Botswana Energy Regulatory Authority’s (BERA) long running financial irregularities feuds have flared up again and this time around there is a casualty, as Finance Director Chawada Machacha was shown the exit door.
Since beginning its operations in September 2017, the regulatory authority responsible for providing an efficient energy framework for renewable energy is synonymous with negativity. Recently after a ‘dysfunctional’ board was suspended, it seemed BERA entered a rejuvenated era. This sense of serenity has, however, been shattered as allegations of corruption and office abuse resurfaced at the Lobatse based institution.
The financial rot emanates from office refurbishment which was initially budgeted at P5.9 million but rather increased to P6.3 million. The renovations which included furniture and other accessories then sky rocketed to a staggering P12.2 million. In what many view as the tip of an iceberg, Finance Director, Machacha, was this week dismissed from employment with immediate effect, after exposing the embarrassing expenditure by the BERA executive.
The letter dated 26th February referenced ‘dismissal from employment-yourself [Machacha]’ reads as thus; “You were charged with wilful disclosure of confidential information which disclosure is detrimental to the interest of the employer contrary to clause 18.104.22.168 of the BERA Disciplinary Procedures as contained in the General Conditions of Service, 2017.” It further reads; “As a result, you are hereby dismissed from work without notice, with immediate effect in accordance with BERA Disciplinary Procedures Section 21.8.3 and section 26 of the Employment act.”
The letter signed by BERA CEO Rose Seretse, says, the decision to sack the employee is subsequent to a disciplinary meeting instituted against the employee on the 20-25th of this month. At the core of the incidents that gave rise to the charges, are articles in the Gazette newspaper of which they were to the detriment of the authority and put it into disrepute, the letter reads in part.
It is however noted that the disciplinary hearings were conducted in Machacha’s absence as her reasons not to attend were deemed not valid by the panel which proceeded with the disciplinary enquiry as the employee waived her right to be heard or defend herself. BERA finance team has since been suspended on suspicion of bringing the institution in disrepute by exposing misappropriation of funds. The regulatory authority as it totters into a mud of financial rot has now attracted the attention of its parent ministry.
The new development is expected to open a can of worms as the finance team has already written a letter to the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Mineral Resources, Green Technology and Energy Resources Mmetla Masire regarding the matter. At centre stage is the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Seretse and Chief Operations Officer (COO) Duncan Morotsi, who prior to Machacha’s sacking were said to have breached good corporate governance by personally handling the office renovations.
Last year the then Minister of Mineral Resources, Green Technology and Energy Security, Eric Molale instituted a commission headed by former Deputy Attorney General, Tendekani Malebeswa to investigate BERA. The probe team was to have instructive terms of reference to recommend the dismissal of BERA’s CEO, Rose Seretse; check the procurement processes of BERA which allowed the Chairman of BERA, Bernard Ndove to sell computers to the organisation; and finally audit the allowances given to Board members and some executives.
This publication is reliably informed that the commission in 2018 managed to interrogate all the eight board members, some junior staff members and former Minister Sadique Kebonang. “There are problems at BERA which have been reported to me officially. The investigation is to help me get the facts right and thereafter take the right decisions,” Kebonang told WeekendPost in 2018, adding that, “In fact Seretse [Rose] is the one who reported most issues.” Kebonang confirmed that he appeared before the commission on good authority to explain the setting up of BERA, appointment of Seretse as the CEO and board members. But despite all these, the government is still failing to clean the mud which stains BERA.
While there is no hard-and-fast rule in politics, former Molepolole North Member of Parliament, Mohamed Khan says populism acts in the body politic have forced him to quit active partisan politics. He brands this ancient ascription of politics as fake and says it lowers the moral compass of the society.
Khan who finally tasted political victory in the 2014 elections after numerous failed attempts, has decided to leave the ‘dirty game’, and on his way out he characteristically lashed at the current political leaders; including his own party president, Advocate Duma Boko. “I arrived at this decision because I have noticed that there are no genuine politics and politicians. The current leaders, Boko and President Dr Mokgweetsi Masisi are fake politicians who are just practicing populist politics to feed their egos,” he said.
Former Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) parliamentary hopeful, Lawrence Ookeditse has rejected the idea of taking up a crucial role in the Botswana Patriotic Front (BPF) Central Committee following his arrival in the party this week. According to sources close to development, BPF power brokers are coaxing Ookeditse to take up the secretary general position, left vacant by death of Roseline Panzirah-Matshome in November 2020.
Ookeditse’s arrival at BPF is projected to cause conflicts, as some believe they are being overlooked, in favour of a new arrival. The former ruling party strategist has however ruled out the possibility of serving in the party central committee as secretary general, and committed that he will turn down the overture if availed to him by party leadership.
Ookeditse, nevertheless, has indicated that if offered another opportunity to serve in a different capacity, he will gladly accept. “I still need to learn the party, how it functions and all its structures; I must be guided, but given any responsibility I will serve the party as long as it is not the SG position.”
“I joined the BPF with a clear conscious, to further advance my voice and the interests of the constituents of Nata/Gweta which I believe the BDP is no longer capable to execute.” Ookeditse speaks of abject poverty in his constituency and prevalent unemployment among the youth, issues he hopes his new home will prioritise.
He dismissed further allegations that he resigned from the BDP because he was not rewarded for his efforts towards the 2019 general elections. After losing in the BDP primaries in 2018, Ookeditse said, he was offered a job in government but declined to take the post due to his political ambitions. Ookeditse stated that he rejected the offer because, working for government clashed with his political journey.
He insists there are many activists who are more deserving than him; he could have chosen to take up the opportunity that was before him but his conscious for the entire populace’s wellbeing held him back. Ookeditse said there many people in the party who also contributed towards party success, asserting that he only left the BDP because he was concerned about the greater good of the majority not individualism purposes.
According to observers, Ookeditse has been enticed by the prospects of contesting Nata/Gweta constituency in the 2024 general election, following the party’s impressive performance in the last general elections. Nata/Gweta which is a traditional BDP stronghold saw its numbers shrinking to a margin of 1568. BDP represented by Polson Majaga garnered 4754, while BPF which had fielded Joe Linga received 3186 with UDC coming a distant with 1442 votes.
There are reports that Linga will pave way for Ookeditse to contest the constituency in 2024 and the latter is upbeat about the prospects of being elected to parliament. Despite Ookeditse dismissing reports that he is eying the secretary general position, insiders argue that the position will be availed to him nevertheless.
Alternative favourite for the position is Vuyo Notha who is the party Deputy Secretary General. Notha has since assumed duties of the secretariat office on the interim basis. BPF politburo is expected to meet on 25th of January 2020, where the vacancy will be filled.
Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) big wigs have decided to cancel a retreat with the party legislators this weekend owing to increasing numbers of Covid-19 cases. The meeting was billed for this weekend at a place that was to be confirmed, however a communique from the party this past Tuesday reversed the highly anticipated meeting.
“We received a communication this week that the meeting will not go as planned because of rapid spread of Covid-19,” one member of the party Central Committee confirmed to this publication. The gathering was to follow the first of its kind held late last year at party Treasurer Satar Dada’s place.