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PAC to subpoena bank executives in NPF scandal

The Chairperson of the Public Accounts Committee, Dithapelo Keorapetse has strongly rejected the observation that he is somehow delaying the release of a report on the probe of alleged embezzlement at the National Petroleum Fund (NPF).

Instead he posits that the narrative is sold by those who want to divert attention from the scandal, “all they are trying is to soil my name for political expediency.” Giving an update of the PAC examination of the books of accounts of the National Petroleum Fund, Keorapetse said the primary elections, shortage of staff, committee disagreements, incomplete information are among some of the factors that contributed to the delay in releasing the PAC’s report on the NPF. But he stated that there is light at the end of the tunnel as the report is currently being compiled after receipt of crucial information.

When quizzed on latest PAC business on the NPF probe, Keorapetse stated, “When the PAC adjourned, we subpoenaed information from Bank Gaborone and Stanbic Bank. PAC needed to know how the authorization of opening of bank accounts and disbursements and or transfer of funds happened; Who authorized and under what authority.” According to Keorapetse, information which was requested by the PAC has been submitted and copies have been given to MPs at their meeting of Tuesday the 28th.

“We’ve agreed to subpoena persons in respect of the information we received because we have to ascertain that there was compliance with Banking Act, Banking Regulations, Financial Intelligence Act and other important laws and regulations. We’ve to check if some banks or individuals employed by some banks colluded with those who plundered the NPF or not. So on Wednesday the 5th of September we intend to call witnesses from commercial banks to ask them a few questions,” said the PAC chairman.

Pressed further Keorapetse pointed to more challenges besieging his committee, he indicated that the PAC has One Secretary who is seconded from the Auditor General and the whole Parliament has two legal officers being the Parliamentary Counsel and her Assistant; “they service the whole parliament including all committees. These people are the ones who draft our reports not of only PAC but other committees and we depend on them. They’re not even directly employed by Parliament.”

Keorapetse said their role as MPs of the Committee is to discuss these draft reports and add or subtract. “People should understand the delay from the backdrop of our rubber stamp parliament which lacks experts such as lawyers, economists, forensic accountants etc, it also has no complex internal structures. I can confirm that the few bureaucrats we have at our disposal are seized with the matter and are drafting the NPF report.”

The Selibe Phikwe West Member of Parliament told this publication that most MPs in the PAC have been campaigning for both primary elections and general elections (registration). He acknowledged that it hasn’t been easy to meet.
“It’s also easy for MPs to opt to be in their constituencies or attend to their personal businesses than to sit in a PAC meeting and be paid P350, it doesn’t make sense to many to give Committees their whole attention, that is why we struggle with quorum all the time. That’s the sad reality.”

Meanwhile Keorapetse said as a committee they have also had their own points of disagreement. “My view as chair of the NPF inquiry was that the examination is incomplete and we’ve many unanswered questions. Fundamental was for the Speaker to invoke her powers in the National Assembly Powers and Privileges Act to compel former DG of DIS to answer questions. Most committee members didn’t agree with this. Their view is that we’ve adequate information of what really happened, that we can infer from the refusal to answer questions and make conclusions,” he shared.

The DIS Act Section 29 establishes the Intelligence and Security Council which consists of the Permanent Secretary to the President, the Attorney General, The DG, and Deputy DG. It’s function according to Section 30 is to review intelligence policies and activities and examine the expenditure, administration, complaints by and oversee the legal framework of the Directorate.

Keorapetse pointed out that as Chair was that the decision on anti-poaching security issues and other related matters which resulted in the procurement of security equipment with NPF money by the DIS ought to have been discussed and authorized by Council as this clearly falls within their mandate. “I wanted to put all the members of the council on stand to clarify these matters. Majority of committee members disagreed with this opinion. “

Keorapetse said the PAC had to establish the extent of the President’s (Commander in Chief) knowledge and involvement in the NPF issues especially as it relates to the DIS. “Was he aware of security concerns the DG spoke about when he appeared before the PAC? Did he know that money was sourced from NPF for the purpose of security equipment procurement and did he authorize it? If he didn’t know how did he not know when High policy intelligence matters are reported to him?

I wanted to put former President Ian Khama on the stand regarding the matter but majority didn’t think it’s necessary. I think the VP and minister in the Presidency would be privy to high policy intelligence matters and may have been briefed about the security concerns and the need to procure some equipment from Israel with NPF or other money. I was of the view that these people should be called to answer questions the same way former Ministers Sadique Kebonang and Kitso Mokaila were called.”

Keorapetse said they also noted that the role of PPADB is also in question because it is not clear of the SPADC which  Manages Procurement of Highly Sensitive Items for Disciplined Services was involved or not. He noted that the PPADCB rejected the single sourcing for storage facilities “but what has been its role subsequently?”

