BCL which was put under provisional liquidation last year October is not about to resume operation anytime soon. This was revealed by Nigel Dixon Warren the company provisional liquidator on Tuesday the 17th at a media briefing in Selibe Phikwe.
According to Dixon Warren, the 2017 February 7th date contrary to the belief of many is only a return date in which the liquidation period does not end. “It is not usually the procedure within liquidation dealings for the liquidator to address media and issue out information to the public, but considering the amount of public interest in this matter, I have seen it fit to assemble the media and clear out certain misconceptions and misunderstanding making rounds in the publication circles that are also polluting public knowledge consumption’’ explained Dixon Warren.
He unpacked that on February the 7th, 2017, the High Court will decide if the companies being BCL Limited, BCL Investments, Tati Nickel Mine should be placed under final liquidation or the initial reasons presented to the Court can be dismissed. “The order granted in 9th October 2016 to wind up the companies was only a provisional liquidation or rule nisi” He said.
“Per the court order any interested party may apply to high court to prevent the Court not to grant the final order which winds up the company’s “According to Warren the court can decide to extent the provisional liquidation period and delay the final winding up (complete liquidation) order if it believes necessary.
He further noted that for the final liquidation order to be delayed or not be granted, that would require a clear demonstration satisfactory to the court that the companies were not insolvent “That’s to say who ever the interested party logging that application would be, will have to prove beyond reasonable doubt why the winding up petition should be dismissed, of which according to my assessment all the three companies are fatally insolvent, like there have no money or funds or whatsoever and have been making massive losses” he said.
BEYOND FEBRUARY 7TH 2017
Nigel who is a well experienced professional housed under KPMG Chartered Accountants Advisory observes that it is in the best interest of all the creditors that the companies be finally wound up into liquidation process followed to its conclusion. Further lecturing on the processes after February 7th, Dixon Warren explained that after that date the real liquidation is only beginning.
In his terms “After February the 7th this year formal liquidation process commences” He observes that the winding up process includes holding meetings of creditors and sale of assets, a process he revealed takes months to over a year. “What happens is that at the return date if there is no application to dismiss the final liquidation order, the Master of the High Court who oversees the liquidation now takes the reins and convene a formal meeting of creditors’” he said.
The creditors meetings are held so that they the creditors can prove their claims against the companies (ie have them recognized as the creditors in the liquidation) so that they can issue instructions to the liquidator and ultimately receive payment against their claim (a dividend) at the end of liquidation process if there are sufficient funds realized in the sale of assets to cover the costs of the liquidation and pay a dividend to creditors. Warren also revealed that erstwhile directors of the companies will be required to attend the two meetings of creditors so that they can answer questions by creditors and the liquidator.
“I am only a provisional liquidator appointed by the High Court, at the 1st meeting of creditors, the proven creditors now nominate the final liquidator, this doesn’t always be the same person as provisional liquidator but in many cases creditors appoint the same person for continuity as the provisional liquidator would have already be familiar with the liquidation and insolvent company records” he explained.
He also indicated that at that meeting, he as the provisional liquidator will present a report written in terms of Section 44 of the companies Act. “This report provides creditors with details of assets and liabilities of the companies and a reason to why the entities failed in the first place. It was also observed that if the BCL companies are put on final liquidation on the 7th February 2017 it is expected that the first meeting of creditors be held in April 2017.
Dixon-Warren noted that the date of the meeting is not set by the provisional liquidator but by the Master of the High Court. “I have to prepare a report and submit claim forms to all known creditors, considering that these companies creditors are relatively many I will need time after February 7th to undertake this” he further stipulated. The BCL Undertaker Warren further added that the second meeting of creditors of which the reins will be on the final liquidator who might not be him, will give an opportunity to creditors to further prove their claims. “Ordinarily this second meeting occurs between three to six months after the first, and the final liquidator will report on the affairs of estate and will be given direction from the creditors as to the sale of the assets”
THE RUSSIAN NORILSK MATTER
The Liquidator also cleared misconceptions on the Russian Norilsk matter which has been making rounds , BCL had entered into an a share purchase agreement with Norilsk Nickel Mauritius and Norilsk Nickel International Holdings Limited to acquire Norilsk interest in South African Nkomati Mine and Tati Nickel Mine in Francistown.
