Our previous episode concluded with Kgosi Sebele II exercising tribal authority over local education through his appointment of Goktweng Gaealafshwe, David Kgosideintsi and Martinus Seboni as members of a reconstituted school board working alongside two representatives of the LMS and SPG (Anglican) missions.
While the Kgosi was able to thereafter forge a working relationship with the two mission societies in areas of shared interest, he continued to clash with the local magistrate, Claude Ledeboer. This culminated in his March 1923 call for the magistrate's removal for interfering in his domestic affairs.
During the same period Ledeboer accused Sebele and his tribal secretary with embezzling 200 pounds in Hut Tax receipts; a charge which was subsequently dropped. In response to the continued tension between the two the then Assistant Resident Commissioner, Roland Daniel, was dispatched from Mahikeng to conduct a public enquiry, which took place in the form of a pitso convened at Metsemothlaba. Its outcome was a decision to replace Ledeboer.
Although the minutes of the enquiry were destroyed, we know that among Ledeboer's concerns about Sebele was his commercial links with Kweneng's leading trader Max Luis "Raphalane" Hirschfeldt. Of Latvian Jewish origin Max, along his brother Adolph "Ranku" Hirschfeldt who ran a separate business in Molepolole, had arrived in the region around 1895. Both subsequently took Bakwena wives and otherwise integrated themselves into the local community.
By the 1920s Raphalane had established an informal but lucrative partnership with the Kgosi and other dikgosana through his international export of local game-products. Notwithstanding the 1899 declaration of the Ghanzi District as Crown Land lying outside of their gazetted Tribal Territory, up through the 1930's Bakwena tribute collectors continued to exercise defacto authority over much of today's Central Kgalagadi Game Reserve as well as western Kweneng. Many of the skins collected by leading Bakwena through organised hunting parties as well as tax or tribute were processed by some 500 dedicated sewers in Molepolole, who in turn supplied Raphalane.
A 1929 colonial report noted that the sewers had that year produced 17,911 lbs. of karosses valued at the then considerable sum of 4,212 pounds sterling. Hirschfeldt in turn exported the karosses to merchants in North America and Europe.
The Mahikeng authorities ultimately reacted to the 1920's expansion of the game products trade in Molepolole with hostility, notwithstanding the fact that it was sustained through the enforcement of indigenous conservation measures. Their reaction can, perhaps, be understood in the context of the colonial regime's constant, albeit unofficial, goal of encouraging as many Kweneng residents, including Bakgalagari and Khoe (Basarwa), as well as Batswana, to the Gauteng mines as migrant labourers.
In 1928 a Protectorate Police camel patrol was sent into the Central Kgalagadi for the first time on a reconnaissance mission in preparation for a larger Trans-Kalahari Expedition in the same year by the then Imperial Secretary Bede Clifford. In addition to various official documents, the tour was the subject of several press accounts and a book by an accompanying London Daily Mail journalist, W.J. Makin.
The reconnaissance reported that they had found Padi Sechele (RraBonewamang) in the region collecting tribute for his elder brother, Sebele. Padi's movement's had been traced along a line of then largely seasonal settlements stretching from Metsibotloko to Ghanzi, including Kikao, Molapo, Kaotwe, Tshukudu, Kukomo, and Kgomodimo.
In a follow-up report, Ledeboer's replacement as Molepolole Magistrate, A.G. "Sekoanyana" Stigand, concluded that: "The Chief Sebele and the Bakwena Headmen will have to be informed by Administration clearly and definitively that Kikau is a long way outside their Northern Boundary. All the Bakgalagadi and Bushmen living in that veldt and northward thereof acknowledge Sebele as their Chief."
Sunsequently, at Kgomodimo, a member of Clifford's tour fixed a Lee-Medford rifle belonging to an "old Bushman" who was identified as the local "chief". He refused to answer queries as to how he had obtained either the gun or ammunition. In the Trans-Kalahari expedition's report, however, it was stated that:
"Through the Central Kalahari there were numbers of natives living a Gomodimo, Kaotwe and no doubt other parts who have never heard of hut tax. They are natives employed by Chief Sebele of Molepolole for hunting on Crown Lands. Nearly all the skins collected by these people are taken by the Chief's messengers and brought into him.
They informed me that they sometimes received in payment a little dagga or a dog and on one occasion a native got a sovereign. To me it seems most unfair that these natives are made to work under these conditions instead of being able to sell their own skins and pay their hut tax."
Besides uncovering further evidence of tribute collection, Clifford's party encountered livestock all along their route. Between Zuwe and Kgomodimo the spoor of a large herd was discovered and identified as evidence of a cattle smuggling ring run by a certain Jim Taggart, in collaboration with local Batswana. Cattle were regularly moved through the central Kgalagadi from Ngamiland to Kweneng and Gangwaketse before being smuggled across the border for the then restricted South African market.
The world in which we live is a criminally unequal one. In his iconic 1945 allegorical novella, Animal Farm, a satire on the facetiousness of the then Soviet Empire’s crackbrained experiment with a command economy, the legendary George Orwell in my view hit the nail squarely on the head when he said all animals were equal but some animals were more equal than others.
That’s the never-ending dichotomy of the so-called First World and its polar opposite, the so-called Third World as Orwell’s cleverly-couched diatribe applies as much to the tread-of-the-mill laissez faire economics of our day as it did to Marxist-Leninist Russia a generation back.
