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.
The Directorate of Public Prosecutions (DPP)’s decision to reject and appeal the High Court’s verdict on a case involving High Court Judge, Dr Zein Kebonang has frustrated the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) and Judge Kebonang’s back to work discussions.
JSC and Kebonang have been in constant discussions over the latter’s return to work following a ruling by a High Court panel of judges clearing him of any wrong doing in the National Petroleum Fund criminal case filed by the DPP. However the finalization of the matter has been hanged on whether the DPP will appeal the matter or not – the prosecution body has since appealed.
Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) top brass has declined a request by Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) to negotiate the legal fees occasioned by 2019 general elections petition in which the latter disputed in court the outcome of the elections.
This publication is made aware that UDC Vice President Dumelang Saleshando was left with an egg on his face after the BDP big wigs, comprising of party Chairman Slumber Tsogwane and Secretary General Mpho Balopi rejected his plea.
“He was told that this is a legal matter and therefore their (UDC) lawyer should engage ours (BDP) for negotiations because it is way far from our jurisdiction,” BDP Head of Communications, Kagelelo Kentse, told this publication.
This spelt doom for the main opposition party and Saleshando who seems not to have confidence and that the UDC lawyers have the dexterity to negotiate these kind of matters. It is not clear whether Saleshando requested UDC lawyer Boingotlo Toteng to sit at the table with Bogopa Manewe, Tobedza and Co, who are representing the BDP to strike a deal as per the BDP top echelons suggested.
“From my understanding, the matter is dealt with politically as the two parties are negotiating how to resolve it, but by far nothing has come to me on the matter. So I believe they are still substantively engaging each other,” Toteng said briefly in an interview on Thursday.
UDC petitioners saddled with costs after mounting an unprecedented legal suit before the court to try and overturn BDP’s October 2019 victory. The participants in the legal matter involves 15 parliamentary candidates’ and nine councillors. The UDC petitioned the court and contested the outcome of the elections citing “irregularities in some of the constituencies”.
In a brief ruling in January 2020, Judge President Ian Kirby on behalf of a five-member panel said: “We have no jurisdiction to entertain these appeals. These appeals must be struck out each with costs including costs of counsel”. This was a second blow to the UDC in about a month after their 2019 appeals were dismissed by the High Court a day before Christmas Day.
This week BDP attorneys decided to attach UDC petitioners’ property in a bid to settle the debts. UDC President Duma Boko is among those that will see their property being attached with 14 of his party members. “We have attached some and we are on course. So far, Dr. Mpho Pheko (who contested Gaborone Central) and that of Dr, Micus Chimbombi (who contested Kgalagadi South) will have their assets being sold on the 5th of February 2021,” BDP attorney Basimane Bogopa said.
Asked whether they met with UDC lawyers to try solve the matter, Bogopa said no and added. “Remember we are trying to raise the client’s funds, so after these two others will follow. Right now we are just prioritising those from Court of Appeal, as soon as the high court is done with taxation we will attach.”
Saleshando, when contacted about the outcomes of the meeting with the BDP, told WeekendPost that: “It would not be proper and procedural for me to tell you about the meeting outcomes before I share with UDC National Executive Committee (NEC), so I will have to brief them first.”
UDC NEC will meet on the 20th of next month to deal with a number of thorny issues including settling the legal fees. Negotiations with other opposition parties- Alliance for Progressives and Botswana Patriotic Front (BPF) are also on the agenda.
Currently, UDC has raised P44 238 of the P565 000 needed to cover bills from the Court of Appeal (CoA). This is the amount in a UDC trust account which is paltry funds equating 7.8 per cent of the overall required money. In the past despite the petitioners maintaining that there was promise to assist them to settle legal fees, UDC Spokesperson, Moeti Mohwasa then said the party has never agreed in no way to help them.
“We have just been put in debt by someone,” one of the petitioners told this publication in the past. “President’s (Duma Boko) message was clear at the beginning that money has been sourced somewhere to help with the whole process but now we are here there is nothing and we are just running around trying to make ends meet and pay,” added the petitioner in an interview UDC NEC has in December last year directed all the 57 constituencies to each raise a minimum of P10, 000. The funds will be used to settle debts that are currently engulfing the petitioners with Sheriffs, who are already hovering around ready to attach their assets.
The petitioners, despite the party intervention, have every right to worry. “This is so because ‘the deadline for this initiative (P10, 000 per constituency) is the end of the first quarter of this year (2021),” a period in which the sheriffs would have long auctioned the properties.
President of the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) Duma Boko’s alliance with former President Lt Gen Ian Khama continues to unsettle some quarters within the opposition collective, who believe the duo, if not managed, will once again result in an unsuccessful bid for government in 2024.
While Khama has denied that he has undeclared preference to have Boko remaining as leader of UDC, many believe that the two have a common programme, while other opposition leaders remain on the side-lines.