Dixon Warren explains that prior to the liquidation there was a dispute between parties to the agreement as to whether the conditions precedent was met and therefore whether the contract has full force and effect. “Since Norilsk has taken the matter to court at the High Court of Botswana and in London, there are no further comments I can make on the issues” he said observing that once the issue is dealt with at the court of law, if the case went in favor of Norilsk they can approach him and claim their rightful argument as a creditor Dixon Warren revealed that BCL has a number of creditors which the company had entered into operational contracts with.
He further clarified that Pula Steel contrary to the belief of many is not part of BCL or BCL Investment, stating that it’s a separate entity which BCL has shares not affected by BCL liquidation. “As a matter of fact Pula Steel owes BCL millions in dividends , it is actually one of the few debtors which will have to pay us soon “ he explained adding that RealZim , MTO, Glecon , Zimbabwean Copper companies also owe BCL a few chunks of millions , but emphasized that BCL creditors seat at billions all together.
THE FUTURE OF BCL MINES
Further clearing the air on BCL recommencement of operations, Provisional Liquidator Nigel Dixon Warren unpacked the status of affairs at the mine sites, company assets and potential investors. “There is absolutely no intention to restart operation at the mines , no prospects or what so ever, not anytime soon ,either after February 7th or 1st meeting of creditors , and we are looking at possibly beyond 2017” he said emphasizing that currently there are no resources available to finance operations.
“I have currently placed the mines under care and maintenance, that decision was very paramount to safeguard the assets and preserve the company value” he explained. Dixon Warren revealed that he was advised by professional smelter experts to shut down the BCL smelter which is the most valuable asset of the company, explaining that it would be very costly to keep it running until final liquidation is complete.
“When I arrived here the Smelter was shut down from 7th October as per order by the main shareholder the government , but the BCL engineers advised me to restart it and operate it at a warm temperature as it gets damaged and looses value when it’s not operational” But I later engaged an expert who consulted the manufactures of the smelter and we arrived to a conclusion that it would cost us 5 million pula per month on fuel alone to keep the smelter operational , thus I decided to shut it down , because the finances I have cannot accommodate that” he explained.
The BCL assets custodian stipulated that there is 24 hour security at both Tati and BCL sites to secure the valuable assets and equipments at the company plants and sites. “I have had instances where it’s said that someone calls the local companies claiming the assets of BCL are auctioned requesting deposits payments , I need to clear the air on that and emphasize that members of the public must be aware of these scams, formal communication of asset disposal will be advertised.
Though no formal offers has been made yet and far from being put forth it was revealed that a number of interested parties have come forth to make their interests known, the liquidator observes that the interested firms and investors are both local and international entities and persons. “No formal offers has been made, you see BCL has been profitless , hence it currently has no value and no investor will make any offer on such bases , we will have to asses and look deep into what opportunities can be salvaged from these companies” he said, adding that such processes and assessment as well as investigations is part of his job and it will take time.
According to Warren any conclusion to sell will be considered after the second meeting of creditors observing that it will only be looked into if it’s at the best interest of the creditors . Said Warren “To further attest to why I am saying the mine will not reopen soon ,even after sale of BCL or investor agreement ,it will take time to do restructuring , refurbishment of equipments and re-designing of shafts to start up the mine on profitability” , “No sane investor would rush to put their money in a company that has been making losses “
FORMER BCL EMPLOYESS
“As we all know I was forced to terminate over 4000 employees contracts, I have paid terminal benefits to almost all of them, only just over 180 have not yet received their benefits” explained Warren adding that reasons to that being the 180 are still being contacted ,some changed addresses amongst other reasons. He observed that he initially retained about 400 employees to help him with care and maintenance but have reduced the number to just over 350.
“I have fired some of my stuff and rehired some of the initially terminated, because I operate under a limited budget and time so I cannot afford incompetent stuff” he explained, Dixon Warren noted that all former BCL employees who occupied houses have been allowed to stay in the house. “We have signed lease with them up to 31st October 2017, and as per our agreement the occupants will not be paying rent in return we want them to keep the houses in good shape and suitable state, however as stated before occupants will pay for their own utilities bills, ie water and electricity ” he said explaining that the date will be probably when selling company asserts will begin.
