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Court ruling threatens DIS case against Israeli firm

Bakang Seretse

The recent High Court ruling by Justice Godfrey Radijeng, which dismissed with costs the application for forfeiture to the government several properties that belong to Bakang Seretse and others, is likely to have a bearing on another related case in which an Israeli company, Dignia System, is suing the Directorate of Intelligence and Security Services (DISS).

Dignia is seeking an order compelling the DIS and the Attorney General (defendants) to accept delivery of the remainder of the orders under the contract and pay them USD 11 320 000.00 (about P123 million).

The Dignia contract case, pending before the courts, is at the centre of the NPF case because NPF funds were used to finance the contract. The DPP director, Stephen Tiroyakgosi, in the just-ended case, claimed that the globular amount of P230 Million having been disbursed in an irregular manner or as an illegal transaction painted every subsequent transaction flowing from it with the same brush of illegality and subsequently as proceeds of crime.

The state has suspended the Dignia contract because it was invalid as the tender, in this case, was not floated in terms of the enabling statute. Consequently, the state says there is no need for the DIS to pay the amount claimed or any part thereof.

According to the state, the NPF money was requested by the former director-general of Intelligence Services, Isaac Kgosi, to construct petroleum facilities and was to be received from the Fund manager, Kgori Capital. But surprisingly, P230 million was disbursed from the Fund account held with Stanbic Bank Botswana to an account held by Khulaco PTY LTD, a private person’s account at a capital bank at the instruction of Kgosi-hence the state alleging that irregularities and illegalities marred the processes.

A substantial amount of the money was transferred on 21 November 2017 to Dignia System Limited to a bank in Israel. The state in the just-ended Bakang Seretse matter said that the investigations regarding this amount are ongoing due to international cooperation, further saying that the process is slow and takes more time than ordinarily expected.

“It would be proper to have the amount remain in restraint pending the conclusion of the investigation,” said the state referring to the Dignia matter.

Tiroyakgosi says there was a departure or deviation in the administration and expenditure of the National Petroleum Fund that was not authorised by the Minister of Finance and Development Planning. Subsequent transactions, they argued, connected to several possible offences under the penal Code, more particularly, Sections 129 and 132 thereof on breach of trust and fraud and disobedience of statutory duties respectfully, and the further possible violation of the Corruption and Economic Crime Act-conflict of interest contrary to section 31 and cheating public revenue as well as criminal activities relating to money laundering under Section 47 of PICA.

The DISS has suspended the Dignia System contract arguing that it was invalid as the methodology used in the transaction does not conform with provisions of the Public Procurement and Asset Disposal Board, which a procuring and disposing entity should follow.-this rendering the alleged contract unlawful and therefore of no force and effect.

But Dignia is having none of it and wants to deliver the outstanding deliverables to the contract, which were three Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) and their accessories, part of the Special Forces equipment and training.

“The unmanned aerial vehicles or drones their accessories and the remainder of the Special Forces equipment are ready for delivery and plaintiff is ready to conduct the associated training,” read part of the papers. Dignia states that on or around 21 November 2017, DIS made payment of half the contract price, leaving a balance of USD 11320 0000.00, which remains due, owing, and payable.

“Such payment was made through a company called Khulaco Management Services which is a company approved by the second defendant and or the Botswana Government to make payment in respect of the project,” Dignia stated.

How the current ruling is likely to jeopardize the DIS case…

The DPP has requested that for the amount transferred on 12 November 2017 to Dignia, the court place the said property in continuing restraint under Section 43 (5) (b) of PICA.

However, Justice Radijeng has thrown out the application made by the state that the globular amount of P230 Million having been disbursed in an irregular manner or as an illegal transaction painted every subsequent transaction flowing from it with the same brush of illegality and subsequently as proceeds of crime. His views are that the state failed to prove its case and substantiate it with evidence or proof.

“The offence of money laundering requires proof or establishment that the person who engages in a transaction or receives such property knows, suspects, or has reasonable grounds for knowing or suspecting that the property is derived or realised in whole or in part, directly or indirectly from a confiscation offence. I have found in my assessment of the facts of this case that the respondents commit no offence as interested parties and that therefore the properties are not proceeds or instruments of crime-related activities,” he said in his ruling.

Legal pundits say the ruling has persuasive value towards the pending P123 DISS-Dignia case, which the state describes as an act of criminality. The verdict effectively denies that Dignia was improperly or corruptly engaged. The current judgement does not bind the other court, but it has persuasive value as courts generally avoid issuing contradictory rulings.

