The findings of the Office of Auditor General (OAG) have described the National Petroleum Fund (NPF) financial statements as ‘serious carelessness’.
In her report to the clerk of the National Assembly and Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee after compiling an audit recently, Auditor General, Pulane Letebele said, “In summation, the foregoing findings point to serious laxity in the management of the financial affairs of the Fund which permitted lack of clarity in relationships between the Fund and the various third party entities to be a regular feature of the business.”
“In my view, this situation persisted because the Management Committee of the Fund was largely dysfunctional and failed to provide guidance to the appointed Fund Managers as required by the Fund order,” she added. OAG was a few months ago tasked to review the administration, payments and the disbursement from NPF by a motion which was tabled in parliament. This followed a pending corruption case before the court involving Bakang Seretse, Botho Leburu and Kenneth Kerekang. The trio was alleged to have between September, 05, 2017 and November, 27, 2017 in Gaborone, illegally received the sum P250m from the NPF.
CARELESSNESS IN ILLEGAL APPOINTMENT OF KGORI
Documents by OAG leaked to this publication state that the appointment of Kgori Capital as the investment manager of the fund in 2015 was unlawful. “It was not in a manner that is prescribed by PPADB regulations,” states the document. The requirements for procurements of services and the choice of procurement method are covered by the PPADB regulations which states that: Floating of ITT, bid submitted, evaluated and awarded should be followed irrespective of the method of procurement used. The appointment according to the papers was confirmed in writing by the then director of the Department of Energy.
It is said that on signing, the former director indicated that he was duly authorized to execute the interim mandate, though the OAG did not obtain of him being authorized to do so. It is further the finding of the OAG that, in their financial proposal signed on October 8, 2015, Kgori Capital stated that the contract price had excluded capital raising fees (which had in any case not been part of the contract) and that they would be separately discussed with Ministry of Minerals Water and Energy Resources.
“Coincidentally on June 7, 2016, an officer of the Department of Energy wrote to Kgori Capital making an urgent request to provide a quotation to carryout financial transactional advisory services for raising fees. It is surprising that Kgori Capital mentioned capital raising fees even though they were never a part of the contract scope which suggests that at the time of submission of their financial proposal they had prior and privileged knowledge of the funding challenges of the three water supply projects and the need to source additional funding to complete the project, hence their statement on capital raising.” The fees for the provision of financial transactional advisory services amounted to over P2m.
CARELESSNESS IN MANAGEMENT COMMITTEE MEMBERS
The Fund order states that the Fund management committee shall include a representative of the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning who shall be a member. The OAG findings however, indicate no evidence that a representative from the same ministry was ever appointed to the committee. “Notwithstanding, the committee had not been functional. Minutes provided to audit showed that the committee met twice in two years,” states Letebele’s affidavit.
CARELESSNESS IN BANK ACCOUNTS
According to the documents, the Department of Energy signed a Small Scale Fund Agreement with the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) for promotion of sulphur fuels. The Department of Energy had on March 2016 requested Kgori Capital to open an account into which an amount of over 83 000 USD would be transferred from UNEP. An amount of 51 000USD was already available for use at the time. However, OAG findings revealed observed that the account was not included in the financial statements of the Fund for the years ended March 31, 2016 and 2017.
On May 13, 2016, an amount of P60m was transferred from the Fund current account at Stanbic Bank to another Fund account at Bank Gaborone for the procurement of government strategic oil stock through Botswana Oil. “The account at Bank Gaborone is also not listed among the Fund banking accounts,” states Letebele in her report, adding that, “The omission of important matters such as bank accounts from financial statements is an indication that the affairs of the Fund were not properly managed in this respect.”
CARELESSNESS IN LEVY COLLECTIONS
Letebele has revealed that scrutiny of the records relating to levy receipts had indicated weakness in that there were no records supporting the amounts remitted by oil companies. She noted that, it was therefore not possible to ascertain that the monies credited to the Fund were the actual amounts due.
ENERGY MINISTRY DISOWNS KHULACO
Although it is not in dispute that the sum of P230m was transferred from the Fund account to Khulaco in 2017, Letebele’s report is that the ministry has denied knowledge of the said company. “On enquiry the accounting officer explained that the ministry did not have any relationship with Khulaco and was unknown to them.”
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 DIS. These were funded from the 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.
Lebang Mpotokwane, one of the conveners who presided over the opposition cooperation talks that resulted in the formation of the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC), has advised against changing the current umbrella model in favour of a merger as proposed by others.
The Botswana Congress Party (BCP) leader, Dumelang Saleshando recently went public to propose that UDC should consider merging of all opposition parties, including Alliance for Progressives (AP) and Botswana Patriotic Front (BNF).
Saleshando has been vehemently opposed by Botswana National Front (BNF), which is in favour of maintaining the current model. BNF’s position has been favoured by the founding father of UDC, who warned that it will be too early to ditch the current model.
“UDC should be well developed to promote the spirit of togetherness on members and the members should be taught so that the merger is developed gradually. They should approach it cautiously. If they feel they are ready, they can, but it would not be a good idea,” Mpotokwane told WeekendPost this week.
Mpotokwane and Emang Maphanyane are the two men who have since 2003 began a long journey of uniting opposition parties in a bid to dethrone the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BCP) as they felt it needed a strong opposition to avoid complacency.
Tonota born Mpotokwane is however disappointed on how they have been ejected from participating in the last edition of talks ahead of the 2019 general elections in which BCP was brought on board. However, despite the ejection, Mpotokwane is not resentful to the opposition collective.
He said the vision of opposition unity was to ultimately merge the opposition parties but he believes time has not arrived yet to pursue that path. “The bigger picture was a total merger and we agreed that with three independent parties, members might be against merger eventuality so the current model should be used until a point where they are now together for as long as possible,” he said.