Nigel Warren noted that having paid terminal benefits to former employee’s there was nothing more he can do as far as health services and other incentives are concerned, um told the government has taken over. BCL which has been in operation for the past 40 years was put under provisional liquidation last year October 9th after operations were halted 2 days earlier, The decision which is believed to have been orchestrated by state owned Mineral Corporations Limited put over 4000 miners to the streets jobless and thousands households without breadwinners and consequently shutting down the economic nucleus of the whole eastern bloc of the country.
However as reports indicate that cooper and nickel prices have bounced back by 20% the man mandated to dissolve the BCL Group told weekendpost after the media briefing that resident and settlers this side of this country should not put the mine in their plans of survival for the next few months as there is still lot of work to do ,adding that if at all investors put money the mine will only resume operation in 2018 realistically
Stanbic Bank Botswana Quarterly Economic Review indicates that Botswana will fail to meet some of its Vision 2036 targets, particularly unemployment reduction and reaching high-income status.
The report says this is mainly due to the slow economic growth that the country is currently experiencing. This Quarterly Economic Review focuses on the 2020 Budget Speech.
The first paper reviews the entire budget with its key observations being that this budget is prepared as prescribed by the Public Finance Management Act; the priorities it seeks to address are drawn from Vision 2036 and the eleventh
The 2020 budget Speech, which was the maiden speech by the Minister of Finance and Economic Development, Dr. Thapelo Matsheka, and the first after the 2019 general elections, was delivered to Parliament on the 4th of February 2020.
It has been well received by the labour unions, business community, and the public at large as well as international organisations such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
It mainly derived its support from key facets including, emphasis on changing the business-as-usual approach to development; outlining the transformation agenda; fiscal reform that minimizes the negative impact on economic development and human welfare, competiveness and the decision to implement the 2019 negotiated and agreed public sector.
The budget’s progress review shows that economic growth was consistent with the NDP 11 projections, with growth of around 4 percent. At this growth rate, the country would neither ascend to a high-income status nor reduce unemployment towards the Vision 2036 target of a single digit.
Simple calculations of this review confirm that the economy will need to grow the Vision 2036’s target of 6 percent over the next 16 years for per capita income to increase from around USD 8,000.00 to above USD 12,000.00 in current prices.
Further, the population is anticipated to grow by only 2 percent per annum.
For this reason, the focal areas for the forthcoming FY’s budget include measures to increase economic growth towards an average of 6 percent per annum.
Economic diversification is reportedly progressing fairly well. The report says, the share of the non-mining private sector in value added has risen to 66 percent in 2018 from to 63 percent in 2015.
The sectoral pattern of growth showed that the performance of services sector (particularly transport & communications, trade, hotels & restaurants, and finance & business services) has been the silver lining and that of mining sector was subdued whilst the utility sector disappointed.
The drive towards the service sector of the economy, especially to low-productivity activities (tourism, public administration, wholesaling and retailing) does not bode well for the country’s development aspirations.
In the previous versions of this Quarterly Review, it was noted that there is need for the rethinking of economic diversification. Since the country’s domestic market is small, it is inevitable that economic diversification not only focus on broadening the product mix, but also the composition of exports and markets.
This understanding of economic diversification has not been embraced by this year’s budget. Consequently, Botswana’s exports are still overwhelmingly diamonds, which means that the rest of economic sectors are still highly dependent on foreign-exchange earnings from diamonds. Thus, “the transformation programme requires a review of the country’s entire ecosystem”.
The budget review of the economic context also depicts that an economy with positive medium-term prospects, with growth expected to recover to 4.4 percent in 2020 from the expected growth of 36 percent in 2019 largely due to faster growth of services sectors and, thereafter, to slow-down to 4 percent in 2021.
These projected growth rates are comparable to those of the IMF staff’s baseline scenario of 4.2 percent in 2020 and 4 percent in 2021. Thus, the business-as-usual scenario produces growth rates that are still too low to achieve Botswana’s development objectives and create enough jobs to absorb the new entrants into the labour market.