“I was personally frustrated by all these and thought if we write a report without answers to these questions then our job isn’t over. But the attitude in our parliament has always been that “let’s get it over with”, even Bills pass through Parliament most of the time rather than being passed by Parliament. You should also note that most PAC MPs are ruling party MPs uneager to provide oversight of the executive for obvious reasons.”

According to Keorapetse Botswana parliament is extremely weak, “we don’t have the necessary capacity, human resource and other resources to effectively scrutinize some of these matters. People should understand that we are doing our best under the circumstances.”

Asked if he has any personal reasons to delay the NPF report, Keorapetse said, “My conscience is clear, I’ve been a consistent corruption fighter as DCEC Officer in 2007-2008, as an academic and columnist and as a trade unionists and politician. I don’t care about some brief-case political parties’ agents and their media plants who go around trying to damage me.

There are issues which I’ve explained which have delayed the report. PAC is a committee which does its work in public and that’s why I’m sharing this information with you and agree to answer your questions. Our secretariat will advise us when they’re ready.” The PAC is tasked with examining government books, and in this matter it is interrogating the Directorate on Intelligence Security Services’ (DISS) involvement in the P250 million National Petroleum Fund (NPF) scandal.

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 Zakhem vindicated

15th September 2021
Zakhem

Botswana Football Association (BFA) leadership appears to be bowing down to Nicolas Zakhem’s football pressure. The development comes to the open roughly 24 hours after the Gaborone United director publicly labelled Maclean Letshwiti and his committee failures for deciding to chop five premier league clubs under the pretext of club licensing disqualification.

As early as Wednesday noon, the BFA emergency committee met with one agenda item to discuss the possibility of reinstating the clubs. This publication gathers that the committee saw it fit to pardon the five clubs without entertaining a second thought. The committee even invited the clubs to the meeting, sources say.

Late last month, the five teams were disqualified from playing in the premier league, pending the appeal outcome. The teams are Notwane, Extension Gunners, BR Highlanders, Mogoditshane Fighters, together with Gilport Lions. The immediate decision by BFA follows what Zakhem had said and advised that it was wrong to chop clubs given the COVID-19 situation in the country.

Unbeknownst to BFA leadership, observers stress that Zakhem exerted public pressure and influenced them to change tone without asking. At the meeting, BFA president Maclean Letshwiti, his vices, Marshlow Motlogelwa and Masego Ntshingane, Aryl Ralebala, the Botswana Football League (BFL) chairman, together with Alec Fela, an ordinary member in the now stubborn NEC.

However, the reactive move by the association to reinstate the clubs is highly welcomed in certain quarters, but it also appears to have left a permanent scar, especially at BFL. As things stand, the general feeling on the ground is to oust chairman Ralebala for failing to defend these clubs before the eyes of President Letshwiti.

This publication has intercepted an ongoing petition to unseat Ralebala and his deputies from the BFL board. Strange enough, the signed petition has thus far attracted clubs with household influence in the league itself. GU, Township Rollers, Notwane, Extension Gunners, Police XI are some clubs that have already appended their signatures to have Ralebala removed.

The big clubs are believed to fighting for principle and demand fair governance at BFL. The reality is that these clubs command a large following, and sponsors can always have a say based on their presence.

When approached for clarity, Ralebala said he could not comment on allegations or issues that lack substance. He concedes that he has heard about the rolling petition but is yet to lay his eyes on it.
“I have heard about the petition, but I don’t know where it is coming from. I think it is best you ask those who have signed it. My focus is to commence the league and make sure everything is on point,” said Ralebala.

Football observers state that Ralebala, together with Letshwiti, are now faced with a dilemma. Reports coming from Lekidi Football Centre, although yet to be fabricated, are that the big guns lead others to form a parallel structure where they will play on their league. The clubs are angry at their chairman for taking many of the instructions from the BFA boss, and already a general melee is gathering traction that the two must resign as football has lost direction.

Zakhem says, although he supported Letshwiti, he has a sense of duty to stand for the truth. “I knew I supported Letshwiti and his troops, but you see, these guys have lost direction. I have long advised them that chopping clubs like this will cause confusion and delay progress, but they cannot listen. Letshwiti gave BFL autonomy, but I do not know why he is still interfering,” Zakhem said.

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The untold brighter side of the P100bn case fall

15th September 2021
President Dr Mokgweetsi Masisi

You may, by now, have heard about the dark side of the high profile P100 billion case, but wait, there is also the brighter side. Staff Writer AUBREY LUTE explores the positives accruing from the fall of the country’s biggest financial ‘scam-dal’.

A chance to fix the country’s financial record

They have not publicly been saying it, but the state agencies and the President, Dr Mokgweetsi Masisi, have been at pains to explain and rationalise how an amount almost equal to the country’s GPD left the central bank.

