Wednesday, May 18, 2022

Absent BAMB Board granted executive management free rein

Failure by the Board of Directors at Botswana Agricultural Marketing Board (BAMB) to provide effective oversight allowed executive management to carry out activities outside their mandate, costing the parastatal millions in ill-advised procurement decisions.

An investigative report on ‘Maladministration, Corruption, and Fraud Allegations at BAMB’ has exposed how a former Chief Executive Officer (CEO) and his executive management enjoyed free rein on decisions relating to recruitment and procurement of goods and services from 2017 to 2020.

The report accuses the Board of providing limited oversight on the management of BAMB. “Management was making decisions that would have otherwise been made by the Board and the Board was approached on several occasions to ratify such decisions. It is evident that the Board reneged on its fiduciary responsibilities to the company,” says the committee, chaired by Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Presidential Affairs Pearl Ramokoka.

“Based on the evidence collected, it can be determined that procurement at BAMB is marred with an array of irregularities. These range from procurement without due process and the poor management and maintenance of records.”

The report states how the procurement irregularities stretch over an extended period of time with no evidence of meaningful intervention by the Board. “This is despite the internal audit findings on procurement which highlighted irregularities in procurement procedures and lack of procurement records. What is disturbing is that these irregularities were committed by senior management.”

Inquiries by the committee revealed a culture that did not recognise the need to follow policy guidelines and in certain cases lacked awareness of policy guidelines. 

Over the period in review (2017-2020), BAMB has not implemented the requirement to adopt and approve an annual Procurement Plan, the report says. “The lack of approved Procurement Plan could have adverse consequences in the budgetary process of the Board and also provided a gateway for haphazard decision making on procurement matters. To buttress this concern, our investigations revealed a verbal agreement entered into with a supplier of BAMB.”

The report indicates how Procurement and Disposal Regulations and Procedures of BAMB have not been vetted by the Public Procurement and Asset Disposal Board (PPADB) as required by Section 3 of the Public Procurement and Asset Disposal Act (PPADA).

The investigations also reveal how senior management appointments were made without consultation with the Board as should be the case. While the Board Charter gives authority to the Board on the appointment of senior management the heads of; Finance, Internal Audit, Operations, Commercial & Business, and Veterinary Services were appointed without approval by the Board.  “The Board merely ratified their appointments,” the report says.

“From reviewing the Board Minutes and interviews that we conducted we are of the view that management to a large extent was not transparent and did not disclose fully to the Board the true state of BAMB affairs. After pointing out to the Board members the non-adherence of the policies and the Charter, their view was that management had not been transparent and information was withheld from the Board on certain decisions already made by management.”

The report says it was not clear whether the direction that BAMB was moving came from the Board or management. That the integrity of the Board was also questionable as the committee observed that there was none adherence to the policies and the Charter by both the Board and management.

“We observed that by not adhering to the Charter or the policies the Board was not instilling a level of professionalism and accountability that would have been expected from management. Nor does the Board seem to have any authority in driving the strategic direction of BAMB as they seem to behave as back benchers.”

Following receipt of complaints and accusations of maladministration, corruption, and fraud purported to have been taking place at BAMB, Minister of Agriculture Karabo Gare appointed a team of professionals to investigate issues related to the Board functions and BAMB as an entity, including review of human resource practices and the procurement procedures at the company. In addition to Ramokoka, the team also consisted Deputy Auditor General Keneilwe Senyarelo, Chief State Counsel Tshidiso Ratladi, and Kealeboga Tshomane from Botswana Vaccine Institute Limited.

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