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.
New details about a suspected Motswana poacher arrested in Namibian and his accomplice who is on the run were revealed when the suspect appeared in court this week.
The Motswana Citizen who was shot and wounded by Namibia’s anti poaching unit is facing criminal charges under criminal case number (CR NO 10/06/2022) which was registered at the Divundu Police Station in the Mukwe constituency of the Kavango East Region on 10 June 2022.
It is alleged that a patrol team laid an ambush after discovering a giraffe’s fresh carcass in a snare wire and hanging biltong. According to the Charge Sheet, the suspect Djeke Dihutu, aged 40 years, is charged with contravening and transgressions of Nature Conservation Ordinance andcontravening Immigration Act 07 in Mahango Wildlife Core Area, Bwabwata National Park. Dihutu’s first court appearance was on the 17th of June 2022, Rundu and it was postponed to the 07 July 2022. He is currently hospitalized in hospital under Police Guards.
Commenting on this latest development, the Namibian Lives Matter Movement National Chairperson Sinvula Mudabeti applauded the Namibian Anti Poaching Unit for its compliance with what it called the universal instrument on the Code of Conduct for Law Enforcement Officials adopted by the United Nations General Assembly resolution 34/169.
“We are aware that the duties of the police carry a great deal of risk, but our police has shown that they have a moral calling and obligation to protect even foreigners suspected of serious crimes on Namibian soil,” said Mudabeti.
According to him, whereas the Botswana Police Service, the Botswana Defence Force (BDF) and Directorate of Intelligence Service (DIS) have “very low moral ethics, integrity, accountability and honesty, the Namibian security agencies has shown very high levels of ethical leadership in the discharge of their duties even under duress.”
He said Namibian’s anti poaching unit has exercised one very important value, that is, the use of force only when it is reasonable and necessary. Mudabeti said this is in harmony with international best practices as enshrined in Article 2 of the UN instrument on law enforcement conduct, “In the performance of their duty, law enforcement officials shall respect and protect human dignity and maintain and uphold the human rights of all persons.
Our police have protected the life of a Botswana poacher and accorded him dignity, which is very foreign to our Botswana counterparts,” he said. He said article 3 of the same instrument above, calls for Law enforcement officials to use force only when strictly necessary and to the extent required for the performance of their duty.
“This provision emphasizes that the use of force by law enforcement officials should be exceptional; while it implies that law enforcement officials may be authorized to use force as is reasonably necessary under the circumstances for the prevention of crime or in effecting or assisting in the lawful arrest of suspected offenders, no force going beyond that was used by our Police,” he said.
Furthermore, Mudabeti said, whereas the universally accepted norm of the law of proportionality ordinarily permits the use of force by law enforcement, it is to be understood that such principles of proportionality in no case should be interpreted to authorize the use of force which is disproportionate to the legitimate objective to be achieved.
“Our police have used force proportional to the situation at hand. Great work indeed! Article 6 urges law enforcement officials to ensure the full protection of the health of persons in their custody and, in particular, shall take immediate action to secure medical attention whenever required,” he said.
Mudabeti said the Botswana poacher was immediately taken to hospital whereas the Nchindo brothers who were captured on Namibian soil, beaten, tortured and executed while pleading to be taken to the hospital we left to die.
“The Namibian Doctor gave evidence in court that Sinvula Munyeme’s lungs showed signs of life (during the autopsy) and that he could have survived if he was accorded immediate medical assistance in time but was left to die while BDF soldiers looked and possibly ignored his cry for help,” he said.
Mudabeti said unlike in Botswana where there are no clear separation of powers between the BDF, Botswana Police Service, Department of Intelligence and their Directorate of Public Prosecutions,” we have a system that allows for checks and balances and allows our people and foreigners who are found on the wrong side of the law to be accorded the right to a fair trial.”
He said Botswana citizens are treated with dignity when apprehended in Namibia and not assaulted, tortured and executed. “We are a civilized country that respects international law in dealing with non-Namibian criminals. The Namibian Police have not mistreated the Botswana poacher but have given him the benefit of the doubt by allowing due processes of the law to be followed,” he said.
He added that, “We are a peace loving nation that has not repaid Botswana by the evil that Botswana has done to Namibia by killing more than 37 innocent and unarmed Namibians by the trigger happy BDF.” He concluded that, “Our acts of mercy in arresting Botswana citizens should never be mistaken for cowardice.”
The government has reportedly taken a decision to terminate provision of pool housing and subsidy for civil servants as it attempts to trim the public service wage bill.
This emerges in a dispute that is currently before the Labour Office headquarters lodged by unions representing thousands of civil servants across the country. This publication understands that the decision to cease providing pool housing and rental subsidy for public officers is part of proposals that government put on the table during its negotiations with public service unions in order for it to adjust salaries.
A letter from Labour Office addressed to the Directorate of Public Service Management (DPSM) shows that the directorate is cited as the First Respondent. The letter is titled, “Dispute lodged: Cessation of provision of pool housing and subsidy for pubic officers.”
“This serves as a notification and requirement to a mediation hearing,” the letter informed DPSM. According to the letter, the Botswana Teachers Union (BTU), Botswana Sectors of Educators Trade Unions (BOSETU) Botswana Nurses Union (BONU) and Botswana Land Board &Local Authorities &Health workers Union (BLLAHW) who lodged the complaint are cited as the Applicant.
“Please come for mediation hearing. The hearing will be conducted by Mr Lebang. The hearing is scheduled for date/time 29th June 2022, 09: 00HOURS at Block 8 District Labour Office, Gaborone. Please bring all relevant documents,” reads the letter in part.
