Debswana Diamond Company has engaged an independent forensic investigation firm following suspension of key personnel in the organisation amid a reported P110 million outstanding bill for services rendered.
While Debswana has denied liability for the bill, or having any agreement, the company this week confirmed to WeekendPost that broad-based investigations have been instituted at the organisation.
So far, Senior Human Resource Manager, Head of Security and his deputy have been suspended. However sources have indicated that more people have been involved in the matter and were aware of the services offered by Infotrac (Pty) Ltd.
According to information passed on to this publication, most services offered to Debswana by Infotrac have been of covert nature. It is also apparent that Infotrac has serviced Debswana for several years.
In the past, Infotrac reportedly supplied spying security equipment to the organisation. However, change of guard at the organisation could have led to cut of ties between the two parties, or lack of an understanding.
Debswana is currently under the tutelage of Lynette Armstrong, on interim basis, following the passing of Albert Milton, the man at the centre of the debacle.
Infotrac claims it was engaged by Debswana, to determine among others the suitability of the late and former Managing Director Albert Milton to be appointed to the post.
The service was occasioned by ploy by some in the organisation to try to deny Milton the opportunity to be appointed to the top post on the basis that he was not suitable for the post for various reasons relating to his integrity.
After being briefed by some in the echelons of power at Debswana, Infotrac was given a scope of work in which it was expected to deliver its findings.
The findings were however favourable to Milton, resulting in his appointment as Debswana boss, succeeding Balisi Bonyongo in December 2018.
According to court documents, there was an oral contract between Debswana and Infotrac to provide other services. The nature of the services were however not specified in the documents.
Following Debswana’s refusal to pay the bill, Infotrac dragged the matter to court to seek relief because it was convinced that it was being bullied by the mining giant. There are fears that Infotrac will reveal a lot of shocking information about Debswana operations in order to prove its track record with Debswana.
However, Debswana has chosen to conduct its own investigation with relation to its liability in the said bill. “There are target dates for the completion of the investigation which we are not at liberty to share, however, the investigation is being conducted as expeditiously as the current circumstances permit,” Rachael Mothibatsela, Debswana Head of Corporate Affairs told WeekendPost this week.
“Because of the nature of the investigation, Debswana cannot share details of the investigation, save to say that the investigation is a broad-based one and is being conducted by an independent forensic investigation firm. In addition, the details of the investigation cannot be shared in order to preserve the integrity of the investigation process.”
Debswana declined to comment on an inquiry on the supposed involvement of other staff members, who despite suspension of three others, were not side-lined. WeekendPost is privy that despite only three being suspended, there were seven heads of department involved in the matter, including Head of Group Legal (name withheld).
“If there are any more officers who are alleged to have been involved in the matter then the forensic investigation will reveal that. The investigation into the allegations made are at an extremely sensitive stage and any information released to any third party whosoever, could seriously jeopardise the investigations and Debswana’s efforts at getting to the truth,” Mothibatsela said.
This publication also inquired on a memo sent by Debswana to staff following the suspension of a trio in senior management in which the organisation portrayed the matter to have been a case of a whistle-blower despite management knowing it was a claimant who is now suing the organisation.
In response Mothibatsela said: “Debswana cannot be drawn into discussing its internal engagements with employees, suffice to say that there has not been a misrepresentation and we can confirm that an investigation is being conducted by an independent forensic investigator.
The investigation has been commissioned as a consequence of, inter alia, Debswana’s internal policies on corporate governance to investigate all issues pertaining to the subject matter of the investigation.”
In the court documents, Infotrac seeks to be paid P110 million for services rendered as well as 10 percent interest rate from date of breach to date of full and final reach.
Government is currently sitting on 4 400 vacant posts that remain unfilled in the civil service. This is notwithstanding the high unemployment rate in Botswana which has been exacerbated by the recent outbreak of the deadly COVID-19 pandemic.
Just before the burst of COVID-19, official data released by Statistics Botswana in January 2020, indicate that unemployment in Botswana has increased from 17.6 percent three years ago to 20.7 percent. “Unemployment rate went up by 3.1 percentage between the two periods, from 17.6 to 20.7 percent,” statistics point out.
Leading commercial bank, First National Bank Botswana (FNBB), expects the central bank to sharpen its monetary policy knife and cut the Bank Rate twice in the last quarter of 2020.