“UDC should gradually perform better in elections and gain confidence. They should not rush the merger. We have been meeting since 2003, but if they rush it might cause endless problems. If they are ready they can anyway,” he advised. For now the constituent parties of the umbrella have been exchanging salvos with others (BCP and BNF).
“There are good reasons for and against merging the parties. Personally, I am in favour of merging the parties (including AP and BPF) into a single formation but I know it’s a complex mission that will have its own challenges,” Saleshando said when he made his position known a week ago.
“Good luck to those advocating for a merger, it will be interesting to observe the tactics they will use to lure the BPF into a merger,” former BNF councillor for Borakalalo Ward and former BNF Youth League Secretary General, Arafat Khan, opined in relation to BCP’s proposed position.
Mpotokwane, who is currently out in the cold from the UDC since he was ejected from the party’s NEC in 2017, said the current bickering and the expected negotiations with other parties need the presence of conveners.
“We did not belong to any party as conveners so we were objective in our submissions. If party propose any progressive idea we will support, if it is not we will not, so I would agree that even now conveners might be key for neutrality to avoid biasness,” he observed. Despite being abandoned, Mpotokwane said he will always be around to assist if at all he is needed.
“If they want help I will be there, I have always been clear about it, but surely I will ask few questions before accepting that role,” he said. UDC is expected to begin cooperation talks with both AP and BPF either this week or next weekend for both upcoming bye-elections (halted by Covid-19) and 2024 general elections and it is revealed that there will be no conveners this time around.
The Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) moved through its lawyers to attach the property of Umbrella for Democratic (UDC) President Duma Boko and other former parliamentary contestants who failed in their court bid to overturn the 2019 general elections in 14 constituencies.
WeekendPost has established that this week, Deputy Sheriffs were commissioned by Bogopa Manewe Tobedza and Company who represented the BDP, to attach the properties of UDC elections contents in a bid to recover costs. High Court has issued a writ of execution against all petitioners, a process that has set in motion the cost recovery measures.
Botswana Sectors of Teachers Union (BOSETU) says COVID-19 as a pandemic has negatively affected the education sector by deeply disrupting the education system. The intermittent lockdowns have resulted in the halting of teaching and learning in schools.
The union indicated that the education system was caught napping and badly exposed when it came to the use of Information System (IT), technological platforms and issues of digitalisation.
“COVID-19 exposed glaring inefficiencies and deficiencies when it came to the use of ITC in schools. In view of the foregoing, we challenge government as BOSETU to invest in school ITC, technology and digitalization,” says BOSETU President Kinston Radikolo during a press conference on Tuesday.
As a consequence, the union is calling on government to prioritise education in her budgeting to provide technological infrastructure and equipment including provision of tablets to students and teachers.
“Government should invest vigorously in internet connectivity in schools and teacher’s residences if the concept of flexi-hours and virtual learning were to be achieved and have desired results,” Radikolo said.
Radikolo told journalists that COVID-19 is likely to negatively affect final year results saying that the students would sit for the final examinations having not covered enough ground in terms of curriculum coverage.
“This is so because there wasn’t any catch up plan that was put in place to recover the lost time by students. We warn that this year’s final examination results would dwindle,” he said.
The Union, which is an affiliate of Botswana Federation of Public, Private and Parastatal Union (BOFEPUSU), also indicated that COVID-19’s presence as a pandemic has complicated the role of a teacher in a school environment, saying a teacher’s role has not only transcended beyond just facilitating teaching and learning, but rather, a teacher in this COVID-19 era, is also called upon to enforce the COVID-19 preventative protocols in the school environment.
“This is an additional role in the duty of a teacher that needs to be recognized by the employers. Teachers by virtue of working in a congested school environment have become highly exposed and vulnerable to COVID-19, hence the reason why BOSETU would like teachers to be regarded as the frontline workers with respect to COVID-19,” says Radikolo.
BOSETU noted that the pandemic has in large scales found its way into most of the school environments, as in thus far more than 50 schools have been affected by COVID-19. The Union says this is quite a worrying phenomenon.
“As we indicated before when we queried that schools were not ready for re-opening, it has now come to pass that our fears were not far-fetched. This goes out to tell that there is deficiency in our schools when it comes to putting in place preventative protocols. In our schools, hygiene is compromised by mere absence of sanitizers, few hand-washing stations, absence of social distancing in classes,” the Union leader said.
Furthermore, Radikolo stressed that the shifting system drastically increased the workload for teachers especially in secondary schools. He says teachers in these schools experience very high loads to an extent that some of them end up teaching up to sixty four periods per week, adding that this has not only fatigued teachers, but has also negatively affected their performance and the quality of teaching.
In what the Union sees as failure to uphold and honour collective agreements by government, owing to the shift system introduced at primary schools, government is still in some instances refusing to honour an agreement with the Unions to hire more teachers to take up the extra classes.
“BOSETU notes with disgruntlement the use of pre-school teachers to teach in the mainstream schools with due regard for their specific areas of training and their job descriptions. This in our view is a variation of the terms of employment of the said teachers,” says Radikolo.
The Union has called on government to forthwith remedy this situation and hire more teachers to alleviate this otherwise unhealthy situation. BOSETU also expressed concerns of some school administrators who continuously run institutions with iron fists and in a totalitarian way.
“We have a few such hot spot schools which the Union has brought to attention the Ministry officials such as Maoka JSS, Artesia JSS, and Dukwi JSS. We are worried that the Ministry becomes sluggish in taking action against such errant school administration. In instances where action is taken, such school administrators are transferred and rotated around schools.”