Many insiders attributed the country‘s troubled financial status to the case, including the grey-listing, non-compliance and identified deficiencies, some of which were hitting citizens around the globe. Botswana was in 2018 taken aback by FATF news that the country has been listed alongside countries that do not comply with (AML/CFT). The European Union Commission later flagged Botswana in March 2019 for lacking strategic deficiencies in AML/CFT regulations.

A chance to restore the dignity of the law enforcement arms

The case, without a doubt, was a distraction object on the law enforcement agencies, which spent a chunk of their time bickering and finger-pointing. A leaked audio recording exposing the explosive meeting of the law enforcement arms of government, being the Intelligence Services, Corruption and Economic Crimes agency, and the Prosecutions division summed it all.

The case presented a monumental crisis threatening the core of their being. Following these developments, the Presidency, clearly under the influence of a tripartite member, took a spine-chilling decision to disband the DCEC, a move that was saved by the organisation’s founding director- Tymon Katlholo’s bold protest.

The DPP, the Police, and the DCEC staff were used in the process to carry out bizarre instructions, some of which left the state with an egg on its face. Mistrust and backstabbing were the order of the day within the law enforcement agencies, and the P100 billion case was to blame. “Some badly wanted the plot executed while the other side badly wanted it to end to restore sanity,” an insider says.

The source further adds that “if the case did not end soon, it was going to end a lot of people’s relationships and careers because those who refused to carry the insane instructions were seen as sympathisers to former President Ian Khama.” With the case having fallen, these agencies can reflect, reconcile and go back to work.

A chance to fix diplomatic relations…

It was not only South Africa that was accused of Sabotaging Botswana’s prosecutorial goal. The state also accused several countries of refusing or delaying to assist in the process. Of all the nations, only South Africa has decided to take Botswana to task, perhaps on its proximity to Botswana. Others long ignored Botswana’s requests for assistance to the frustration of former DPP deputy director who repeatedly told the courts that they were struggling to get responses from the international community. With the case having fallen, Botswana may get a chance to face her actions, apologise and rectify the promise that lessons have been learnt.

Pressure off the shoulders of those who have to account…

The case did not only affect the law enforcement agencies. All the stakeholders were put in the spotlight to provide answers. The first to bolt out of the circle was the central bank, Moses Pelaelo, who, like DCEC director-general, long declared the case a scam. He told the world that his books were in order and that no money was missing risking his high-paying job.

According to insiders, his superiors, the then Minister of Finance and Development Planning – Dr Matsheka and his subordinate, Dr Wildfred Mandlebe, were only whispering, without success, to the Gods that there is no money missing.

So concerned and under pressure was Dr Sethibe- then the head of the Financial Intelligence Agency- who, like his Ministry supervisors, was engaging in silent screams to warn the powers that be, all in vain. He later jumped the ship to his former employer, the University of Botswana, allegedly to protect his name and career.

At the time of the fall of the case, the DIS and the DPP were at advanced plans to higher American to come and probe the Bank of Botswana’s servers in a move that bankers feared could compromise them further.

The case was bleeding the country’s coffers…

Had it not ended, the case was likely to end up ‘genuinely’ costing the country P100 billion Pula duo to its complexity and challenges. Insiders say sources who had sold the law enforcement agencies some falsified documents were paid handsomely.

Moreover, investigations were costly as they involved the international community and frequent travelling. “We are told there was also motivation for some officers to act abysmally and out of their way,” an insider said.

Lessons leant for public officers…

Public officers are often duty-bound to obey superiors instructions, no matter how irrational. The case was an eye-opener to many public officers that principle pays in the discharge of one’s duty at all times. The professional careers of the P100 billion case conspirators are currently in shambles. And as expected, the influencers, if at all there any, are nowhere to be seen.

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Botswana could exit FATF “greylisting” in October 

15th September 2021
President Dr Masisi & Minister of Finance and Economic Development Peggy Serame

Botswana remains on the grey list of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) and the “black list” of the European Union, a status quo that highlights the country as one of the high-risk jurisdictions to deal with money.

The far-reaching implications of these listings is a compromised Foreign Direct Investment drive for Botswana. In particular, these listings mean investors now have to exercise some caution and restrain when thinking about putting their money in Botswana. On Tuesday, Minister of Finance and Economic Development Peggy Serame said that Botswana could see itself out of the “undesirable listing” by October this year.

Serame called for united and concerted efforts towards liberating Botswana out of this financial noncompliance tag. She said the delisting could be archived by concerted efforts from all stakeholders: players in the financial services sector, non-financial services businesses, regulators, and every individual who deals with transactions.

Botswana is a founding member of the Eastern and Southern Africa Anti-Money Laundering Group (ESAAMLG). This regional body subscribes to the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) to combat money laundering and financing of terrorism and proliferation.

