For the first time in the history of its existence, the Botswana Public Officers Pension Fund (BPOPF) has found itself in a calamity of controversy and legal battles, some apportion the blame to the controversial approval by the Non-Bank Financial Institutions Regulatory Authority (NBFIRA), for the Public Pension Fund to self-administer.
Some in the pension industry are pointing to the leadership and guidance of the Pension Fund CEO Ms Boitumelo Molefe, who has not found progress and stability since she took reins of the Fund in July 2015, the CEO believes she is fighting a good course and the BPOPF will stabilize with time.
Last week may have been yet another one of a disappointing week for the CEO, as her alleged ally and supporter Mr Tobokani Rari was removed by vote, from his interim position of Board Chairman of the BPOPF to make way for Mr Solomon Mantswe. Mr Rari who is a Member Trustee and also Secretary General of Botswana Federation of Public Private and Parastatal Sector Unions (BOFEPUSO), took a temporary seating on the Board Chairmanship following the ousting of Permanent Secretary to the President, Carter Morupisi as Chairman, amid allegations of conflict of interest and corruption.
This was a celebrated development by Ms Molefe and her allies as the CEO believed she had dodged a bullet of being relieved of her duties by the former Chairman. However, sources state that things may not be going as planned for her looking at the recent development of the voting of the Board of Trustees to elect a substantive Board Chairperson.
Out of a total of ten (10), only three (3) Board Members, including Ms Molefe, voted in a vain attempt to substantiate Mr Rari’s appointment as Chairperson. With BPOPF current woes, the biggest one being the P400 million legal battle it has spearheaded against one of the Pension Fund’s investment manager, Capital Management Botswana (CMB); this may mean that the majority of the Board would like to take on a different approach in dealing with and coming up with solutions for the Fund matters.
The newly appointed Chairperson, Mr Solomon Mantswe, has been a BPOPF Trustee since April 2013 and has also held the position of Communications Committee Chairperson of the Pension Fund to date. He is also the Director of Departmental Management Services since 2012. All eyes are on the man with the hope that he may steer the decision making of the Board to a more productive and less confrontational manner; for the betterment of the Fund which is greatly needed at the moment.
In addition to its legal issues, the BPOPF has also found itself in dire need of rescue as its administration problems have caused the Fund to be unable to declare returns for its members for a period of two (2) years since 2016, thus neglecting its administrative duty to its Members as required by regulation. This has resulted in Members not being provided with their Benefit Statements in the two years.
Something which experts in the field wonder why the Regulator, NBFIRA, has not intervened urgently to order an investigative audit by skilled consultants, to assist identify the problems so that they may be rectified and progress be made. In April 2018 Ms Molefe stated that they have had challenges with the Fund’s data which has resulted in their inability to declare returns or interest rates for its Members.
She had also made claims to the effect that the Fund’s Actuaries have uncovered a maladministration amounting to P1.5 billion, of funds lost through Pensioner ghost accounts by the Fund’s former administrator Alexander Forbes. Ms Molefe is however yet to substantiate these claims. This has however, raised the question of authenticity of the maladministration claims, especially that it took a whole two years for the CEO’s office to disclose such implicating information.
This was also following an audited and sequential handover between herself and the former Administrator, Alexander Forbes Financial Services, of which during the process the CEO never cried foul. Alexander Forbes had held the administration and actuarial duties of the Pension Fund for a period of fifteen (15) years from 2001, a period of which was free of administrative scandals.
The remaining question on the matter is, albeit the allegations, if indeed there is P1.5 billion missing from the Fund’s pensioners’ account, where has the money gone and who took it. And this is something which can only be established by an independent audit of affairs on the administration of the civil servants’ Pension Fund. Currently BPOPF Members do not have a clue how much they have saved in the Fund since March 2016 as they have not been given their Pension Fund Statements for two years.
The Fund’s Secretariat cannot confirm how much is in each individual Member’s account in the Fund. And those leaving the Fund due to retirement, retrenchment, death, resignation or dismissal are paid their dues on assumed values. Some going for months on end without any payment of their benefits or explanation for lack of. Another matter that begs the question; for how long will this status of affairs in the Pension Fund continue at the detriment of the Members? BPOPF is expected to address a media conference next week to deal with developing issues.
