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Labour audit report is ‘empty’

Pressure mounts on Edwin Batshu to release Unions audit report

The Minister of Labour and Home Affairs, Edwin Batshu finds himself pelleted with strong words from union members who want the release of an audit report carried out on various unions in the country to establish if they were complying with requirements of the Societies’ Act.


Recently, concerned members of the Botswana Mine Workers Union (BMWU) wrote a letter (on 8 July 2015) to the minister demanding “a full report as the union will be going for an elective congress during the month of September 2015, so that members can have knowledge of what transpired.”


The letter, authored by the general secretary of the union, Bob Malele futher reads, “Notwithstanding that, we request for a meeting with the minister to motivate the issue whose meeting is proposed for Wednesday 15 July 2015 or Friday 17 July 2015 at your premises…” However the minister did not respond or give the concerned members an audience.


However, the President of the union, Jack Tlhagale on the 13 July 2015, wrote another letter requesting the national executive committee members of the union to urge Malele to withdraw the letter to the Minister: “…I therefore require of you to ask him to withdraw the letter immediately by lunch tomorrow failing which I will address the Minister directly on lack of internal consensus on the meeting being sought,” wrote Tlhagale.


Despite Tlhagale’s intervention, the concerned union members have now written a second letter to the minister in which they thank the minister for invoking powers invested in him by section 49 of the Trade Unions and Employers’ Organisations Act of 2004 to institute investigations into “what we suspect to be misappropriation of union funds and or maladministration at Botswana Mine Workers Union,” reads the letter. They state that it is on this basis that they demanded answers on the outcome of the investigation.


The investigation by the Ministry was headed by the deputy head of the Criminal Investigations Department (CID) who was seconded to the Ministry. Union members suspected that the outcome of the audit has been communicated to their leaders and were not sharing it.

However WeekendPost has established that the investigating team came out empty handed across most unions because there is no evidence and there is no filing or documentation that could help inform an investigation, instead, the investigating team could only offer recommendation in regard to filing information and keeping track of members’ subscriptions.

A CASE OF MISSING FUNDS

Further to the Minister’s investigation, BMWU executive instituted another investigation into the use of union funds. The audit was conducted by Ernest & Young Management Services, this came after one of the union employees was found to be involved in fraud activities in connection with union funds.

“The report of the investigation has also been availed to us and its findings are also noted with concern. In addition to the above investigations, the audited financial statements for the year ending the 31st December 2011 and 31st December 2012 were presented to us and the disclaimer opinion by the auditors for both years have also been noted with great concern,” reads the letter to Batshu.


The members wrote that they have observed that generally no financial records of any other signed minutes of the NEC meeting authorising payment as per the requirement of the constitution were kept. They also noted discrepancies in the union’s internal control systems or that no systems were in place at all. In addition there are no adequate backup procedures for the union’s financial payroll systems implemented or maintained. “Despite tax being deducted from employees over the period 2004-2010, no amount was remitted to Botswana Unified Revenue Services (BURS).”


They further state that BURS has requested a detailed breakdown of employees and their remunerations over the period 2004-2010 for which deductions were made but not remitted to BURS, but BMWU is currently unable to provide required information because the information is not there, they state.


“Audited financial statements for the years 2006-2012 were not submitted to the registrar as required by law or were not done at all up until the registrar threatened to deregister the union. They were urgently done by the current NEC albeit with some difficulties in finding relevant information and were submitted towards the end of 2012. It is apparent as stated in the reports that all the above failures or administrative lapses occurred between the years 2004-2010 and escalated to the 2011/12 financial year,” reads the report to Batshu.  


In May 2009 about six cheques were removed from the union cheque book and there is no bank statement for the same period. “It is our considered view as members that information was not kept or destroyed deliberately in order to conceal the truth. We believe there was a beneficiary of the missing cheques and that they were obtained fraudulently. We are concerned that our information was not kept in an appropriate manner and in accordance with international best practice.”  


The concerned members state that failure to keep records and or submit audited financial statements as required by section 29 and 30 of the Trade Union and Employers’ Organisation Act is by itself an offence punishable under the same Act. BMWU has 8000 plus members, and the multitudes who signed the concern letter to Batshu want action to be taken against those who perpetrated the alleged fraud at the organisation.  “If they are in leadership they must be removed and prosecuted,” they charge.


In addition to the misappropriation of funds and the maladministration, the concerned union members allege that they have discovered that union funds were used for personal gain by some individuals and there is also evidence that there is money that went missing at the hands of certain individuals, “…but because of favouritism or maladministration entrenched in our organisation, leadership has failed to take appropriate action to protect union funds,” they wrote.


