Eight years ago, the then Ministry of Minerals, Energy and Water Resources funded the construction of petroleum storage facilities around the country; and these were, and still are owned by the Directorate of Intelligence and Security Services (DIS). These were funded from the National Petroleum Fund (NPF).
In August 2017, the DIS proposed that the ministry which has since been renamed Ministry of Mineral Resources; Green Technology and Energy Security releases an amount of P250m for the design and construction of additional sites in a bid to further expand these sites to cater for other essential government organs. The ministry promptly responded by acceding to the request and stipulated the funds within the NPF.
It would appear that prior to 2017 similar funds for similar purposes would have been set aside in the NPF and used strictly for petroleum related projects. “The Fund manager being Kgori Capital appears to have had issues with such an arrangement as it was only mandated to invest for the fund and were becoming uncomfortable with transacting on behalf of the DIS. The CEO of the Fund manager Bakang Seretse then met with the ministry officials and the DIS boss Isaac Kgosi to discuss an alternative,” an impeccable source revealed to this publication.
“It was agreed at this meeting that a private company be created to disburse these funds, in which case the funds would be drawn out of the NPF to such a company. Apparently the DIS argued the angle of national security that such facilities if carried out under the PPADB would become common knowledge and lose their tactical importance. At this meeting, the private company, Khulaco Management Services was agreed to.” This is the company in which the accused Seretse and Botho Leburu are directors.
Following the said meeting, a letter from Khulaco to the ministry accepts the appointment and immediately states that they will charge a fee of 20 percent of the deposited amount. This led to another meeting after which the Ministry attempted to streamline the process of drawdown to include submission of project plans and defined how mobilisation fees would be paid, according to documents seen by this publication. Sources further reveal that the DIS appeared agreeable to the stipulated processes from the ministry and immediately instructed the ministry to pay P250m into Khulaco’s account.
Sadique Kebonang’s ministry subsequently instructed the NPF manager to release P230m to Khulaco. The transaction according to documents seen by this publication took a swift 3 days but the first disbursement out of the Khulaco account was not until three (3) months later.
Somewhere in October, the DIS boss requested a variation to the utilisation of the P230m from approved DIS petroleum projects to security equipment and intelligence gathering platforms. He justified the request based on a change in the national threat analysis which now showed anti-poaching, human and drug trafficking as new threats requiring prioritisation. The day after this request, the Acting Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Mineral Resources, Green Technology & Energy Security, Dr Obolokile Obakeng granted the DIS the requested variation. “The question now is whether the variation was lawful? Can the Fund money be used for anything that is unrelated to petroleum?” questioned a source close to the developments.
In a letter dated November 7, the DIS instructed Khulaco to pay Dignia Systems in Israel an amount of US$22,640,000.00. This was duly done, and it converted to two transaction of P118 million. The invoice which was seen by this publication included UAVs which reliable sources claim were overpriced, VIP protection Course, VIP protection Commanders course etc. The invoice was addressed not to DIS but to Khulaco Management Services.
EXCHANGE OF LETTERS
According to the documents seen by this publication, on November 23, Dr Obakeng attempted to reverse his variation of the use of P230m now quoting the NPF Order to the extent that it does not provide for variation of the utilisation of the NPF. Shortly thereafter, a very highly classified letter from Kebonang to the minister of Presidential Affairs, Eric Molale provided a blow by blow explanation of the transactions concerning the investigation. The letter further indicated that the highest office of the land was aware of the transaction of the notorious P230m.
On February 26, 2018 Dr Obakeng wrote to the DIS, demanding that it pays back the P250m that was deposited into Khulaco as per DIS instruction and for DIS purposes. “We will be grateful as to when the repayment by DIS would be credited to NPF. This will help us communicate definitive position with our creditors,” reads the Savingram.