In a classic and shocking case of disgrace and dishonour to this country, the law enforcement agencies are currently struggling to cover up a damaging and humiliating scandal of having conspired to forge the signature of a Palapye Chief Magistrate, Rebecca Motsamai in an unlawful acquisition of the much-publicised 2019 warrant of arrest against Isaac Kgosi, the former director of the Directorate of Intelligence Services (DIS).
The cloak-and-dagger arrest was led by the DIS director, Brigadier Peter Magosi supported by the Botswana Police, Botswana Defence Force (BDF), with the Botswana Unified Revenue Services (BURS) which accused Kgosi of tax evasion, in the backseat.
Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) constituent members are struggling to reach an agreement over the allocation of wards for the imminent ward by-elections across the country.
Despite a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC), Botswana Patriotic Front (BPF) and Alliance for Progressives (AP) are said to be active, but the nitty-gritties are far from being settled.
The eight bye-elections will be a precursor of a somewhat delayed finalisation of the brittle MoU. The three parties want to draw a plan on how and who will contest in each of the available wards.
This publication has gathered that the negotiations will not be a run off the mill because there is already an impasse between the Botswana Congress Party (BCP) which is a UDC constituent and AP (currently negotiating to join umbrella).
The by-elections joint committee met last week at Cresta President Hotel in a bid to finalise allocation but nothing tangible came out of the gathering, sources say.
The cause of the stalemate according to those close to events, is the Metsimotlhabe Ward which the two parties have set their eyes on.
In 2019, he ward was won by Botswana Democratic Party’s (BDP) Andrew Sebobi who unfortunately died in a tragic accident in February last year.
Sebobi had convincingly won by 1 109 votes in the last elections; and was trailed by Sephuthi Thelo of the UDC trailed him with 631 votes; while Alliance for Progressives’ Innocent Moamogwe got 371 votes.
Thelo is a BCP candidate and as per UDC norm, incumbency prevails meaning that the BCP will contest since they were runners up. On the other hand, AP has also raised its hand for the same.
“AP asked for it on the basis that they have a good candidate but BCP did not agree to that request also arguing they have a better contestant,” one UDC member confided to this publication.
Notwithstanding Metsimotlhabe Ward squabble, it is said the by-election talks are almost a done deal, with Botswana National Front (BNF) tipped to take Boseja South ward in Mochudi East constituency. Botswana Patriotic Front (BPF) will be awarded Tamasane Ward in Lerala/Maunatlala constituency, sources say.
“But the agreement has to be closed by National Executive Committee (NEC),” emphasized the informant.
The NEC is said to have been cautioned not to back the wrong horse but rather rate with reason and facts.
UDC President, Duma Boko has told this publication that, “allocation is complete with two wards already awarded but with only one yet to be finalized,” he could not dwell into much details as to which party got what and the reasons for the delay in finalisation.
Chairperson of the by-elections committee, Dr. Phenyo Butale responded to this publication regarding the matter: “As AP we contested and as you may be aware we signed the MoU with UDC and BPF to collaborate on bye-elections. The opposition candidate for all bye-elections will be agreed by these parties and that process is still ongoing,” he said when asked if AP is interested on the ward and how far with the talks on bye-elections.
Butale, a former Gaborone Central Member of Parliament, who is also AP Secretary General continued to say, “As the chairperson of the bye-elections committee we are still seized with that matter. We should also do some consultations with the local structures. Once the process is complete we will issue a notice for now we cannot talk about the other two while the other is still pending the other one”.
Butale further clarified: “There is no such thing as AP and BCP not in agreement. It is an issue of signatories discussing and determining the opposition candidates across the three wards.”
Apart from the three wards, there are five more council wards that UDC is yet to allocate to cooperating partners.
FROM PALAPYE MEET: BPP CAUTION NEC MEMBERS
With the UDC cheerful from last weekend’s meeting in Palapye, the meeting however was very tense on the side of both BCP and BNF, with only BPP flexing its muscle and even lashing out.
BCP going into the meeting, had promised to ask difficult questions to the UDC NEC.
