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Confessions of a thieving ps

With government coffers bleeding to debilitating levels, a former permanent secretary (PS), who on one or two occasions had to participate in some corrupt activities in favour of his minister to secure him a government contract, has made a confession to this publication on how government is crippled of billions of pulas.

His reason for sharing, he says, is the popping out of activities that have fleeced government of billions of Pula. He cites the National Petroleum Fund (NPF), the Palapye Glass Project, the Morupule B Power Plant, a series of suspicious tenders awarded at Ministerial Tender Committee levels as the main sources of leakage within government. He also points to the plethora of Funds and Levies which are mismanaged and abused as the reason why Botswana “will soon be on her knees, if the carnage is not stopped.”

The former PS, whose name is known to this publication said he was worried by the fact that in many instances, the public views them as lazy people who do not even know their job. “But, the issue here is a lot happens behind closed doors in government offices. People take advantage of the five years and below contract term that we work under, and they just make us do corrupt things knowing we will be afraid of losing our jobs,” he noted.

“You get instructions telephonically or verbally that such contractor must be awarded a tender. And you will be told that you must see to it that you organise a proper team which will help you do the assessment process well. If maybe you don’t have people who do not question things, some officials will be transferred from other government departments to do as the seniors have instructed.”

The PS said sometimes they would ask their bosses to make a written instruction whereby they will be promised, but to no avail. “And you cannot ask them for the second time to make a written instruction; you just carry out the job as commanded,” he decried. He further noted that at times, they even get instructions from their juniors who lead certain departments within the ministry. “And because you are on contract, you just implement.

Of course, you know very well that what is being proposed is contrary to procurement, protocols or even accounting protocols: But you fear for your contract which would normally be extended by approval of that individual.” He decried that these dynamics of communicating verbally without any footprints have led to a lot of officers resigning for lack of evidence to prove the offending actions.

BUT THE MONEY PORES KEEP OPENING UP

Just recently the Public Procurement and Asset Disposal Board (PPADB) increased thresholds for Ministries’ Ministerial Tender Committees (MTCs). But according to this permanent secretary, “this is where the biggest problem lies.” He says they are easily instructed verbally to giving jobs to certain companies regardless of whether they qualify for the job or not.

In his estimation, “tax payers are losing billions to a well-orchestrated corruption scheme within government.” The former permanent secretary likens the scheme to a pyramid scheme because the key players are linked by their corrupt activities and they help each other get contracts or tenders across ministries.

“It is unfortunate that those who are sucking government of millions of Pula have been retained in cabinet. The thing is they always make sure it is not their names that appear on documents, they are smart. But they get the money and we ruin our names and reputations,” he said. The former permanent secretary said it is embarrassing that government is owing fuel suppliers more than P1.2 billion. “This is all because of the mismanagement and looting that took place at the National Petroleum Fund (NPF)”. He points out that some of the service providers are owed money in the region of between P200 million and P300 million.

Just last week, the Minister of Mineral Resources, Green Technology and Energy Security, Eric Molale, acting on behalf of the Minister of Finance and Economic Development transferred an amount of P430 million from the Road Levy Collections Fund to the National Petroleum Fund (NPF).

According to the Government Gazette of 25th May 2018, Molale cites that “…it is in the best interest of the public and the exigencies of the financial situation renders it expedient to withdraw funds from the Road levy Collections Fund to the National Petroleum Fund.” Finance and Economic Development Minister, Kenneth Matambo told WeekendPost in an interview on Friday last week that, “Yes, we gave NPF the money. NPF is bankrupt as we speak,” he said,

INCREASED THRESHOLD IS A BLANK CHEQUE TO THIEVES

The former permanent secretary is concerned that the Public Procurement and Asset Disposal Board (PPADB) has reviewed and increased the financial ceilings of both the Ministerial Tender Committees (MTCs) and District Administration Tender Committees (DATCs). He says this should have come with more tight financial controls. Although he draws solace from the proposed declaration of assets and liabilities laws and Financial Intelligence Act, he is worried by the sluggish implementation of oversight laws in the country.

According to the reviewed thresholds, one of the Ministries that brew the biggest scandal in the country,  the Ministry of Mineral Resources, Green Technology and Energy Security had its threshold shoot from P300 000 000 to P600 000 000 . The new ceilings will become effective on the 1st June 2018. According to the PPADB the objective is to improve efficiency in the procurement system by ensuring that timely decisions are made at the Ministry and District level. “But there can’t be efficiency where corruption is the main reason for floating tenders and jobs,” observes the former permanent secretary.

The PPADB is mandated in terms of Section 65 of the Public Procurement and Asset Disposal (PPAD) Act to carry out this exercise. Another jump in threshold saw the Ministry of Land Management, Water and Sanitation Services also had its threshold doubled from P200 000 000 to P400 000 000.