One of the members is alleged to have defrauded the union over P10 000 during the period 2009 and 2013. “He was only dismissed from work and no criminal case was opened against him.”


“An amount of P51 000 was cashed at Jwaneng branch account after signatures were forged. BMWU cheque was used to cash from this account. The matter was reported to the police but no follow up was ever made by the leadership.


BCL branch leadership failed to account for P10 000 which was given to the branch for administrative purposes. The NEC then instituted investigation which was carried by a private company called Financial Modellers & Business Consultants. After the conclusion of the investigation, the report implicated them on criminal deception over the money. During the investigation period, the concerned office bearers were suspended from office by the NEC, surprisingly they were reinstated immediately after the report was handed to the leadership,” reads part of the detailed letter.


“Having elaborated more on criminal acts, poor administration, lack of corporate governance, non-compliance to laws of the land, favouritism and opportunism bedevilling our organisation, we have decided to stand up as active members to protect our organisation and resources from any further damage by some individual leaders who are not even paying any subscriptions to the union. Subsequently we hereby make an appeal to the Registrar to invoke his powers under section 44 of the Trade Unions and Employers Organisation Act to prosecute and interdict these leaders from holding office and controlling union funds,” they wrote.


When asked to comment on the issues, general secretary, Bob Malele, could not deny or confirm the allegations. He said if there are internal matters they will be addressed at the appropriate forums. As the union prepares for its congress, the financial pitfalls are expected to play a major role in the campaigns and the lobbying.

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BONELA speaks on same-sex decriminalization case

18th October 2021
BONELA

In June 2019, a case involving the Attorney General was brought before the High Court, in which the applicant Letsweletse Motshidiemang challenged Sections 164 (a) and 167 of the Penal Code. The applicant contended that these sections are unconstitutional because they violate the fundamental rights of liberty and privacy. 

The applicant argued that these sections violated his right and freedom to liberty as he was subject to abject ignominy. These laws subjected the LGBTIQ community to brutal and debasing treatment through social control and public morality. On the 1st of November 2017, the Botswana High Court further allowed Lesbians, Gays and Bisexuals of Botswana (LEGABIBO) to join the case as amicus curiae.

However, in July 2019, the respondents, in this case, i.e. the Government, filed an appeal against this iconic High Court ruling seeking re-criminalization of homosexuality. Human Rights Group has criticized this move of the Government all over the world.  The appeal was heard before five judges at the Court of Appeal on Tuesday. The State was represented by Advocate Sidney Pilane, while LEGABIBO and Letsweletse Motshidiemang were represented by Tshiamo Rantao and Gosego Rockfall Lekgowe, respectively.

Non-Governmental Organizations advocating for the LGBTIQ+ community joined the two parties at the Court of Appeal during this case. They argue that the minority group should enjoy their rights, especially the right to privacy and health. Botswana Network on Ethics, Law and HIV/AIDS (BONELA) Chief Executive Officer, Cindy Kelemi says the issues being raised by LEGABIBO are that as individuals belonging to the LGBTIQ community, they have and must share equal rights, including the right to privacy, which also speaks to being able to involve in sexual activities, including anal sex.

“Those rights are framed within the constitution, and therefore a violation of any of those rights allow them to approach the courts and seek for redress. We do not need the law to be regulating what we do in the privacy of our homes. The law cannot determine how and when we can have sex and with who, so the law does not have any business in that context. What we are saying is that the law is violating the right to privacy,” she said on the sidelines of the decriminalization case in Gaborone on Tuesday.

The first case involving the homosexual act was the Utjiwa Kanane vs the State in 2003. Contrary to section 164(c) of the Penal Code, Kanane was charged with committing an unnatural offence and engaging in indecent practices between males, contrary to section 167. The conduct at issue involved Graham Norrie, a British tourist, and occurred in December 1994. (Norrie pleaded guilty, paid a fine, and left the country.)

Kanane pleaded not guilty, alleging that sections 164(c) and 167 both violated the constitution. The High Court ruled that these sections of the Penal Code did not violate the constitution. Kanane then appealed to the Court of Appeal. BONELA CEO recalls that in its judgment then, the High Court indicated, Batswana were not ready for homosexual acts. Twenty years later, the same courts are saying that Batswana are ready, she says.

“They gave the explicit example that shows that indeed Batswana are ready. There are policies and documents in place that accommodate people from marginalized communities and minority populations. The question now is that why is it hard now to recognize the full rights of an individual who is of the LGBTI community?” She further says intimacy is only an expression. The law that restricts homosexuality makes it hard for LGBTIQ members to express themselves in a way that affirms who they are.