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Cabinet approves AFCON dream

24th January 2022
zebras

The government of Botswana has reportedly approved the dream of hosting African Cup of Nations in 2027 with Namibia as co-host, following a proposal to cabinet by Minister of Youth Empowerment, Sports and Culture Development, Tumiso Rakgare.

WeekendSport learns that the organizing committee dreaming to host the tournament is preparing to hand their hefty book to Confederation of African Football (CAF) when bidding stage comes into open. Botswana Football Association (BFA) has, to this date, managed to win the confidence of the government, and all thoughts around the African football prestigious tournament are given serious attention with acceleration of construction of 10 mini stadia across the country, sources have said.

Furthermore, reports in Namibia state that the Botswana government has approached them with a proposal to co -host the 2027 edition of African tournament. “I can confirm that the minister of sport in Botswana has written to our minister but these are still early days and no decision has been made yet,” Audrin Mathe, an executive director in the Ministry of Sport was quoted by Namibia Sun this week. Meanwhile, Rakgare has said: “It is still an internal issues but yes, we are interested in hosting with Namibia.”

All the while, BFA president who also sits in CAF national executive committee is expected to embody a more emotive promise about the ability of African Cup in Botswana and how it can benefit the citizenry and by extension, the Southern region. With Zimbabwe having come out clean about their intentions to bid for 2034 World Cup, there has been a growing feeling that Botswana should try her luck, and therefore Botswana delegation will be hopeful to walk a fine line.

Although, the commercial potential of a Botswana AFCON Cup is a compelling factor in their favour, following the relative uncertainty of many African countries ( due to political instability, extent of corona virus ) and state of insecurity, BFA is minded not make that their thrust of the case. Hence the concentration on providing a home from home for all teams among Botswana’s diverse population and the opportunity to use the proceeds to advance legacy projects around Africa. The feeling on the ground is that the move might be bold, and some association influential players believe that it will be a matter of upgrading Maun stadium, Masunga and Serowe stadium.

An idea is also harbored that another stadium will be built in around Gaborone to boost the existing National Stadium with the Lobatse and Francistown stadia also expected to play pivotal role.  All the while, a more than P20 million operational budget is said to be needed to travel the African countries in convincing them that Botswana is more suitable to host with its security and economy very much stable.

Botswana passes the mark when it comes to transportation, accommodation and hotel facilities. The fact that CAF normally want a country that has hosted youth tournaments before enables Botswana to score points in that it has hosted before. The only problem that might mark Botswana down is road infrastructure.  BFA will consider roping in an experienced sport person and the high profile of former players like Diphetogo Selolwane is anticipated to appear for the thoughts building around the bid, and his name will be seen as watershed moment.

The southern region, however, might be dealt a devastating blow following the catastrophe that hit Angola when they hosted the 2010 edition. The Togo team was shot by rebels and panic erupted.  However, the field is open and the ever shifting sands of CAF internal politics make the race hard to call and feed fears of horse trading and backroom deals.

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Major public services shake-up looms

24th January 2022
Emmah

Public Servants should brace themselves for some changes as the government is in an overdrive mode to overhaul the public sector. The government has also set the tone for the looming changes as it has added the public sector to its looming list of major and sweeping reforms.

This is contained in a savingram from the Permanent Secretary to the President (PSP) Emmah Peloetletse’s office showing how the government intends to “take stock” of all reforms in the public sector through the establishment of an inventory.  Peloetletse’s savingram addressed to various ministries and the Directorate of Public Service Management (DPSM) reveals that the government is working around the clock to implement some changes in the Public Service.

The savingram reminded Permanent Secretaries of various ministries and DPSM that the public sector reforms unit (PSRU) at the Office of the President is mandated with Coordinating Reforms across the Public Service.  “This essentially entails providing the strategic guidance and facilitation in the implementation of reforms across the Public Service. In this endeavour the Unit has in the past with Technical Assistance from European Union developed a template for documenting Reforms in the Public Service and documented ten (10) major reforms across the Public Service,” reads the savingram in part. It added that “The Unit has lately rolled out the Change Management Framework in an effort to facilitate effective and efficient management of change in the Public Service.”

According to the savingram, it has been noted that for a variety of reasons the use of the template for documenting reforms has not been universally used across the Botswana Public Service.  It further states that to facilitate the documentation of the reforms it is essential that an inventory of the various reforms across the Public Service (Central Government, Local Government and State Owned Entities) is established.

“By this correspondent we are seeking your assistance in populating the attached template to provide basic information on the various reforms. The PSRU will, through the various Coordination of focal Persons facilitate the full documentation of the reforms once the inventory is established,” the savingram further stated. The copy of the template among others calls on the focal persons to fill out them form under several headings; they include title of reform, start date, reform objectives, reform components, reform components, progress status.

