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.
Botswana Police Service (BPS) has indicated concern about the ongoing trend where the general public falls victim to criminals purporting to be police officers.
According to BPS Assistant Commissioner, Dipheko Motube, the criminals target individuals at shopping malls and Automated Teller Machines (ATMs) where upon approaching the unsuspecting individual the criminals would pretend to have picked a substantial amount of money and they would make a proposal to the victims that the money is counted and shared in an isolated place.
“On the way, as they stop at the isolated place, they would start to count and sharing of the money, a criminal syndicate claiming to be Criminal Investigation Department (CID) officer investigating a case of stolen money will approach them,” said Motube in a statement.
The Commissioner indicated that the fake police officers would instruct the victims to hand over all the cash they have in their possession, including bank cards and Personal Identification Number (PIN), the perpetrators would then proceed to withdraw money from the victim’s bank account.
Motube also revealed that they are also investigating a case in which a 69 year old Motswana woman from Molepolole- who is a victim of the scam- lost over P62 000 last week Friday to the said perpetrators.
“The Criminal syndicate introduced themselves as CID officers investigating a case of robbery where a man accompanying the woman was the suspect.’’
They subsequently went to the woman’s place and took cash amounting to over P12 000 and further swindled amount of P50 000 from the woman’s bank account under the pretext of the further investigations.
In addition, Motube said they are currently investigating the matter and therefore warned the public to be vigilant of such characters and further reminds the public that no police officer would ask for bank cards and PINs during the investigations.
Botswana Congress Party (BCP) leadership walked out of Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting this week on account of being targeted by other cooperating partners.
UDC meet for the first time since 2020 after previous futile attempts, but the meeting turned into a circus after other members of the executive pushed for BCP to explain its role in media statements that disparate either UDC and/or contracting parties.
The Director General of the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crimes (DCEC), Tymon Katlholo’s spirited fight against the contentious transfers of his management team has forced the Office of the President to rescind the controversial decision. However, some insiders suggest that the reversal of the transfers may have left some interested parties with bruised egos and nursing red wounds.
The transfers were seen by observers as a badly calculated move to emasculate the DCEC which is seen as defiant against certain objectionable objectives by certain law enforcement agencies – who are proven decisionists with very little regard for the law and principle.