Central Medical Stores, which has been on front pages for fraud related issues in the past had Adjudication Committee also leaped from P100 000 000 to P200 000 000. Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security Ministerial Tender Committee will now preside over a threshold of P240 000 000 instead of the old P120 000 000. The Ministry of Basic Education threshold has improved from P80 000 000 to P130 000 000.

The Ministry of Defence, Justice and Security Ministerial tender Committee budget has doubled from P160 000 000 to P320 000 000. The Ministry of Employment, Labour Productivity and Skills Development is up to P160 000 000 from P100 000 000; while the Ministry of Environment, Natural Resources Conservation and Tourism threshold doubles to P130 000 000.

The Ministry of Finance and Economic Development Tender Committee will make decisions worth P200 000 000 effective 1st June2018, a double from P100 000 000, the same figures and changes apply to the Ministry of Health and Wellness. The Ministry of Infrastructure and Housing Development Tender Committee threshold experienced the biggest percentage jump from P135 000 000 to P400 000 000.

On the other hand the Ministry of International Affairs and Cooperation Ministerial Tender Committee threshold was increased from P65 000 000  to P130 000 000; as for the Ministry of Investment, Trade and Industry, the Ministerial Tender Committee will start presiding over tender worth P300 000 000 compared to the previous P150 000 000. At the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development, the threshold has doubled to P240 000 000; as is the case at Ministry of Nationality, Immigration and Gender Affairs where the figure has doubled to P200 000 000.

The Ministry of Presidential Affairs, Governance and Public Administration Ministerial Tender Committee will deal with awards capped at P160 000 000, a jump from P80 000 000. At the Ministry of Tertiary Education, Research, Science and Technology the Tender Committee has been capped at P160 000 000, an increase from the old P80 000 000. Ministry of Transport and Communications’ Ministerial Tender Committee has its ceiling pinned at P260 000 000, an improvement from the P160 000 000 of old. The Ministry of Youth Empowerment, Sport and Culture Development also has a huge percentage jump from P120 000 000 to P360 000 000.

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BONELA speaks on same-sex decriminalization case

18th October 2021
BONELA

In June 2019, a case involving the Attorney General was brought before the High Court, in which the applicant Letsweletse Motshidiemang challenged Sections 164 (a) and 167 of the Penal Code. The applicant contended that these sections are unconstitutional because they violate the fundamental rights of liberty and privacy. 

The applicant argued that these sections violated his right and freedom to liberty as he was subject to abject ignominy. These laws subjected the LGBTIQ community to brutal and debasing treatment through social control and public morality. On the 1st of November 2017, the Botswana High Court further allowed Lesbians, Gays and Bisexuals of Botswana (LEGABIBO) to join the case as amicus curiae.

However, in July 2019, the respondents, in this case, i.e. the Government, filed an appeal against this iconic High Court ruling seeking re-criminalization of homosexuality. Human Rights Group has criticized this move of the Government all over the world.  The appeal was heard before five judges at the Court of Appeal on Tuesday. The State was represented by Advocate Sidney Pilane, while LEGABIBO and Letsweletse Motshidiemang were represented by Tshiamo Rantao and Gosego Rockfall Lekgowe, respectively.

Non-Governmental Organizations advocating for the LGBTIQ+ community joined the two parties at the Court of Appeal during this case. They argue that the minority group should enjoy their rights, especially the right to privacy and health. Botswana Network on Ethics, Law and HIV/AIDS (BONELA) Chief Executive Officer, Cindy Kelemi says the issues being raised by LEGABIBO are that as individuals belonging to the LGBTIQ community, they have and must share equal rights, including the right to privacy, which also speaks to being able to involve in sexual activities, including anal sex.

“Those rights are framed within the constitution, and therefore a violation of any of those rights allow them to approach the courts and seek for redress. We do not need the law to be regulating what we do in the privacy of our homes. The law cannot determine how and when we can have sex and with who, so the law does not have any business in that context. What we are saying is that the law is violating the right to privacy,” she said on the sidelines of the decriminalization case in Gaborone on Tuesday.

The first case involving the homosexual act was the Utjiwa Kanane vs the State in 2003. Contrary to section 164(c) of the Penal Code, Kanane was charged with committing an unnatural offence and engaging in indecent practices between males, contrary to section 167. The conduct at issue involved Graham Norrie, a British tourist, and occurred in December 1994. (Norrie pleaded guilty, paid a fine, and left the country.)

Kanane pleaded not guilty, alleging that sections 164(c) and 167 both violated the constitution. The High Court ruled that these sections of the Penal Code did not violate the constitution. Kanane then appealed to the Court of Appeal. BONELA CEO recalls that in its judgment then, the High Court indicated, Batswana were not ready for homosexual acts. Twenty years later, the same courts are saying that Batswana are ready, she says.