Two days later, Kgosi wrote back to explain that it was not P250m but P230m that he was made to understand was deposited to Khulaco accounts on behalf of the DIS and requested documentary proof of all transaction. “We were made to understand that the sum of P230 million NOT P250 million from NPF was deposited into the account of some company called Khulaco on behalf of the DIS. As for repayment of the money, consultation between the Ministry of Finance and Directorate is on-going,” he stated.
On March 1, Dr Obakeng then wrote to the Attorney General, requesting him to take over his defence in a matter in which the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) has issued an intention to sue him personally for the P230m, claiming that he acted in his official capacity. UDC recently furnished the AG with a statutory notice of intention to sue Kgosi, Director of Ministry of Minerals Energy and Water Resources Kenneth Kerekang and Dr Obakeng.
WHO IS FOOLING WHO?
According to secretive communiqués from high offices seen by this publication, it is clear from the government Enclave that the P230m has a legal source and all related transactions had proper and legitimate authority. But, ironically the matter is in the courts and not all the participants of the transactions are in the dock. Asked which P230m is being challenged before the court and which one Kgosi is being secretively asked to return and why he is asked to return it if he bought things for the government, the government spokesperson Jeff Ramsay refused to comment saying, “I don’t know, the issue does not involve me and it’s also still before the courts.” Kgosi’s phone rang unanswered while Kebonang’s was not going through.
For a very long time, the courts in Botswana have been faced with corruption cases at an alarming rate, with most of cases specifically the ones involving the who’s who and billions of pulas, dying along the way. WeekendPost has been following the cases from courts and independent investigations. And majority of the people who go through all the investigation and prosecution process are the ‘nobodys’ who usually don’t steal millions. But cases that involve public figures and multi-millions never get arraigned, and in if arraigned the cases never reach final stages. In many instances, freedom of information is so restricted such that reliance will be on what is improperly procured.
Public Servants should brace themselves for some changes as the government is in an overdrive mode to overhaul the public sector. The government has also set the tone for the looming changes as it has added the public sector to its looming list of major and sweeping reforms.
This is contained in a savingram from the Permanent Secretary to the President (PSP) Emmah Peloetletse’s office showing how the government intends to “take stock” of all reforms in the public sector through the establishment of an inventory. Peloetletse’s savingram addressed to various ministries and the Directorate of Public Service Management (DPSM) reveals that the government is working around the clock to implement some changes in the Public Service.
The savingram reminded Permanent Secretaries of various ministries and DPSM that the public sector reforms unit (PSRU) at the Office of the President is mandated with Coordinating Reforms across the Public Service. “This essentially entails providing the strategic guidance and facilitation in the implementation of reforms across the Public Service. In this endeavour the Unit has in the past with Technical Assistance from European Union developed a template for documenting Reforms in the Public Service and documented ten (10) major reforms across the Public Service,” reads the savingram in part. It added that “The Unit has lately rolled out the Change Management Framework in an effort to facilitate effective and efficient management of change in the Public Service.”
According to the savingram, it has been noted that for a variety of reasons the use of the template for documenting reforms has not been universally used across the Botswana Public Service. It further states that to facilitate the documentation of the reforms it is essential that an inventory of the various reforms across the Public Service (Central Government, Local Government and State Owned Entities) is established.
“By this correspondent we are seeking your assistance in populating the attached template to provide basic information on the various reforms. The PSRU will, through the various Coordination of focal Persons facilitate the full documentation of the reforms once the inventory is established,” the savingram further stated. The copy of the template among others calls on the focal persons to fill out them form under several headings; they include title of reform, start date, reform objectives, reform components, reform components, progress status.
The savingram echoes President Mokgweetsi Masisi’s announcement last year during his state of the nation address that as a nation Botswana has set itself a lofty goal of becoming a high income country by 2036 and has come up with a list of reforms among them digitisation of government infrastructure. He said the path to achieving this goal dictates that, Botswana takes deliberate steps that will transform its institutions; the way Batswana think and the way they act.