Even as the Nation of Israeli braced to militarily take possession of the Promised Land, General, its top three senior citizens, namely Moses, Aaron, and Miriam, were not destined to share in this god-conferred bequest. All three died before the lottery was won.
Financial Reporting (Amendment) Bill, 2020 and Accountants (Amendment) Bill, 2020 were expeditiously passed by parliament on Thursday.
What are these two Bills really about? The Bills are essentially about professional values that are applicable to auditors and accountants in their practice. The Bills seeks to basically enhance existing laws to ensure more uprightness, fairness, professional proficiency, due care, expertise and or professional technical standards.
The Financial Reporting Act, 2010 (FRA) establishes the Botswana Accountancy Oversight Authority (BAOA), as the country’s independent regulator of the accounting and auditing profession. BAOA is responsible for the oversight and registration of audit firms and certified auditors of public interest entities.
In the same vein, there is the Accountants Act, 2010 establishing the Botswana Institute of Chartered Accountants (BICA) which is responsible for the registration and regulation of the accounting and auditing profession. This consequently infers that some auditors have to register first with BICA as certified auditors, and also with BAOA as certified auditors of public bodies. So, the Bills sought to avert the duplication.
According to Minister Matsheka, the duplication of efforts in the regulation of auditors, which is done by both BICA and BAOA, creates a substantial gap on oversight of certified auditors in Botswana, as the two entities have different review procedures. He contends that the enforcement of sanctions becomes problematic and, thus, leads to offenders going Scot-Free, and audit quality standards also continue to plunge.
The Financial Reporting (Amendment) Bill, 2020, in the view of the Minister, brings the oversight and regulation of all auditors in Botswana under the jurisdiction of the Accountancy Oversight Authority and that Bringing all auditors within one roof, under the supervision of BAOA would therefore reinforce their oversight and significantly enhance accountability.
He also pointed that the Bill broadens the current mandate of the Authority by redefining public interest entities to include public bodies, defined as boards, tribunals, commissions, councils, committees, other body corporate or unincorporated established under any enactment.
This covers any company in which government has an equity shareholding. In order to enable the process of instituting fitting sanctions against violation of its provisions, the Bill clearly lays down acts and lapses that constitute professional misconduct.
This Bill further strengthens the sanctions for breach of the Act by public interest entities, officers, firms, and certified auditors. Reinforcing the law with respect to such sanctions will act as an effective deterrent for breach of the Act.
The Accountants Bill also strengthens the current mandate of the Institute by making it obligatory for those who provide accountancy services in Botswana to register with the Institute, and for all employers to hire accountants who are registered with the Institute.
The Minister reasons that in line with the spirit of citizen empowerment, this Bill proposes reservation of at least 50% of the Council membership for citizens. This, he says, is to empower citizens and ensure that citizenries play an active role in the affairs of the Institute, and ultimately in the development of the accounting profession in Botswana.
The Bills come at a point when Botswana’s financial sector is in a quagmire. The country has been blacklisted by the European Union. Its international rankings on Corruption Perception Index have slightly reduced. According to recent reports by Afro Barometer survey, perceptions of corruption in the public service have soured and so is mistrust in public institutions.
Rating agencies, Standard Poor’s and Moody’s have downgraded Botswana, albeit slightly. The reasons are that there continues to be corruption, fiscal and revenue crimes such as money laundering and general unethical governance in the country. There are still loopholes in many laws despite the enactments and amendments of more than thirty laws in the last two years.
One of the most critical aspect of enhancing transparency and accountability and general good governance, is to have a strong auditing and accounting systems. Therefore, such professions must be properly regulated to ensure that public monies are protected against white color crime. It is well known that some audit firms are highly unprincipled.
They are responsible for tax avoidance and tax evasions of some major companies. Some are responsible for fraud that has been committed. They are more loyal to money paid by clients than to ethical professional standards. They shield clients against accountability. Some companies and parastatals have collapsed or have been ruined financially despite complementary reports by auditors.
In some cases, we have seen audit firms auditing parastatals several times to almost becoming resident auditors. This is bad practice which is undesirable. Some auditors who were appointed liquidators of big companies have committee heinous crimes of corruption, imprudent management, fraud and outright recklessness without serious consequences.
There is also a need to protect whistleblowers as they have been victimized for blowing the whistle on impropriety. In fact, in some cases, audit firms have exonerated culprits who are usually corrupt corporate executives.
The accounting and auditing professions have been dominated by foreigners for a very long time. Most major auditing firms used by state entities and big private sector companies are owned by foreigners. There has to be a deliberate plan to have Batswana in this profession.
While there are many Batswana who are accountants, less are chartered accountants. There must be deliberate steps to wrestle the profession from foreigners by making citizens to be chartered. It is also important to strengthen the Auditor General. The office is created by the constitution.
The security of tenure is clearly secured in the constitution. However, this security of tenure was undermined by the appointing authority in many instances whereby the Auditor General was appointed on a short-term contract. The office is part of the civil service and is not independent at all.
The Auditor General is placed, in terms of scale, at Permanent Secretary level and is looked at as a peer by others who think they can’t be instructed by their equivalent to comply. Some have failed to submit books of accounts for audits, e.g. for special funds without fear or respect of the office. There is need to relook this office by making it more independent and place it higher than Permanent Secretaries.