Trade tensions between the two major markets for diamond exports, viz., the United States of America and China, is one of the factors that are cited as contributing to, indeed, undermining not only the domestic growth, but also the fiscal position.
Another notable downside risk to both global and domestic growth is outbreak of the coronavirus in China around January 2020. This has been declared as a global health emergency. In an attempt to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus pneumonia, the Chinese authorities have ordered city lockdowns and extended holidays, of course, at the expense of near- term economic growth, according to the new Stanbic Bank Botswana report.
According to Nomura Holdings Inc., fewer migrant workers returned for work than in previous years and business activities have been slow to pick up. The havoc wreaked by the virus on the world’s second largest economy is likely to spill over to the global economy. In fact, it has resulted in a glut in crude oil and, thereby placed oil markets into a contango, i.e., a market structure where near-term prices trade at a discount to future contracts.
It also presents significant risks one of Botswana’s main drivers of economic growth, diversification and foreign exchange earnings. According to the Financial Times (February 13, 2020), Chinese tourists spent $130 billion overseas in 2018. Regardless of whether the growth materializes, the projected domestic growth rate would not transform the economy to a high-income one.
Progress towards reduction of unemployment, to a target of single digit, and poverty and achieving inclusive growth has also been relatively slow, the Stanbic Bank Botswana Review says.
Ministry of Presidential Affairs, Governance and Public Administration (MOPAGPA) has through the Office of the President (OP) proposed to avail Orapa House for use by private training institutions as well as research institutions involved in the area of technology development.
For a very long time the monumental building located in the heart of the city has been a white elephant, despite government purchasing it for nearly P80 million from De Beers in 2012.
However, government has now identified a productive use for the iconic building. “The overall vision is for the building to be transformed into a hub for digital technology research and development to be carried-out by institutions, such as; Limkokwing University, BIUST, BITRI and other relevant stakeholders.”
The decision was taken as government traverse a new path of transforming the economy from a mineral led economy to a knowledge based economy through the promotion of research and innovation. However, the facility will need major maintenance to be carried-out in order to meet the requirements of the proposed change in use.
“The work will include provision of laboratories, work stations, production areas and seminar rooms; audio visual centre, high speed internet connectivity, exhibition areas and offices,” reads the proposal note for the development.
These developments will be done through the refurbishment and maintenance of the main building, workshop, and ablution block, gate house, parking area, grounds, and access control and security service.
“There will be minimal modifications to the structure as it stands. The project is estimated to cost approximately P50, 000, 000,” says the report. In this regard, it is said, the initial scope of the OP facility will be modified to accommodate the envisaged digital technology research and development hub.
With funds needed to improve the building, OP has requested that; “the 2020/21 annual budget provision for Orapa House will need to be increased by P37,500,000 from P2,500,000 to P40,000,000 to kick start the maintenance works.” Funds will be sourced from the projects that have been delayed due to Covid-19 protocols during the 2020/21 financial year.
The building has been a thorny issue for government for years. Initially, OP was expected to move there but the move never materialised. At one point it was a question of whether the Office of the President and the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development were planning to override a decision by Parliament which rejected the proposal to buy Orapa House under the belief that government may be buying its own property. The building was to be bought at a negotiated cost of P79 million.
Again in 2012, Government had wanted to buy Orapa House for a negotiated P79m but the Finance and Estimates Committee of Parliament had rejected the request because of the inconsistencies realised in the supporting documents of the proposed procurement. The valuation of the building was put at P74 million.
The Ministry of Lands and Housing had initially offered De Beers P73, 000,000 as the purchase price. However, De Beers countered with P85, 000,000. On negotiation and converging of the minds, the selling price was finally agreed at P79, 000,000.
Auditor General, Pulane Letebele, has expressed discontentment at the worrying and deteriorating state of brigades in the country.
In an audit inspection which was carried out at Tshwaragano Brigade in Gabane, a number of observations showed weaknesses and shortcomings in the conduct of the financial affairs of the institution.