“It is with this in mind, that I presented a Reset Agenda in May 2021, with the following priorities: Save Botswana‘s population from COVID-19, by implementing a series of life saving measures that include a successful and timely vaccination programme, Adherence to COVID-19 health protocols remains key and align Botswana Government’s machinery to the Presidential Agenda, to ensure that the national transformation agenda will be embodied in the public service of the day,” said Masisi. He added that, “this will come with significant Government reforms in all public institutions. We need greater agility and responsiveness like never before in the delivery of public services.”
The Presidential COVID-19 Task Force reportedly meddled in the awarding of tenders for COVID-19, a new Public Accounts Committee (PAC) report has revealed.
The Committee expressed concern that it has noted that there are two centres for covid procurement being the Ministry of Health and the Covid Task team in the Office of the President. The report says the Committee questioned the Accounting Officer on why the COVID 19 task team is usurping the powers of the Ministry of Health by engaging in covid procurement when the Ministry of Health is the one which has the experience and mandate of dealing with the pandemic. The report says clarification was also sought on why direct appointment is the preferred method for covid procurement.
“In her response the Accounting Officer stated that the task team was mainly engaged in the procuring of quarantine facilities and was assisting the Ministry of Health due to the heavy workload brought about by the COVID 19 pandemic,” the report says. The report says the Accounting Officer further stated that direct procurement was used because COVID 19 was treated as an emergency and that procurement was mainly from companies that have been traditionally used by the Ministry of Health.
“This however, is not the case as there has been report of new companies being awarded COVID -19 contracts. The use of direct procurement method should only be used in exceptional cases as it’s a non-competitive method which increases the risk of inflated pricing and close relations with particular suppliers to the detriment of others,” the report says.
It says since most covid procurement fell under emergency, there is need for openness and transparency regarding the procurement. The PAC recommended that in order to ensure transparency and accountability all COVID 19 related procurement should be periodically published in the PPADB website giving full details of the companies receiving procurement contracts and the beneficial owners of the companies.
It says with the passage of time the impact of covid is no longer unexpected so direct awards should gradually be abandoned as the medium and long-term needs of the pandemic can now be predicted. “Judgement should be used even during direct awards to ensure that prices are not higher than the market prices,” the report says.
In a related matter, the report says the Central Medical Stores (CMS) was unable to cater for the required quantities of medical supplies with order fulfilments of about 35% resulting in shortages and insufficient drugs to Athlone Hospital and the surrounding clinics. “In his submission the Accounting Officer had indicated that CMS was unable to supply the exact quantities required by the hospital and surrounding clinics due to the fact that supplies from CMS have to be rationed in order to cover other facilities around the country,” says the report.
The committee expressed concern about the inadequate supply of drugs to government facilities which puts the lives of patients at risk due to non- availability of essential supplies. It recommended that the Ministry identifies and prioritise measures that need to be taken to ensure that there is adequate supply of essential medicines which are needed in the public health system.
Meanwhile the report says the Ministry of Health and Wellness coordinates the operations and functions of some institutions which receive government subventions and secondment of staff from the government. These institutions include 10 NGO’s, two mission Hospitals, three mission clinics and two schools of Nursing.
It says in its endeavour to enhance efficiency and effectiveness of government support to NGOs the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development developed some Policy Guidelines for Financial Support to Non- Governmental Organisations. According to the PAC report, the guidelines were meant to ensure that there is consistency, accountability and transparency in administering public funding to NGOs. However, the Ministry of Health did not comply with the very important guidelines.
“The main areas of non-compliance were the following: (i) There was no Evaluation Committee to vet proposals from NGOs, in some instances NGOs had formed part of the evaluation forum when their requests were being considered,” the report says. It says there was continued funding of NGOs even when they failed to submit narrative and financial progress reports; and (iv) Continued funding of NGOs that failed to submit audited financial statements and management letters as required. The Committee expressed concern at the lapses in the administration of grants by the Ministry despite the large sums of public money awarded to these NGOs.
