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BOCONGO members furious over lack of AGM

The umbrella for local Non-Governmental Organisations, Botswana Council of Non-Governmental Organisations (BOCONGO) has contravened its own constitution by not holding an Annual General Meeting (AGM).


Weekend Post has established that instead of holding the AGM as per the constitutional obligation, the organisation has moved swiftly to conduct a Special or Extraordinary General Meeting that includes AGM agenda in it. As the highest decision making body of the organisation it is provided that the AGM shall be held every year before October.


Article 7.1.2 of the organisation constitution states that “The AGM shall be held between the 1st of May and October 31st of every year at such a place and time as may be determined by the Executive Committee.” In a letter to BOCONGO members dated 1 November 2016, BOCONGO Chairman Oscar Motsumi also concedes that constitutionally the BOCONGO AGM cut-off time is the 31st October 2016.


The Chairman points out in the letter that, since they have missed the deadline for an AGM there will instead be a Special/Extraordinary General Meeting. This is despite the agenda for AGM and that of a Special meeting being dissimilar. According to a BOCONGO member in good standing, Kingston Mmolawa who is the Founder & Executive Director of Food Bank Botswana, item 1, 2, and 3 of the agenda as indicated are AGM business therefore they are “misplaced” and can never be part of the Special Extraordinary General Meeting agenda.


He stated that “should it be left unchanged it will constitute an insult to our collective intelligence as members”. The first three items in the agenda for proposed Special Meeting are; to discuss minutes of the BOCONGO 20th AGM, present audited financial report, as well as present the chairperson and secretariat reports to members – which are normally presented at the normal AGM as the constitution dictates.


The last item on the agenda is presentation and adoption of the final BOCONGO strategic plan and operational plan – which some members feel it is not misplaced. They say the special/extraordinary meetings should discuss such, but insist that it cannot match with AGM agenda.


“I wish to remind you and state that as per the constitution an AGM can never be held outside the stipulated dates as directed by it and its business cannot be discussed in any other meeting besides the AGM. Special /Extra General Meeting deals with urgent matters only and item 1, 2 and 3 as indicated above does not qualify in that category therefore they fall aside,” Mmolawa wrote on behalf of the disgruntled members to the board.


The BOCONGO members further threatened that if their interpretation of the constitution differs then they shall seek the intervention of the courts of law for interpretation. “May I indicate to you that constitutionally the AGM and Special/Extraordinary General Meeting are distinguishable and their mandates are different and clearly explained in the constitution,” the member stressed out to the current board.


In the letter, attention of the board is drawn to Article 7, 7.1.1 and 7.1.2 and Article 7.3 through to 7.3.8 which deals with the business of the AGM. They say the meeting scheduled for 24th of November is a Special Extra General Meeting and has to comply with Article 7.5 read with 7.5.1 through to 7.5.1.4.


Article 7.5.3 states that: “An ordinary or Special General Meeting shall be competent only with particular business of which due notice has been given.” In the letter, Mmolawa says the values of the constitution should be respected by all, even by the Board. “The constitution forms and is fundamentally the Councils chief governs manual. There is disconnection from the constitution because the Councils Leadership do not value the morals of the constitution,” he stated.


However when asked whether it is true BOCONGO is not or has not undertaken the normal Annual General Meeting (AGM), that’s constitutionally held between May and October every year, and reasons thereof, BOCONGO Chairman Oscar Motsumi said it is news to him.
“As far as I am concerned, BOCONGO is hosting an Extraordinary Meeting scheduled for November 24th as per Article 7.5 of the BOCONGO Constitution. Please make follow up to the same as I believe you have access to the same. Further, the reasons were communicated to our members and that is what we are working with,” he told Weekend Post on Thursday in a brief response.


Motion of no confidence on BOCONGO board


Some members of BOCONGO are mobilising each other to conduct a separate Special or extraordinary AGM to pass a motion of no confidence on the current board.


In a letter seen by Weekend Post, they state that in light of the one-fifth of the membership of BOCONGO they want the Special AGM to“declare the current board in conflict of its mandate from membership, preceded by motion of no confidence”.
They will also discuss and adopt the minutes of the 26th November 2015; resolve on way forward with regards to Sector Terms of reference and sector coordinators functions as well as resolve on the way forward with regards to the Newly Proposed Strategic Plan 2016 to 2019.


The BOCONGO members indicated that information shared with members through the former Executive Director Bagaisi Mabilo has shown gaps in the governing of the organization that members need to urgently address, “lest we have our organization’s reputation publicly smeared”.


They maintain that the information highlights an un-addressed grievance by the former Executive Director dating back to July 2015 detailing a serious governance breach; and the conflict of interest in the awarding of a tender to effect an unauthorized change process as detailed in the minutes of the tender committee shared with members on the 19th August 2016.


“As an institution that coordinated NGOs in Botswana and formed to be a mouth piece of NGOs on various areas including governance of this country, the membership of BOCONGO cannot afford to have a poorly governed or managed organization where the board is not adhering to implementing its mandate as per the direction of the AGM,” they stressed.


They continued to state that members of BOCONGO have not yet sanctioned or approved the new controversial Strategic Plan 2016-2019, while adding that “therefore as members we do not expect any implementation or change management exercise to be taking place through the Secretariat.”


The new Strategic Plan seeks to change the organisation constitution, name, vision and mission, as well as objectives of the umbrella organisation. It has been embraced by some and met with resistance from certain quarters of BOCONGO members, partners and stakeholders.


On their part, BOCONGO board conceded that they are aware of ongoing attempts to get a petition signed that calls on the board to reverse certain decisions. “Indeed, the petition comes short of calling for the entire board to step down,” they confirmed in writing. The board said this call while within the rights of the interests of those working on it, is ill advised and ill-timed especially coming this close to the Special Annual General Meeting (AGM) scheduled for November 24th 2016 where outstanding issues (Relating to the New Strategic Direction) will be thrashed out.


They justified that “it costs close to P100, 000 to host one AGM session and BOCONGO does not have this money.”  “Given the cost consciousness and cost containment mind-set of the current Board, during the last AGM we received a clean audit and it is our desire to improve our financial status by exploring other income generating opportunities to ensure organisational sustainability and therefore it makes economic sense to collapse the two Special AGM’s into one to achieve the same results.”


However according to the BOCONGO members the petition was warranted by what they say is visibly an attempt by the Board to shutdown BOCONGO. “If it is not shutting down BOCONGO then who in their right minds will fund an organization that has no regards for laid down processes and procedures. The current state of affairs obtaining at BOCONGO warrants a Special General Meeting,” they stated in the petition.


Amongst other things, the BOCONGO members explained that what was suggested in the meeting was that a neutral person be appointed to investigate what is going on between the board and the Secretariat and that the board makes further consultations with members on the proposed strategic plan.


Further to this, the BOCONGO members highlight that the board has been taking decisions without forming a quorum as it is required by the Constitution. “Therefore, it makes one wonder if resolutions emanating from such an arrangement could be considered legitimate.”

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