Fresh information reaching this publication is that the Directorate of Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC) is faced with a huge and complex task of investigating how millions intended for implementing the e-government project since 2012 wound up in the wrong hands.
The investigation, according to impeccable sources started some time ago, and is also expected to take many years to be completed. “Some cases require a lot of time to be investigated. This case is one complex matter. It might take even five years from now for the investigations to be complete.” According to information gathered by WeekendPost, the money got entangled between the Office of President, Ministry of Transport and Communications and the Directorate on Intelligence and Security Services (DIS) in the past government.
At one point the permanent secretaries who are the accounting officers in the involved ministries were summoned to account for the missing millions. There was a communiqué from the involved ministries and department as to where some funds were to be transferred, “but the millions never reached the said destiny”. During confrontation, one PS is said to have admitted to signing for the money to be transferred to a particular account, but said he was surprised he never received communication confirming receipt of the sum.
According to the Ministry of Transport and Communications, when the project was kick-started in 2012, it was allocated P74m. The ministry noted that it managed to do one project of e-tax filing solution for Botswana Unified Revenue Services (BURS). And the rest of the amount “was used to implement e-government components by other government departments like the retooling of public officers by Directorate of Public Service Management (DPSM)”.
As for the 2016/17 financial year, the ministry noted that it carried out four projects being short term training in the e-government office which is complete; professional services for e-government programme management which is also complete; the government of Botswana Enterprise Architecture which is ongoing and the supply installation and configuration of data centre servers and network device which is also ongoing.
When asked to comment on issues surrounding the e-government last week, former President Lt. Ian Khama’s immediate response was that, “e-government is there. It needs improvement, there is no doubt.” He noted that the whole idea was that citizens of this country can get information for their benefit and services online. He said at one point this project was coordinated at the Office of President (OP) and later given to Ministry of Transport and Communications.
When asked about the money that is alleged to have been illegally routed through the Transport ministry to the DIS, the former president denied the said allegations. He said, “If DIS came into it, it would only have been to ensure that the system that is put in place is protected,” he said. He went on to say that in other countries such systems have been hacked, not only internally but even from other countries hacking other countries’ own system.
This, he noted, requires that measures be put in place to have some kind of security in the system, built into the system so that the system does not collapse due to the hacking. “So if DIS was involved, it would have been to advice about those kinds of things and to protect the services that are provided online.” When contacted for comment on Thursday, the DCEC office said it would not comment on the matter for now.
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.