“They gave the explicit example that shows that indeed Batswana are ready. There are policies and documents in place that accommodate people from marginalized communities and minority populations. The question now is that why is it hard now to recognize the full rights of an individual who is of the LGBTI community?” She further says intimacy is only an expression. The law that restricts homosexuality makes it hard for LGBTIQ members to express themselves in a way that affirms who they are.

“We want a situation where the law facilitates for the LGBTIQ community to be free and express themselves. The stigma that they face in communities is way too punitive. They are called names; some have been physically violated and raped at times. It shows that the law doesn’t not only prevent them from expressing themselves, it also exposes them to violence.” The law on its own, Kelemi submits, cannot change the status quo, adding that there is a need for more awareness and education on human rights and what it means for an individual to have rights.

“As it is now, it is very tough for some to do that because of a legal environment that is not enabling. We also want to see a situation where LGBTIQ+ people can access services and be confident that they are provided with non-discriminatory services. It is challenging now because health care providers, social workers and law enforcement officers believe that it is illegal to be homosexual. What we are saying is that if you have an enabling law, then that will facilitate for people to be able to express themselves, including accessing health services,” Kelemi said.

“As we are doing this advocacy work, one of the issues that we picked up is that there is lack of capacity, especially on the part of healthcare workers. We noted that when we provide services or mobilize Men who have sex with other men (MSM) to access health facilities, health care workers are not welcoming, forcing them to hideaway. We must put an end to this to allow these people the freedom that they equally deserve.”

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Masisi warns Gov’t officials

18th October 2021
President Masisi

The President, Dr Mokgweetsi Masisi, has declared as an act of corruption the attitude and practice by government officials and contractors to deliver projects outside time and budget, adding that such a practice should end as it eats away from the public coffers.

For a very long time, management problems and vast cost overruns have been the order of the day in Botswana, resulting in public frustrations. Speaking at the commissioning of the Masama/Mmamashia 100 Kilometres project this week, Masisi said: “There is a tendency in government to leave projects to drag outside their allocated completion time and budget. I want to stress that this will not be tolerated. It is an act of corruption, and I will be engaging offices on this issue,” Masisi said.

In an interview with this publication over the issue, the Director-General of the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC), Tymon Katholo, says, “any project that goes beyond its scope and budget raises red flags.” He continued that: “Corruption on these issues can be administrative and criminal. It may be because government officials have been negligent or been paid to be negligent by ignoring certain obligations or procedures. “This, as you may be aware has serious implications on not only of the economy but even the citizens who use these facilities or projects,” Katlholo said, adding that his agency is equally concerned.

According to the DCEC director, the selection, planning and delivery of infrastructure or projects is critical. In most cases, this is where the corruption would have occurred, leading to a troubled project. A public finance expert at the University of Botswana (UB), Emmanuel Botlhale, attributes poor project implementation to declining public accountability, lack of commitment to reforming the public sector, a decline in the commitment by state authorities and lack of a culture of professional project management.

In his research paper titled, ‘Enhancing public project implementation in Botswana during the NDP 11 period,’ Botlhale stated that successful implementation is critical in development planning. If there is poor project implementation, economic development will be stalled.
Corruption is particularly relevant for large and uncommon projects where the public sector acts as a client, and experts say Megaprojects are very likely to be affected by corruption. Corruption worsens both cost and time performance and the benefits expected from such projects.

Speaking during this week’s Masama/Mmamashia pipeline commissioning, Khato Civils chairman said Africans deserve a chance because they are capable, further adding that the Africans do not have to think that only Whites and Chinese people can do mega projects.  During his rule, former president Ian Khama went public to attack Chinese contractors for costing the government a move that ended up fuelling tensions between China and Botswana after Khama dispatched the then Minister of Foreign Affairs, Pelonomi Venson Moitoi, to China to register Botswana’s complaints with Chinese government-owned construction companies.  Botswana had approached the Chinese government for help in its marathon battle with Chinese companies contracted to build, among others, the failed controversial Morupule B power plant and refurbishment of Sir Seretse Khama International Airport (SSIK).

 

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Guma’s battle for millions of Pula give Court headache

18th October 2021
Guma Moyo

A legal battle between former Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) legislator Samson Moyo Guma and First National Bank (FNB) over a multimillion oil refinery project intensified this week with Justice Zein Kebonang referring the matter to Court of Appeal for determination.  The project belongs to Moyo Guma’s company called United Refineries which he has since placed under judicial management.

The war of words between Moyo Guma and FNB escalated after the company’s property worth millions of Pula were put up for sale in execution by the bank and scheduled to take place on 8th October. It emerges from Court papers that the bank had secured an order from the High Court to place the company’s property under the hammer.

