Permanent Secretary to the President (PSP) Elias Magosi has this week misled Public Accounts Committee (PAC) of Parliament on the contentious appointment of the Auditor General Pulane Letebele on contract basis thereby flouting the constitution.
The PAC was concerned that the terms of employment of the Auditor General was a departure on the spirit of the constitution of Botswana in particular section 114 which secures the tenure of the office bearer until 60 years. The section (114 (1) of the constitution) states: “subject to the provisions of this section, a person holding the office of Auditor-General shall vacate his office when he attains the age of 60 years or such other age as may be prescribed by Parliament.”
On part (2) of the same section it specifically states that “a person holding the office of Auditor-General may be removed from office only for inability to perform the functions of his office (whether arising from infirmity of body or mind or any other cause) or for misbehaviour and shall not be so removed except in accordance with the provisions of this section.”
According to the parliamentary committee, the appointment on contract basis is partly blamed for lack of total independence that hinders on the execution of the government auditing mandate. The move has seen the office (Auditor General) failing to audit the notorious Directorate of Intelligence and Security (DIS) for 10 years since the establishment of the organ.
Appearing first was PSP who was adamant to the committee that Letebele opted a contract every five years as opposed to being on permanent and pensionable. “She is on a fixed five-year contract terms. It remains a choice of an individual. She was offered the contract. Again this is a contract of employment that the incumbent Auditor General preferred. She said yes she wants the five-year term and before it elapses then she can apply for renewal. She opted for it,” Magosi pointed out to the Committee.
He then added: “I still don’t know how this affects her independence if she was offered two options and she chose this particular contract based one.” However according to the letter of appointment of the Auditor General signed by PSP Magosi, he stated against the surprise of the committee members that: “the government may terminate this contract in accordance with section 26(2) of the Public Service Act by giving you 3 calendar months’ notice or paying you 3 months’ salary in advance.”
The PSP however admitted later that what is written in the letter is a blunder on their (or the government’s part). “It’s a mistake. It’s a standard letter of employment in the Public Service. It should not apply to the Auditor General as they are employed by specifically the constitution.”
Few minutes later after the departure of Magosi, PAC members were shocked to hear the Auditor General rubbishing the submissions made by the PSP, falling short of calling them lies, when appearing before the oversight parliamentary committee on the same day. On whether she was given an option to choose between contract and, permanent and pensionable, Letebele insisted the contract based offer was imposed.
“I was offered a contract. When I got the contract I didn’t feel I had a choice. So, the answer is no, I was not asked. I was never given an option or offered to be employed on contract basis rather than permanent and pensionable until 60 years as the law stipulates,” she stressed.
She also highlighted that therefore she feels the appointment letter is not lawful as it is not according to the constitution. “I knew what the letter was saying and what the constitution stipulates, they are in contrast.” She continued: “there is no how one can be happy with the contract written in the manner that it can be terminated,” while conceding that the 3 months threat of termination, indeed “can affect my independence.”
She said this in cognizant of the fact that the Office of the Auditor General is the external auditor of the Government of Botswana. It is mandated by the Constitution of Botswana under Section 124, Public Audit Act and the Local Authorities and Township Act to audit public accounts of ministries, local authorities and selected parastatals. Section 124 (5) states that “in the exercise of his functions the Auditor-General shall not be subject to the direction or control of any other person or authority.”
The appointment of the Auditor General, as is presumed to be totally independent from government, was a contentious issue that saw the PAC subpoena PSP Magosi to appear before the committee although it was not on schedule. The Office of the President and Directorate of Public Service Management (DPSM) appeared at different times for different issues.
The Public Accounts Committee is one of 16 Committees of Parliament charged with overseeing the activities of the Executive. PAC is specifically responsible for overseeing government expenditure through calling ministries and parastatals to appear and account in accordance with Section 95(3) of the Standing Orders of the National Assembly of Botswana.
Despite being hailed and still regarded as a hero who saved many lives through his decision to crash the BF5 fighter Jet around the national stadium on the eve of the 2018 BDF day, the deceased Pilot, Major Clifford Manyuni’s actions were treated as a letdown within the army, especially by his master-Commander of the Air Arm, Major General Innocent Phatshwane.
Manyuni’s master says he was utterly disappointed with his Pilot’s failure to perform “simple basics.”
Manyuni was regarded as a hero through social media for his ‘colourful exploits’, but Phatshwane who recently retired as the Air Arm Commander, revealed to WeekendPost in an exclusive interview that while he appreciated Batswana’s outpouring of emotions and love towards his departed Pilot, he strongly felt let down by the Pilot “because there was nothing wrong with that Fighter Jet and Manyuni did not report any problem either.”