One of the membership obligations to ESAAMLG is for Botswana to be peer-reviewed by the other Member States and other international bodies like the World Bank, IMF or FATF.
The most recent assessment for Botswana to gauge compliance with the FATF standards was conducted by ESAAMLG in 2016 and culminated with publishing the Mutual Evaluation Report (MER) in 2017.

Following the discussion and adoption by the Task Force and approval of the MER by the Council of Ministers, the country was placed under enhanced follow-up.  This led to a one (1) year observation period in which the country was expected to improve its technical compliance (legislative framework) by correcting the deficiencies identified in the MER.

After one year, in October 2018, the Task Force decided that the country was not taking sufficient steps to implement the recommendations made by the assessors in the MER.  The Task Force recommended that Botswana be referred to the International Cooperation Review Group (ICRG) for monitoring and potential listing often referred to as the ‘FATF greylisting”.

Following the FATF greylisting, the EU placed Botswana on its list of high-risk third countries, often referred to as the ‘black list.’ In 2018, Botswana and FATF agreed to an Action Plan that had six items with several timelines. In terms of Risk and coordination, Botswana was told to develop and implement a risk-based comprehensive national AML/CFT strategy, assess the risks associated with legal persons, legal arrangements, and NPOs, and operationalize the modernized company registry to obtain and maintain essential information and Ultimate Beneficial Ownership information.

Botswana was further advised to enhance the capacity of the supervisory staff, including by developing risk-based supervision manuals and providing adequate training, implement risk-based AML/CFT supervision and impose sanctions against violations.

Furthermore, Botswana was instructed to improve analysis and dissemination of financial intelligence by the Financial Intelligence Unit, including operationalizing an online Suspicious Transactions Report filing platform and prioritizing high-risk predicate crimes, and enhancing the use of financial intelligence among the relevant law enforcement agencies.

Regarding terrorism financing investigation, Botswana was instructed to develop and implement a Counter Financing of Terrorism Strategy, operationalize the Counter-Terrorism Analysis and Fusion Centre, and ensure the Terrorism Financing investigation capacity of the law enforcement agencies.

In 2018, the 11th Parliament passed 25 pieces and, later, six others related to AML/CFT/CFP. At the just ended Parliamentary session of the 12th Parliament, lawmakers passed the Financial Intelligence (Amendment) Act to address the definition of beneficial ownership.

Cabinet approved the National AML/CFT/CFP Strategy of 2019-2024 in October 2019. At the June 2021 FATF Plenary meetings, the FATF made the initial determination that Botswana had substantially addressed the Action Plan and that this warranted an on-site assessment to verify that the implementation of Botswana’s AML/CFT/CFP reforms is in place and is being sustained.
Furthermore, an assessment was to be instituted to check if the necessary political commitment remains to sustain implementation in the future.

Serame said in a televised press briefing that Botswana’s exit from the FATF grey list and the EU black list would be determined by the outcome of the on-site assessment, which will be discussed at the FATF Plenary in October 2021.

She revealed that the Botswana delegation attended the Eastern and Southern Africa Anti-Money Laundering Group 42nd Task Force of Senior Officials meeting from the 26th August to the 6th September 2021, followed by the Council of Ministers on the 7th September 2021.

She told the media that at these meetings, Botswana was commended for making progress in complying with the FATF standards by addressing deficiencies in her AML/CFT/CFP framework.
“We are making all these efforts of complying with the FATF standards so that we guard against our financial system being used for money laundering, terrorism financing and proliferation financing,” she said.

“We are hopeful that at the October 2021 FATF Plenary meetings, the outcome of the on-site visit undertaken by the FATF in August 2021 will bear positive results, leading to Botswana being delisted from the FATF greylisting,” she said. However, Minister Serame called on all stakeholders to support the government to remove Botswana from the greylisting.

“As Government continues its efforts of putting in place the necessary legislative and institutional framework, due diligence must be exercised by all institutions, including the ordinary Motswana, so that no one is found dealing with financiers whose credibility is wanting,” she said.

The minister reiterated that all players in the financial services sector had a role to play: “It is important that where unsolicited funds are offered, the individual or entity so receiving the offer must ensure that the funds being offered are not associated with unlawful acts. If we are not diligent, criminals may use unsuspecting people and entities to launder proceeds of crime.”

She reiterated that the government is committed to doing all within its power to remove the country from the FATF “grey list” and the EU “black list”. However, she noted that to achieve that requires the cooperation and assistance of financial institutions, designated non-financial businesses and professions and individuals to ensure full compliance with AML/CFT/CFP rules and regulations.

“These efforts will not only assist us to be removed from these mentioned lists but are for the benefit of our country to maintain a high standard of financial prudence and an economy which genuine investors can have the confidence to invest in,” Serame explained.

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