BCP VP and also acting Secretary General, Dr. Kesitegile Gobotswang, presented their qualms which were addressed by UDC Chairperson Motlatsi Molapisi, informants say.
It is said Molapisi is fed up and concerned by some UDC members especially those in the NEC who ‘wash party’s dirty linen in public’.
Insiders say the veteran politician cautioned the NEC members that they “will not expel any party but individuals who tarnish the image of the UDC.”
It is not the first time BPP play a paternalistic role as it once expressed its discontent with BCP in 2020, saying it should never wash UDC linen in public.
At first it is said, BPP, the oldest political formation in Botswana, claims disappointment on BCP stance that UDC should be democratised especially by sharing their stand with the media. Again, BPP was not happy with BCP leader Dumelang Saleshando’s decision to air his personal views on social media regarding the merger of UDC party.
Botswana Police Service (BPS) Commissioner, Keabetswe Makgophe, has of late been dousing raging fires from various quarters of society following the infiltration of the police fingerprint system by the Directorate on Intelligence and Security (DIS), WeekendPost has learnt.
Fresh information gleaned from a number of impeccable sources, points to a pitiable working relationship between the two state organs. Cause of concern is the DIS continuous big brother role to an extent that it is now interfering with other institutions’ established mandates.
BPS which works closely with the DIS has been left exasperated by the works of the institution formed in 2008. It is said, the DIS through its Information Technology (IT) experts in collusion with some at BPS forensics department managed to infiltrate the Fingerprint system.
The infiltration, according to those in the know, was for the DIS to “teach a lesson” to some who are on their radar. It is said the DIS is playing and fighting dirty to win the fights they have lost before.
By managing to hack the police finger print system, a number of renowned businessmen and other politically exposed persons found their fingers in the system. What surprised the victims is the fact that they have never been charged of any wrongdoing by the police and they were left reeling in shock to learn that their fingers are on the data-base of criminals.
In fact, some of those who their fingerprints were falsely included in the records of those on the wrong side of law learnt later when other errands demanded their fingerprints.
“We learnt later when we had to submit and buy some documents and we were very shocked,” one politician who is also a businessman confided to this publication this week.
“We then learn that there are some fabricated criminality recorded for us, as to when did we commit those remained secret to the police, but then we had to engage our lawyers on the matter and that is when we were cleared,” said the politician-cum- tenderpreneur.
The lawyers have confirmed engaging the police and that the matters were settled in a gentlemen’s agreement and concluded.
All these happened behind the scenes with the police top brass oblivious only to be confronted by the irked lot, police sources also add. The victimized group who most of them have been fighting lengthy battles with the DIS read malice and did not blink when it was revealed that these were done by the DIS.
“And it was clear that they (DIS) are the ones in this dirty war which we don’t understand. Remember when we sue, it will be the Police at the courts not the DIS and that is why we agreed to a ceasefire more so they also requested that be kept under carpet,” said the victim.
Nonetheless, the Police through its spokesperson Assistant Commissioner, Dipheko Motube, briefly said: “we do not have any system that has been hacked.” On the other hand DIS mouthpiece Edward Robert was not in office this week to comment on the matter.
Reports however say DIS boss, Peter Magosi, who most of the victims accuse of the job, is said to have met his police counterpart Makgophe to put the matter to bed.
COVID-19 RAVAGES POLICE
As frontline workers, Police have not escaped the wrath of Covid-19. Already the numbers of those infected has reached the highest of high and they suggest that they be priorities on vaccine rollout.
“Our job is complicated, firstly we arrest including those who are non-compliant to Covid protocols and we go to accidents and many more. These put us at risk and it seems our superiors are not bothered,” said one police officer this week.
The cops further complain about that working spaces are small, as such expose them to contact the virus.
“Some tests positive and go for quarantine while the rest of the unit will be left without even test carried out. If at all the bosses are serious all the police officers should every now and then be subjected to testing or else we will be no more because of the virus,” added another officer based in Gaborone.
The government has since placed teachers on the priority list for the vaccines, it remains to be seen whether the police, who also man road blocks, will be considered.
“But our bosses should convince the country leadership about this, if not then we are doomed,” concluded a more senior officer.