC had instead of taking Kgosi to task, spoke gloriously of Kgosi and praised him saying allegations leveled against Kgosi by the respondent were uninformed and amounted to gossip. “This is really lack of integrity by the DCEC,” decried Ngakaagae.â€¨â€¨On his part, the attorney for DPP, Ernest Mosate urged the court to throw out Ngakaagae’s submissions saying Ngakaagae was misleading the court as to what was supposed to be argued on the preliminary stage.
Mosate cited that Ngakaagae’s arguments were immaterial to the case at hand. “The question of whether anyone has been charged with what is immaterial at this stage. “We should confine ourselves with issues that need to be addressed at this point in time,” he charged. It is understood that Seretse has divulged in his affidavit before court that the P250 million transfers to an Israeli company named Dignia Systems’s bank account were at the written instruction of the DIS chief.
Dr. Obolokile Obakeng, acting Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Minerals, Green Technology and Energy Security, is said to have authorised the variation at the request of the DIS.â€¨â€¨High Court Judge Godfrey Radijeng had also stated in his judgment in December that, “the applicant averred that the P250 million disbursement to a Khulaco (Pty) Ltd account at Capital Bank was not approved by the NPF Management Committee, did not follow established procedure for disbursements, there was no tender for the project, and one Kenneth Kerekang alone purported to approve the request by the Directorate of Intelligence and Security (DIS) on same date (7th August 2017) the request was made by DIS.”â€¨â€¨â€¨
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.