Moyo Guma then also approached the High Court seeking among others that the public auction scheduled for 8th October 2021 be stayed. He contended that the assets that were to be sold belonged in reality to United Refineries and that as the company had been under judicial management at the time of the attachment, the intended sale in execution was unlawful.

He also sought the Court to declare that the writs of execution against the properties of guarantors and sureties of United Refineries Botswana Holdings Propriety Limited (the company) are unlawful.  Moyo Guma also sought a stay of the execution against the property known as Plot 43556 in Francistown, that is, the land buildings, plant and machinery which make up the property and any all immovable or movable property belonging to the guarantors and sureties of the company pending finalization of the winding up of United Refineries.

But FNB disputed Moyo Guma’s assertions and submitted that the properties in question belonged to TEC (Pty) Ltd and not United Refiners. TEC Pty Ltd which is one of the shareholders in United Refineries is one of the sureties and co-principal debtors of a debt amounting to P24 million owed by United Refineries to FNB.  FNB argued in papers that the properties belonged to TEC because it was TEC which had passed a covering mortgage bond in its favour over the property it now sought to execute.

Moyo Guma submitted that the covering mortgage bond passed in favour of FNB did not tell the full story as the property in question was in truth and fact owned by United Refineries and not TEC Pty Ltd. He maintained that the shares had been had been passed by the company in exchange for the properties in question and that the parties had always been guided by the spirt of the share agreement in dealing with each other despite delays in the change or transfer of ownership of plots 43556 and plot 43557 in Francistown.

Kebonang said it was clear to him that the two plots (43556 and 435570 belonged to United Refineries notwithstanding that TEC (Pty) Ltd had passed a mortgage bond over them in favour of FNB.  “For this reason the properties were immune from attachment or sale in execution so long as the judicial management order was in place,” he said.

The background of the case is that Moyo Guma together with five other investors, namely Elffel Flats (Pty) Ltd; Mmoloki Tibe; TEC (Pty) Ltd; Profidensico (Pty) Ltd and Tiedze Bob Chapi, each bound themselves as sureties and co-principal debtors in respect of a debt owed by a company called United Refineries Botswana Holdings (Proprietary) Limited (the Company), to First National Bank Botswana (FNBB) (1st Respondent).

FNB had extended banking facilities to the company in the amount of P24 million which was then secured through the suretyship of Moyo Guma and other shareholders.  Court records show that Moyo had on the 11th February obtained a temporary order for the appointment of a provisional judicial manager in respect of United Refineries and it was confirmed by the High Court on 24th September 2019.

In terms of the final court order by the High Court issued by Justice Tshepho Motswagole all judicial proceedings against the company, execution of all writs, summons and process were stayed and could only proceed with leave of Court. Court documents also show that First National Bank had sued the company and the sureties for the recovery of the debt owed to it and through a consent order, the bank withdrew its lawsuit against the company.

But FNB later instituted fresh proceedings against Moyo Guma and did not cite the company in its proceedings.  “There is no explanation in the record as to why the Applicant was now reflected as the 1st Defendant and why the company had suddenly been removed as the 1st Defendant. There was no application either for amendment or substitution by the bank,” said Justice Kebonang.

FNB had also argued that it sought to proceed to execute against Moyo Guma and other sureties on the basis of the suretyship they signed and that by signing the suretyship agreement, Moyo and other sureties had renounced all defence available to them and could therefore be sued without first proceedings against the principal debtor (United Refineries).  The question, Kebonang said, was that can FNB proceed to execute against Moyo Guma and other sureties on the basis of the suretyship contracts they signed?

“The starting point is that the Applicant (Moyo Guma) and others by binding themselves as sureties became liable for debts of the principal debtor and such liability is joint and several. He said the consequences of placing the company under judicial management means that every benefit extended to it should also extend to sureties.

“If the company is afforded more time to pay or its debt is discharged, reduced or compromised or suspended the obligation of sureties is to be likewise treated. It follows in my view that where judicial proceedings are suspended or stayed against the company, then any recourse against the sureties is similarly stayed or suspended,’ said Kebonang.

He added that “In the circumstances of this case, it seems to me that so long as the company is under judicial management, the moratorium that applies to it must also apply to its sureties/guarantors and no execution of the writs should be permitted against them. Any execution would be invalid.”

“Mindful that there is judicial precedent on this point in Botswana, at least none that I am aware of, and given its significance, I consider it prudent that the Court of Appeal must provide a determinative answer to the question whether a creditor can proceed against sureties where a company is under judicial management,” said Kebonang.

Pending the determination of the Court of Appeal, he issued the following order; the execution of writs issued in favour of FNB against Moyo and other sureties/guarantors of United Refinery are hereby stayed pending the determination of the legal question referred to the Court of Appeal.

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