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Pay back the money – BAMB looters told

Government officers who work for the Botswana Agricultural Marketing Board (BAMB) and the National Strategic Grain Reserves are facing charges of theft and fraud after an internal audit discovered that they have been looting national silos tonnes of grains over prolonged periods.


As the nation is still grappling with shortage of grains, the officers who were overseeing stocks in Francistown and Mahalapye branches are said to have been working in cahoots with some Millers and Truck drivers to fraudulently divert truck loads of sorghum to the millers.


The audit discovered that more than 3000 bags of sorghum (50kgs), especially the Panda sorghum, were stolen from Francistown and Mahalapye BAMB storages and taken to the Millers between February 2012 and April 2013.


“It seems there was collusion between the truck drivers, the Branch Manager Mahalapye, the stock controller Francistown and one Miller,” reads part of the audit report.


But the audit could not establish the exact loss made to the organisation by these fraudulent behaviour since it was discovered after year end stock take.


“Some activities point to some activities that showed that this had been going on prior to stock take. Some of the adjustment left open dated back to 2008 financial year. Audit could not cover all branches,” further reveals the report.


The BAMB Executive Officer (CEO), Edison Wotho told the Parliamentary Committee of Statutory Bodies and State Enterprises on Wednesday this week in Gaborone that the grains that were diverted are worth over half a Million pula.


In most cases trucks that were diverted were carrying 700 bags of sorghum (50kgs) either from Mahalapye to Francistown or vice-versa. For instance in April 2013, some 710 bags were recorded having taken from Francistown to Mahalapye, but in Mahalapye they never recorded having received the loads.


“Loads of Panda sorghum 50kg, that were dispatched from Francistown to Mahalapye were not reflected in the Mahalapye stock ledger..The explanation given by the leading hand and the Branch administrator was that he remembers one truck in reference. The leading hand further explained that he remembered one truck that they found in the morning of 20 April 2013, but was not offloaded. When investigating further it showed that the transporters for the trucks that were not offloaded at Mahalapye were paid. The delivery notes were signed by Branch Manager Mahalapye,” reads part of the report.


 The delivery notes were signed as if stock was received at Mahalapye. The suspicion is that the Branch Manager met with the trucks except one truck. The suspicion is that the Branch manager met with the truck driver outside the branch office and signed for the loads.

The Branch Manager Mahalapye was recorded as having admitted that she was signing invoiced BAMB from Francistown to Mahalapye as if they have offloaded at Mahalapye. Meanwhile the miller received the loads without any invoice and is said to have never questioned about the invoice.


Investigations further revealed that there were other transfers made from Mahalapye to Francistown branch. The stock controller confirmed having received them, but they did not appear in the Francistown stock. The 800 bags are estimated to have cost slightly over P142 000.


In another case that too place in the same Month of April 2013, approximately 200 bags of sorghum (50kg) were given to a miller without any payment or documentation of any form.


The explanation according to the audit report is that, it was the Branch manager who instructed her Junior officers to issue the stock without any documentation.


“They were told that the transaction would be captured into the Miller account once the system was up and running and an invoice will be raised. The Brach Manager explained that there were no manual invoices for that customer and the chief stock controller denied knowledge of the said transaction. She explained that same day the sales invoices were sent to Mahalapye by bus,” further revealed the report.


Bags of beans amounting to P75 000 were also missing from the BAMB storage as well.


The auditors recommended that accused Branch Manager, Mahalapye and Stock controller in Francistown pay for the loot. Meanwhile the transporters who were doing fraud are not allowed to do business with BAMB anymore.

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13 AUGUST 2022 Publication

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DIS blasted for cruelty – UN report

26th July 2022
DIS BOSS: Magosi

Botswana has made improvements on preventing and ending arbitrary deprivation of liberty, but significant challenges remain in further developing and implementing a legal framework, the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention said at the end of a visit recently.

Head of the delegation, Elina Steinerte, appreciated the transparency of Botswana for opening her doors to them. Having had full and unimpeded access and visited 19 places of deprivation of liberty and confidentiality interviewing over 100 persons deprived of their liberty.

She mentioned “We commend Botswana for its openness in inviting the Working Group to conduct this visit which is the first visit of the Working Group to the Southern African region in over a decade. This is a further extension of the commitment to uphold international human rights obligations undertaken by Botswana through its ratification of international human rights treaties.”

Another good act Botswana has been praised for is the remission of sentences. Steinerte echoed that the Prisons Act grants remission of one third of the sentence to anyone who has been imprisoned for more than one month unless the person has been sentenced to life imprisonment or detained at the President’s Pleasure or if the remission would result in the discharge of any prisoner before serving a term of imprisonment of one month.

On the other side; The Group received testimonies about the police using excessive force, including beatings, electrocution, and suffocation of suspects to extract confessions. Of which when the suspects raised the matter with the magistrates, medical examinations would be ordered but often not carried out and the consideration of cases would proceed.

“The Group recall that any such treatment may amount to torture and ill-treatment absolutely prohibited in international law and also lead to arbitrary detention. Judicial authorities must ensure that the Government has met its obligation of demonstrating that confessions were given without coercion, including through any direct or indirect physical or undue psychological pressure. Judges should consider inadmissible any statement obtained through torture or ill-treatment and should order prompt and effective investigations into such allegations,” said Steinerte.

One of the group’s main concern was the DIS held suspects for over 48 hours for interviews. Established under the Intelligence and Security Service Act, the Directorate of Intelligence and Security (DIS) has powers to arrest with or without a warrant.