According to Letebele’s report, former students of the brigade had been engaged to carry out maintenance works on the school premises, comprising of painting, tiling, plumbing and electrical works, which covered the period from July 2017 to June 2018.
Although the agreed maintenance period had elapsed, the works had not been completed because of unavailability of funds and this situation had persisted up till the time of inspection in November 2019.
Auditor General says arrangements should have been made in time for funds to be available to complete these relatively minor works even before the works commenced.
Various contractors had been engaged for clearing the bush and for the supply of concrete stones, pit and river sand and hiring equipment for digging the trench towards the construction of an auto mechanics workshop, the report said.
It stated that the cost of services and supplies provided totalled P117 949.80. However, despite the services and the supplies having been paid for, the construction works had not commenced for a long period afterwards, resulting in the trench filling back in.
The audit inquiries had not elicited satisfactory responses as both the institution and the Ministry had not accepted the responsibility for the project, although orders for the provision for the supplies had been made. For their part, the Ministry had stated that they had sub warranted funds for the purchase of porta cabins.
Letebele indicated that it is therefore confusing that a project which is critical to the functioning of an institution such as this one would commence without a well-defined plan.
Furthermore, the accounting and maintenance of records for the supplies items were not of the standard prescribed by the Supplies Regulations and Procedures in that the supplies ledger cards, the main accounting records for Government assets, were not properly maintained for the recording of receipts and issues.
This had resulted in significant discrepancies between physical and ledger balances, while in other instances the supplies items had not been recorded at all.
The report says 24 of the 91 new computers found in the computer laboratory at Kumakwane ABC campus were not recorded anywhere, as were the other computers in the storeroom which could not be counted due to the disorderly storage conditions.
The institution had entered into a contract agreement with a security company for the provision of security services at Tshwaragano Brigade, ABC and Horticulture campuses at Kumakwane for a 2-year period which ended in June 2018, WeekendPost learnt.
After the contract expired in June 2018, an extension was granted till the 30th September 2018. Since then, there has been no security service coverage for the institution to-date. According to Auditor General, in the face of prevailing crimes, it is of paramount importance that government properties be protected by provision of security services at all times.
At Tlokweng Brigade, it was noted that the kitchen staff were working under difficult conditions as the kitchen facilities and equipment, such as the cold room, tilting pot, food warmers and solar power for hot water were dysfunctional. The kitchen roof was leaking and men’s restrooms was not working. All these need to be brought to a reasonable and functional state of repair.
The kitchen staff should use a purpose-designed Rations Ledger for the recording of receipts and issues of foodstuffs to reflect the usage of those items. As far back as 2014 the Department of Buildings and Engineering Services had found that the house occupied by the bursar was uninhabitable on account of structural defects, the report said.
A site visit during the audit had established that the house was indeed unfit for occupation as there were cracks on the walls, power switches were not working and the roof was leaking. On a sadder note, there were a number of finished items of clothing, such as dresses, shirts, and jackets from students’ practical exercises from the Fashion Design Textiles Workshop.
Auditor General shared her take on this, saying: “I have not been able to ascertain the policy on the disposal of products from these practicals. A trace of 103 green acid-proof overalls which had been purchased in August 2018 had indicated that there was no record of these items having been recorded or issued, nor were they available in stock. I was not able to obtain any explanation for this situation.”
Kgatleng brigade was also audited and inspected by Auditor General who observed that the brigade has 26 institutional houses at Bokaa, both old campus and new campus. Some of these houses are very old and dilapidated, with two declared uninhabitable. The condition of the houses is a clear indication of lack of care and maintenance of these properties.
At the time of the audit, there was no contractor engaged for the provision of security guard services at the new campus, after expiry of the previous one in July 2019. It is hoped that steps would be taken to safeguard the security of the premises and government properties against any acts of hooliganism.
In August 2019, there was a break-in at the electrical and at the plumbing maintenance workshops and a number of high value items, such as drilling machines, bolt cutters, spanners and cables, were stolen. The break-in and theft were reported to the police.
“However, at the time of writing this report I was not aware of the outcome of the police investigation, nor of any loss report submitted in terms of the Supplies Regulations and Procedures,” Letebele said.