The savingram echoes President Mokgweetsi Masisi’s announcement last year during his state of the nation address that as a nation Botswana has set itself a lofty goal of becoming a high income country by 2036 and has come up with a list of reforms among them digitisation of government infrastructure. He said the path to achieving this goal dictates that, Botswana takes deliberate steps that will transform its institutions; the way Batswana think and the way they act.

“It is with this in mind, that I presented a Reset Agenda in May 2021, with the following priorities: Save Botswana‘s population from COVID-19, by implementing a series of life saving measures that include a successful and timely vaccination programme, Adherence to COVID-19 health protocols remains key and align Botswana Government’s machinery to the Presidential Agenda, to ensure that the national transformation agenda will be embodied in the public service of the day,” said Masisi. He added that, “this will come with significant Government reforms in all public institutions. We need greater agility and responsiveness like never before in the delivery of public services.”

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Covid-19 Task Force meddled in tenders-report

24th January 2022
Dr. Kereng Masupu

The Presidential COVID-19 Task Force reportedly meddled in the awarding of tenders for COVID-19, a new Public Accounts Committee (PAC) report has revealed.

The Committee expressed concern that it has noted that there are two centres for covid procurement being the Ministry of Health and the Covid Task team in the Office of the President. The report says the Committee questioned the Accounting Officer on why the COVID 19 task team is usurping the powers of the Ministry of Health by engaging in covid procurement when the Ministry of Health is the one which has the experience and mandate of dealing with the pandemic. The report says clarification was also sought on why direct appointment is the preferred method for covid procurement.

“In her response the Accounting Officer stated that the task team was mainly engaged in the procuring of quarantine facilities and was assisting the Ministry of Health due to the heavy workload brought about by the COVID 19 pandemic,” the report says. The report says the Accounting Officer further stated that direct procurement was used because COVID 19 was treated as an emergency and that procurement was mainly from companies that have been traditionally used by the Ministry of Health.

“This however, is not the case as there has been report of new companies being awarded COVID -19 contracts. The use of direct procurement method should only be used in exceptional cases as it’s a non-competitive method which increases the risk of inflated pricing and close relations with particular suppliers to the detriment of others,” the report says.

It says since most covid procurement fell under emergency, there is need for openness and transparency regarding the procurement.  The PAC recommended that in order to ensure transparency and accountability all COVID 19 related procurement should be periodically published in the PPADB website giving full details of the companies receiving procurement contracts and the beneficial owners of the companies.

It says with the passage of time the impact of covid is no longer unexpected so direct awards should gradually be abandoned as the medium and long-term needs of the pandemic can now be predicted. “Judgement should be used even during direct awards to ensure that prices are not higher than the market prices,” the report says.

In a related matter, the report says the Central Medical Stores (CMS) was unable to cater for the required quantities of medical supplies with order fulfilments of about 35% resulting in shortages and insufficient drugs to Athlone Hospital and the surrounding clinics.
“In his submission the Accounting Officer had indicated that CMS was unable to supply the exact quantities required by the hospital and surrounding clinics due to the fact that supplies from CMS have to be rationed in order to cover other facilities around the country,” says the report.

The committee expressed concern about the inadequate supply of drugs to government facilities which puts the lives of patients at risk due to non- availability of essential supplies. It recommended that the Ministry identifies and prioritise measures that need to be taken to ensure that there is adequate supply of essential medicines which are needed in the public health system.

Meanwhile the report says the Ministry of Health and Wellness coordinates the operations and functions of some institutions which receive government subventions and secondment of staff from the government. These institutions include 10 NGO’s, two mission Hospitals, three mission clinics and two schools of Nursing.

It says in its endeavour to enhance efficiency and effectiveness of government support to NGOs the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development developed some Policy Guidelines for Financial Support to Non- Governmental Organisations.  According to the PAC report, the guidelines were meant to ensure that there is consistency, accountability and transparency in administering public funding to NGOs. However, the Ministry of Health did not comply with the very important guidelines.

“The main areas of non-compliance were the following: (i) There was no Evaluation Committee to vet proposals from NGOs, in some instances NGOs had formed part of the evaluation forum when their requests were being considered,” the report says.  It says there was continued funding of NGOs even when they failed to submit narrative and financial progress reports; and (iv) Continued funding of NGOs that failed to submit audited financial statements and management letters as required. The Committee expressed concern at the lapses in the administration of grants by the Ministry despite the large sums of public money awarded to these NGOs.

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