According to a document described as a proposal paper on the negotiations on salaries and other conditions of employment of public officers by the employer (government), the government did not only propose to stop providing accommodation to civil servants but also put a number of proposals on the table.
The proposal papers states that the negotiations (which have since been concluded) cover three government financial years; 2022/23, 2023/24 and 2024/25. The government proposed an across the board salary adjustments as follows; 3% for the financial year 2022/23 effective 1st April 2022, across the board salary adjustment of 3.5% for the financial year 2023/24 effective 1st April 2023 subject to performance of the economy and across the board salary adjustment of 4% for the financial year 2024/25 effective 1st April 2024 subject to performance of the economy.
The government also proposed phasing out of retention and attractive (Scarce Skills) Allowance with a view to migration towards clean pay, renegotiate and set new timelines for all outstanding issues contained in the Collective Labour Agreement, executed by the employer and trade unions on the 27th August 2019, to ensure proper sequencing, alignment and proper implementation. The government also proposed to freeze public service recruitment for the 2022/23 financial year and withdraw the financial equivalence of P500 million attached to vacancies from Ministries, Department and Agencies (MDAs).
Another proposal included phasing out of commuted overtime allowance and payment of overtime in accordance with the law and review human resource policies during the financial year 2022/23, 2023/24 and 2024/25.
The government argued that its proposals were premised on affordability and sustainability adding that it was important to underscore that the review of salaries and conditions of service for public officers was taking place at a time when there were uncertainties both in the global and domestic economies.
“Furthermore there is need to ensure that any collective labour agreement that is concluded does not breach the fiscal deficit target of 4% of GDP,” the proposal paper stated. The proposal paper further indicated that beyond salary adjustments, the Government of Botswana is of the view that a more comprehensive consideration “must be taken on the issue of remuneration in the public service by embracing principles such as total rewards compensation which involves taking a fully comprehensive and holistic approach to how our organization compensates employees for the work.”
The proposal paper also noted that, “Clearly, the increase in salaries and changes to other conditions of service which have monetary consequences will further increase the proportion of the budget taken by salaries, allowances and other monetary based conditions of services.”
“The consequential effect would be a reduction of the portion that can be used for other recurrent budget needs (e.g. maintenance of assets, consumable supplies such as medicines and books) and for development projects,” the proposal states.
Opposition Botswana Patriotic Front (BPF) National Executive Committee will in no time investigate charges party members worked with the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) membership to tip the scales in favour of the latter for Serowe Sub-council Chairmanship in exchange for deputy seat in a dramatic 11th hour gentleman’s deal, leaving the ruling party splinter under the political microscope.
In a spectacular Sub-council election membership last Thursday, the ruling BDP’s Lesedi Phuthego beat Atamelang Thaga with 14 votes to 12 for Serowe Sub-council Chairmanship coveted seat and subsequently the ruling party’s councilor Bernard Kenosi withdrew his candidacy in the final hour for the equally admired deputy chair paving the way for Solomon Dikgang of BPF, seen as long sealed ‘I scratch your back and you scratch mine’ gentleman’s agreement between the contenders.
Both parties entered the race with a tie of votes torn between 12 councillors each, translating for election race that will go down to the wire definitely. But that will not be the case as two BPF councilors shifted their allegiance to the ruling party during the first race for Chairmanship held in a secret ballot and no sooner was the election concluded then the ruling party answered back by withdrawing its candidacy for the deputy chair position to give BPF’s Dikgang the post on a silver platter unopposed.
BPF councilor Vuyo Notha confirmed the incident in an interview on Wednesday, insisting the party NEC was determined to “investigate the matter soon”. “During the race for the Chairmanship, two more BPF voted for alongside the ruling party membership. It was clear Dikgang voted alongside the BDP as immediately after the vote for Chairmanship was concluded, Kenosi withdraw his candidacy to render Dikgang unopposed as a payback,” Notha added.
As for the other vote, Makolo ward councilor will not be drawn for the identity preferring instead to say: “BPF NEC will convene all the councilors to investigate the matter soon and we will take from there.” Notha will also not be drawn to conclude may be the culprit councilors could have defected to the ruling party silently.
“If they are no longer part of us they should say so and a by-election be called,” was all he could say. As it stands now, the law forbids sitting Councilors and Parliamentarians from crossing the floor to another party as to do so will immediately invite for a new election as dictated by the law. Incumbent politicians will therefore dare not venture for the unknown with a by-election that could definitely cost their political life and certainly their full benefits.
Notha could also not be dragged to link the culprit councilors actions to BPF Serowe region Chairperson Tebo Thokweng who has silently defected to the ruling party and currently employed by the party businessman and former candidate for Serowe West Moemedi Dijeng as PRO for the highly anticipated cattle abattoir project in Serowe.
“As for Thokweng he has not resigned from the party but from the region’s chairmanship,” he said. WeekendPost investigations suggest Thokweng is the secret snipper behind the recruitment drive of the votes for the elections and is determined to tear the party dominance in Serowe and the neighbouring villages asunder including in Palapye going forward.
This publication’s investigations also show BPF’s Radisele and UDC’s Mokgware/Mogome councilors are under the radar of investigations for the votes-themselves associated with the workings and operations of Thokweng.
“NEC will definitely leave no stone unturned with their investigations to get into the bottom of the matter. Disciplinary actions will follow certainly,” Notha concluded, underscoring the need to toe the party line to set a good precedent. For the youthful councilor, the actions of his peers has set a wrong precedent which has to be dealt with seriously to deter future culprits.