“We want a situation where the law facilitates for the LGBTIQ community to be free and express themselves. The stigma that they face in communities is way too punitive. They are called names; some have been physically violated and raped at times. It shows that the law doesn’t not only prevent them from expressing themselves, it also exposes them to violence.” The law on its own, Kelemi submits, cannot change the status quo, adding that there is a need for more awareness and education on human rights and what it means for an individual to have rights.

“As it is now, it is very tough for some to do that because of a legal environment that is not enabling. We also want to see a situation where LGBTIQ+ people can access services and be confident that they are provided with non-discriminatory services. It is challenging now because health care providers, social workers and law enforcement officers believe that it is illegal to be homosexual. What we are saying is that if you have an enabling law, then that will facilitate for people to be able to express themselves, including accessing health services,” Kelemi said.

“As we are doing this advocacy work, one of the issues that we picked up is that there is lack of capacity, especially on the part of healthcare workers. We noted that when we provide services or mobilize Men who have sex with other men (MSM) to access health facilities, health care workers are not welcoming, forcing them to hideaway. We must put an end to this to allow these people the freedom that they equally deserve.”

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Masisi warns Gov’t officials

18th October 2021
President Masisi

The President, Dr Mokgweetsi Masisi, has declared as an act of corruption the attitude and practice by government officials and contractors to deliver projects outside time and budget, adding that such a practice should end as it eats away from the public coffers.

For a very long time, management problems and vast cost overruns have been the order of the day in Botswana, resulting in public frustrations. Speaking at the commissioning of the Masama/Mmamashia 100 Kilometres project this week, Masisi said: “There is a tendency in government to leave projects to drag outside their allocated completion time and budget. I want to stress that this will not be tolerated. It is an act of corruption, and I will be engaging offices on this issue,” Masisi said.

In an interview with this publication over the issue, the Director-General of the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC), Tymon Katholo, says, “any project that goes beyond its scope and budget raises red flags.” He continued that: “Corruption on these issues can be administrative and criminal. It may be because government officials have been negligent or been paid to be negligent by ignoring certain obligations or procedures. “This, as you may be aware has serious implications on not only of the economy but even the citizens who use these facilities or projects,” Katlholo said, adding that his agency is equally concerned.

According to the DCEC director, the selection, planning and delivery of infrastructure or projects is critical. In most cases, this is where the corruption would have occurred, leading to a troubled project. A public finance expert at the University of Botswana (UB), Emmanuel Botlhale, attributes poor project implementation to declining public accountability, lack of commitment to reforming the public sector, a decline in the commitment by state authorities and lack of a culture of professional project management.

In his research paper titled, ‘Enhancing public project implementation in Botswana during the NDP 11 period,’ Botlhale stated that successful implementation is critical in development planning. If there is poor project implementation, economic development will be stalled.
Corruption is particularly relevant for large and uncommon projects where the public sector acts as a client, and experts say Megaprojects are very likely to be affected by corruption. Corruption worsens both cost and time performance and the benefits expected from such projects.

Speaking during this week’s Masama/Mmamashia pipeline commissioning, Khato Civils chairman said Africans deserve a chance because they are capable, further adding that the Africans do not have to think that only Whites and Chinese people can do mega projects.  During his rule, former president Ian Khama went public to attack Chinese contractors for costing the government a move that ended up fuelling tensions between China and Botswana after Khama dispatched the then Minister of Foreign Affairs, Pelonomi Venson Moitoi, to China to register Botswana’s complaints with Chinese government-owned construction companies.  Botswana had approached the Chinese government for help in its marathon battle with Chinese companies contracted to build, among others, the failed controversial Morupule B power plant and refurbishment of Sir Seretse Khama International Airport (SSIK).

 

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Guma’s battle for millions of Pula give Court headache

18th October 2021
Guma Moyo

A legal battle between former Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) legislator Samson Moyo Guma and First National Bank (FNB) over a multimillion oil refinery project intensified this week with Justice Zein Kebonang referring the matter to Court of Appeal for determination.  The project belongs to Moyo Guma’s company called United Refineries which he has since placed under judicial management.

The war of words between Moyo Guma and FNB escalated after the company’s property worth millions of Pula were put up for sale in execution by the bank and scheduled to take place on 8th October. It emerges from Court papers that the bank had secured an order from the High Court to place the company’s property under the hammer.

Moyo Guma then also approached the High Court seeking among others that the public auction scheduled for 8th October 2021 be stayed. He contended that the assets that were to be sold belonged in reality to United Refineries and that as the company had been under judicial management at the time of the attachment, the intended sale in execution was unlawful.