The group said the “DIS usually requests individuals to come in for an interview and has no powers to detain anyone beyond 48 hours; any overnight detention would take place in regular police stations.”

The Group was able to visit the DIS facilities in Sebele and received numerous testimonies from persons who have been taken there for interviewing, making it evident that individuals can be detained in the facility even if the detention does not last more than few hours.

Moreover, while arrest without a warrant is permissible only when there is a reasonable suspicion of a crime being committed, the evidence received indicates that arrests without a warrant are a rule rather than an exception, in contravention to article 9 of the Covenant.

Even short periods of detention constitute deprivation of liberty when a person is not free to leave at will and in all those instances when safeguards against arbitrary detention are violated, also such short periods may amount to arbitrary deprivation of liberty.

The group also learned of instances when persons were taken to DIS for interviewing without being given the possibility to notify their next of kin and that while individuals are allowed to consult their lawyers prior to being interviewed, lawyers are not allowed to be present during the interviews.

The UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention mentioned they will continue engaging in the constructive dialogue with the Government of Botswana over the following months while they determine their final conclusions in relation to the country visit.

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Stan Chart halts civil servants property loan facility

26th July 2022
Stan-Chart

Standard Chartered Bank Botswana (SCBB) has informed the government that it will not be accepting new loan applications for the Government Employees Motor Vehicle and Residential Property Advance Scheme (GEMVAS and LAMVAS) facility.

This emerges in a correspondence between Acting Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Finance Boniface Mphetlhe and some government departments. In a letter he wrote recently to government departments informing them of the decision, Mphetlhe indicated that the Ministry received a request from the Bank to consider reviewing GEMVAS and LAMVAS agreement.

He said: “In summary SCBB requested the following; Government should consider reviewing GEMVAS and LAMVAS interest rate from prime plus 0.5% to prime plus 2%.” The Bank indicated that the review should be both for existing GEMVAS and LAMVAS clients and potential customers going forward.

Mphetlhe said the Bank informed the Ministry that the current GEMVAS and LAMVAS interest rate structure results into them making losses, “as the cost of loa disbursements is higher that their end collections.”

He said it also requested that the loan tenure for the residential property loans to be increased from 20 to 25 years and the loan tenure for new motor vehicles loans to be increased from 60 months to 72 months.

Mphetlhe indicated that the Bank’s request has been duly forwarded to the Directorate of Public Service Management for consideration, since GEMVAS and LAMVAS is a Condition of Service Scheme. He saidthe Bank did also inform the Ministry that if the matter is not resolved by the 6th June, 2022, they would cease receipt of new GEMVAS and LAMVAS loan applications.

“A follow up virtual meeting was held to discuss their resolution and SCB did confirm that they will not be accepting any new loans from GEMVAS and LAMVAS. The decision includes top-up advances,” said Mphetlhe. He advised civil servants to consider applying for loans from other banks.

In a letter addressed to the Ministry, SCBB Chief Executive Officer Mpho Masupe informed theministry that, “Reference is made to your letter dated 18th March 2022 wherein the Ministry had indicated that feedback to our proposal on the above subject is being sought.”

In thesame letter dated 10 May 2022, Masupe stated that the Bank was requesting for an update on the Ministry’s engagements with the relevant stakeholder (Directorate of Public Service Management) and provide an indicative timeline for conclusion.

He said the “SCBB informs the Ministry of its intention to cease issuance of new loans to applicants from 6th June 2022 in absence of any feedback on the matter and closure of the discussions between the two parties.”  Previously, Masupe had also had requested the Ministry to consider a review of clause 3 of the agreement which speaks to the interest rate charged on the facilities.

Masupe indicated in the letter dated 21 December 2021 that although all the Banks in the market had signed a similar agreement, subject to amendments that each may have requested. “We would like to suggest that our review be considered individually as opposed to being an industry position as we are cognisant of the requirements of section 25 of the Competition Act of 2018 which discourages fixing of pricing set for consumers,” he said.

He added that,“In this way,clients would still have the opportunity to shop around for more favourable pricing and the other Banks, may if they wish to, similarly, individually approach your office for a review of their pricing to the extent that they deem suitable for their respective organisations.”

Masupe also stated that: “On the issue of our request for the revision of the Interest Rate, we kindly request for an increase from the current rate of prime plus 0.5% to prime plus 2%, with no other increases during the loan period.” The Bank CEO said the rationale for the request to review pricing is due to the current construct of the GEMVAS scheme which is currently structured in a way that is resulting in the Bank making a loss.

“The greater part of the GEMVAS portfolio is the mortgage boo which constitutes 40% of the Bank’s total mortgage portfolio,” said Masupe. He saidthe losses that the Bank is incurring are as a result of the legacy pricing of prime plus 0% as the 1995 agreement which a slight increase in the August 2018 agreement to prime plus 0.5%.

“With this pricing, the GEMVAS portfolio has not been profitable to the Bank, causing distress and impeding its ability to continue to support government employees to buy houses and cars. The portfolio is currently priced at 5.25%,” he said.  Masupe said the performance of both the GEMVAS home loan and auto loan portfolios in terms of profitability have become unsustainable for the Bank.

Healso said, when the agreement was signed in August 2018, the prime lending rate was 6.75% which made the pricing in effect at the time sufficient from a profitable perspective. “It has since dropped by a total 1.5%. The funds that are loaned to customers are sourced at a high rate, which now leaves the Bank with marginal profits on the portfolio before factoring in other operational expenses associated with administration of the scheme and after sales care of the portfolio,” said the CEO.

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