The deceased Pilot, Manyuni was known within the army to be an upwardly mobile aviator and in particular an air power proponent.
“I was hurt and very disappointed because nobody knows why he decided to crash a well-functioning aircraft,” stated Phatshwane – a veteran pilot with over 40 years of experience under the Air Arm unit.
Phatshwane went on to express shock at Manyuni’s flagrant disregard for the rules of the game, “they were in a formation if you recall well and the guiding principle in that set-up is that if you have any problem, you immediately report to the formation team leader and signal a break-away from the formation.
Manyuni disregarded all these basic rules, not even to report to anybody-team members or even the barracks,” revealed Phatshwane when engaged on the much-publicised 2018 incident that took the life of a Rakops-born Pilot of BDF Class 27 of 2003/2004.
Phatshwane quickly dismisses the suggestion that perhaps the Fighter Jet could have been faulty, “the reasons why I am saying I was disappointed is that the aircraft was also in good condition and well-functioning. It was in our best interest to know what could have caused the accident and we launched a wholesale post-accident investigation which revealed that everything in the structure was working perfectly well,” he stated.
Phatshwane continued: “we thoroughly assessed the condition of the engine of the aircraft as well as the safety measures-especially the ejection seat which is the Pilot’s best safety companion under any life-threatening situation. All were perfectly functional.”
In aircrafts, an ejection seat or ejector seat is a system designed to rescue the pilot or other crew of an aircraft in an emergency. The seat is propelled out of the aircraft by an explosive charge or rocket motor, carrying the pilot with it.”
Manyuni knew about all these safety measures and had checked their functionality prior to using the Aircraft as is routine practice, according to Phatshwane. Could Manyuni have been going through emotional distress of some sort? Phatshwane says while he may never really know about that, what he can say is that there are laid out procedures in aviation guiding instances of emotional instability which Manyuni also knew about.
“We don’t allow or condone emotionally or physically unfit Pilots to take charge of an aircraft. If a Pilot feels unfit, he reports and requests to be excused. We will subsequently shift the task to another Pilot. We do this because we know the risks of leaving an unfit pilot to fly an aircraft,” says Phatshwane.
Despite having happened a day before the BDF day, Phatshwane says the BDF day mishap did not really affect the BDF day preparations, although it emotionally distracted Manyuni’s flying formation squad a bit, having seen him break away from the formation to the stone-hearted ground. The team soldiered on and immediately reported back to base for advice and way forward, according to Phatshwane.
Sharing the details of the ordeal and his Pilots’ experiences, Phatshwane said: “they (pilots) were in distress, who wouldn’t? They were especially hurt by the deceased‘s lack of communication. I immediately called a chaplain to attend to their emotional needs.
He came and offered them counselling. But soldiers don’t cry, they immediately accepted that a warrior has been called, wiped off their tears and instantly reported back for duty. I am sure you saw them performing miracles the following day at the BDF day as arranged.”
Despite the matter having attracted wide publicity, the BDF kept the crash details a distance away from the public, a move that Phatshwane felt was not in the best interest of the army and public.
“The incident attracted overwhelming public attention. Not only that, there were some misconceptions attached to the incident and I thought it was upon the BDF to come out and address those for the benefit of the public and army’s reputation,” he said.
One disturbing narrative linked to the incident was that Manyuni heroically wrestled the ‘faulty’ aircraft away from the endangered public to die alone, a narrative which Phatshwane disputes as just people’s imaginations. “Like I said the Aircraft was functioning perfectly,” he responded.
A close family member has hinted that the traumatised Manyuni family, at the time of their son’s tragedy, strongly accused the BDF ‘of killing their son’. Phatshwane admits to this development, emphasising that “Manyuni’s mother was visibly and understandably in inconsolable pain when she uttered those words”.
Phatshwane was the one who had to travel to Rakops through the Directorate of Intelligence Services (DIS) aircraft to deliver the sad news to the family but says he found the family already in the know, through social media. At the time of his death, Manyuni was survived by both parents, two brothers, a sister, fiancée and one child. He was buried in Rakops in an emotionally-charged burial. Like his remains, the BDF fighter jets have been permanently rested.
A matter in which former President Lt Gen Ian Khama had brought before Broadhurst Police Station in Gaborone, requesting the State to charge Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC) lead investigator, Jako Hubona and others with perjury has been committed to Headquarters because it involves “elders.”
Broadhurst Police Station Commander, Obusitswe Lokae, told this publication this week that the case in its nature is high profile so the matter has been allocated to his Officer Commanding No.3 District who then reported to the Divisional Commander who then sort to commit it to Police Headquarters.