The bank expects a 25 basis point (bps) in the beginning of the last quarter, which is next month, and another shed by the same bps in December, making a total of 50 bps cut in the last quarter. According to the bank’s researchers, the central bank is now holding on to 4.25 percent for the time being pending for more informed data on the economic climate.
An audit of the accounts and records for the supply of food rations to the institutions in the Northern Region for the financial year-ended 31 March 2019 was carried out. According to Auditor General’s report and observations, there are weaknesses and shortcomings that were somehow addressed to the Accounting Officer for comments.
Auditor General, Pulane Letebele indicated on the report that, across all depots in the region that there had been instances where food items were short for periods ranging from 1 to 7 months in the institutions for a variety of reasons, including absence of regular contracts and supplier failures. The success of this programme is dependent on regular and reliable availability of the supplies to achieve its objective, the report said.
There would be instances where food items were returned from the feeding centers to the depots for reasons of spoilage or any other cause. In these cases, instances had been noted where these returns were not supported by any documentation, which could lead to these items being lost without trace.
The report further stressed that large quantities of various food items valued at over P772 thousand from different depots were damaged by rodents, and written off.Included in the write off were 13 538 (340ml) cartons of milk valued at P75 745. In this connection, the Auditor General says it is important that the warehouses be maintained to a standard where they would not be infested by rodents and other pests.
Still in the Northern region, the report noted that there is an outstanding matter relating to the supply of stewed steak (283×3.1kg cans) to the Maun depot which was allegedly defective. The steak had been supplied by Botswana Meat Commission to the depot in November 2016.
In March 2017 part of the consignment was reported to the supplier as defective, and was to be replaced. Even as there was no agreement reached between the parties regarding replacement, in 51 October 2018 the items in question were disposed of by destruction. This disposal represented a loss as the whole consignment had been paid for, according to the report.
“In my view, the loss resulted directly from failure by the depot managers to deal with the matter immediately upon receipt of the consignment and detection of the defects. Audit inspections during visits to Selibe Phikwe, Maun, Shakawe, Ghanzi and Francistown depots had raised a number of observations on points of detail related to the maintenance of records, reconciliations of stocks and related matters, which I drew to the attention of the Accounting Officer for comments,” Letebele said in her report.
In the Southern region, a scrutiny of the records for the control of stocks of food items in the Southern Region had indicated intermittent shortages of the various items, principally Tsabana, Malutu, Sunflower Oil and Milk which was mainly due to absence of subsisting contracts for the supply of these items.
“The contract for the supply of Tsabana to all depots expired in September 2018 and was not replaced by a substantive contract. The supplier contracts for these stocks should be so managed that the expiry of one contract is immediately followed by the commencement of the next.”
Suppliers who had been contracted to supply foodstuffs had failed to do so and no timely action had been taken to redress the situation to ensure continuity of supply of the food items, the report noted.
In one case, the report highlighted that the supplier was to manufacture and supply 1 136 metric tonnes of Malutu for a 4-months period from March 2019 to June 2019, but had been unable to honour the obligation. The situation was relieved by inter-depot transfers, at additional cost in transportation and subsistence expenses.
In another case, the contract was for the supply of Sunflower Oil to Mabutsane, where the supplier had also failed to deliver. Examination of the Molepolole depot Food Issues Register had indicated a number of instances where food items consigned to the various feeding centres had been returned for a variety of reasons, including food item available; no storage space; and in other cases the whole consignments were returned, and reasons not stated.
This is an indication of lack of proper management and monitoring of the affairs of the depot, which could result in losses from frequent movements of the food items concerned.The maintenance of accounting records in the region, typically in Letlhakeng, Tsabong, and Mabutsane was less than satisfactory, according to Auditor General’s report.
In these depots a number of instances had been noted where receipts and issues had not been recorded over long periods, resulting in incorrect balances reflected in the accounting records. This is a serious weakness which could lead to or result in losses without trace or detection, and is a contravention of Supplies Regulations and Procedures, Letebele said.
Similarly, consignments of a total of 892 bags of Malutu and 3 bags of beans from Tsabong depot to different feeding centres had not been received in those centres, and are considered lost. These are also not reflected in the Statement of Losses in the Annual Statements of Accounts for the same periods.