The Kasane Regional Magistrate Court refused this week to rule on whether three Namibians and their Zambian cousin shot dead by members of the Botswana Defence Force (BDF) were in possession of a rifle or not prior to their deaths.
Ruling in favour of the BDF members, Regional Magistrate Taboka Mopipi who presided over the inquest said, “It is acknowledged that no rifle has been produced before court to confirm that indeed the deceased were armed and or that there was indeed a gun shot.” She said the evidence before the court is that search for the rifle(s) that allegedly triggered the gunfire exchange was done by both Namibia and Botswana SCUBA divers and nothing was found. She said when the said search was done, an area of search was demarcated around the scene area which was partly searched due to water animals such as hippos that launched an attack at the area during the search.
“The search was therefore never concluded. This therefore leaves a gap. To that end, the area not extensively searched, the court cannot make a finding whether the rifle in issue was there or not. This is a very crucial piece of evidence,” added Mopipi. She said the joint search did not conclude the exercise and I cannot properly make a finding of fact adding that that the rifle was there as the BDF allege can therefore not be ruled out.
The deceased are Martin Munilweye Nchindo, Ernest Nchindo, Tommy Sinvula Nchindo and Sivula Munyeme. The four deceased persons died on the night of the 5th November 2020, in the waters of the Chobe River (Southern Channel) near Sedudu/Kasikili Island in Botswana. Mopipi said the incident took place at night, in a gloomy atmosphere and that as at the time, movement in that particular area was restricted and or not permitted.
She said it was the evidence of some of the witnesses that the injuries as observed on the four deceased reflected that they were brutally assaulted and or beaten either before or after being shot. “Their evidence gained support from Witness 34, Dr. Bithoma Thotho Amis who observed post mortem on behalf of the families of the deceased and Government of Namibia. This witness however conceded during cross-examination that the injuries as observed have been caused by other contacts and or impacts such as falling and hitting the hard surface of a wooden canoe,” said Mopipi.
She emphasized that inquest proceedings have very serious consequences and therefore, whatever evidence brought before court must be produced by persons of right qualifications particularly the post mortem report which the court has to rely upon. “The qualification of the expert is crucial in determining the credibility of the report. Upon assessment of both experts, I am inclined to adopt the reports from Witness 18, who is a qualified pathologist. A closer look at the other report indicates that the author, Witness 34 is not a qualified pathologist and it is meddled by issues outside an expert opinion,” she said.
Mopipi said reports compiled by a consultant Forensic Pathologist Dr. Kaone Panzirah-Mabaka show the causes of death as follows; Sivula Munyeme, gunshot injury to the chest and extremities, Martin Nchindo, gunshot wound to the abdomen and pelvis, Ernest Nchindo, multiple gunshot injuries to the chest and extremities and Tommy Nchindo, gunshot wound to the chest and abdomen.
“Medical evidence therefore prove conclusively that the four deceased persons died due to gunshots injuries. It is undisputed that the injuries were inflicted by seven (7) members of the Botswana Defence Force; Lieutenant Moreri Kenneth Mphela, Sergeant Ndingisano Nfazo, Sergeant Puisano Pistor Kgokong, Private Mbikiso Tafila, Private Emmanuel Moganetsi Majuta, Private Barulaganyi Rannosang and Private Oromilwe Motlhabi,” said Mopipi.
Mopipi found that there was a gunshot from the direction of the men to the direction of the BDF section. “The BDF members retaliated and returned fire. This was done in accordance with Standard Operation Procedures (SOPs) within the BDF. According to the SOPs, in case a soldier is being fired at, they fire back and do not have to wait for a command,” she said. She added that “The gunfire exchange was brief and after it ceased, they used a torch to light where the men were and established that all the four men were motionless, two in one canoe, one in the other and the other man lying on the edge of the river on the Island.”
She said, “The evidence of the witnesses is that, when they followed the intel, the intent was to conduct an investigation. There was clearly no intent on their part to shoot the deceased, they did that as an act of retaliation.”