He also sought the Court to declare that the writs of execution against the properties of guarantors and sureties of United Refineries Botswana Holdings Propriety Limited (the company) are unlawful.  Moyo Guma also sought a stay of the execution against the property known as Plot 43556 in Francistown, that is, the land buildings, plant and machinery which make up the property and any all immovable or movable property belonging to the guarantors and sureties of the company pending finalization of the winding up of United Refineries.

But FNB disputed Moyo Guma’s assertions and submitted that the properties in question belonged to TEC (Pty) Ltd and not United Refiners. TEC Pty Ltd which is one of the shareholders in United Refineries is one of the sureties and co-principal debtors of a debt amounting to P24 million owed by United Refineries to FNB.  FNB argued in papers that the properties belonged to TEC because it was TEC which had passed a covering mortgage bond in its favour over the property it now sought to execute.

Moyo Guma submitted that the covering mortgage bond passed in favour of FNB did not tell the full story as the property in question was in truth and fact owned by United Refineries and not TEC Pty Ltd. He maintained that the shares had been had been passed by the company in exchange for the properties in question and that the parties had always been guided by the spirt of the share agreement in dealing with each other despite delays in the change or transfer of ownership of plots 43556 and plot 43557 in Francistown.

Kebonang said it was clear to him that the two plots (43556 and 435570 belonged to United Refineries notwithstanding that TEC (Pty) Ltd had passed a mortgage bond over them in favour of FNB.  “For this reason the properties were immune from attachment or sale in execution so long as the judicial management order was in place,” he said.

The background of the case is that Moyo Guma together with five other investors, namely Elffel Flats (Pty) Ltd; Mmoloki Tibe; TEC (Pty) Ltd; Profidensico (Pty) Ltd and Tiedze Bob Chapi, each bound themselves as sureties and co-principal debtors in respect of a debt owed by a company called United Refineries Botswana Holdings (Proprietary) Limited (the Company), to First National Bank Botswana (FNBB) (1st Respondent).

FNB had extended banking facilities to the company in the amount of P24 million which was then secured through the suretyship of Moyo Guma and other shareholders.  Court records show that Moyo had on the 11th February obtained a temporary order for the appointment of a provisional judicial manager in respect of United Refineries and it was confirmed by the High Court on 24th September 2019.

In terms of the final court order by the High Court issued by Justice Tshepho Motswagole all judicial proceedings against the company, execution of all writs, summons and process were stayed and could only proceed with leave of Court. Court documents also show that First National Bank had sued the company and the sureties for the recovery of the debt owed to it and through a consent order, the bank withdrew its lawsuit against the company.

But FNB later instituted fresh proceedings against Moyo Guma and did not cite the company in its proceedings.  “There is no explanation in the record as to why the Applicant was now reflected as the 1st Defendant and why the company had suddenly been removed as the 1st Defendant. There was no application either for amendment or substitution by the bank,” said Justice Kebonang.

FNB had also argued that it sought to proceed to execute against Moyo Guma and other sureties on the basis of the suretyship they signed and that by signing the suretyship agreement, Moyo and other sureties had renounced all defence available to them and could therefore be sued without first proceedings against the principal debtor (United Refineries).  The question, Kebonang said, was that can FNB proceed to execute against Moyo Guma and other sureties on the basis of the suretyship contracts they signed?

“The starting point is that the Applicant (Moyo Guma) and others by binding themselves as sureties became liable for debts of the principal debtor and such liability is joint and several. He said the consequences of placing the company under judicial management means that every benefit extended to it should also extend to sureties.

“If the company is afforded more time to pay or its debt is discharged, reduced or compromised or suspended the obligation of sureties is to be likewise treated. It follows in my view that where judicial proceedings are suspended or stayed against the company, then any recourse against the sureties is similarly stayed or suspended,’ said Kebonang.

He added that “In the circumstances of this case, it seems to me that so long as the company is under judicial management, the moratorium that applies to it must also apply to its sureties/guarantors and no execution of the writs should be permitted against them. Any execution would be invalid.”

“Mindful that there is judicial precedent on this point in Botswana, at least none that I am aware of, and given its significance, I consider it prudent that the Court of Appeal must provide a determinative answer to the question whether a creditor can proceed against sureties where a company is under judicial management,” said Kebonang.

Pending the determination of the Court of Appeal, he issued the following order; the execution of writs issued in favour of FNB against Moyo and other sureties/guarantors of United Refinery are hereby stayed pending the determination of the legal question referred to the Court of Appeal.

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