The Auditor General has turned up ghost accounts held under the National Petroleum Fund (NPF) sparking fears that more millions of Pula may have been siphoned off from the Fund.
According to the Auditor General’s report, a copy of which has been passed to the Sunday Standard, “a perusal of the documents relating to the Fund revealed accounts other than those which bank statements were submitted when requested by audit (Auditor General).”
The report reveals that “Following this discovery, then confirmations were requested from all commercial banks in Botswana. Five out of 11 confirmations had been received at the time of writing this report.”
Responding to the Auditor General, the Ministry of Mineral Resources, Green Technology & Energy Security, said it was only aware of four bank accounts.
“Ministry is not aware of the other accounts reported by the Auditor General as per its audit findings. However, the Ministry will liaise with the Auditor General to find out about the accounts being referred to,” the Ministry said in its response.
The Auditor General also expressed concern that the omission of important matters such as bank accounts from financial statements is an indication that the affairs of the Fund were not properly managed citing another account that is held with Bank Gaborone.
In response, the Ministry stated that it was “not aware of the transactions pertaining to the purported account opened with Bank Gaborone until more recently when Ministry of Finance and Economic Development (MFED) made a request to the Ministry to provide information on the number of accounts held by NPF and associated financial information.”
The Ministry added that “The Fund Management Committee never authorized the former Director of the Department of Energy to open nor transact into such an account.”
The Auditor General also slammed the Ministry for failing to appoint a representative from the ministry of finance and economic development to the Fund Management Committee as per its recommendations.
“This observation has been raised in the past audits but the situation remained the same. Notwithstanding, the Committee has been functional. Minutes provided to audit shows that the Committee met only twice in two years of 9th March 2016 and on 28, November 2017,” the Auditor General said.
It her previous audit, the Audit General said the Fund’s accounts for 2013/2014, “I had indicated that the Fund had 5, 829, 229 and that the account was not included in the financial statements together with the interest generated. “
“As I have not received comments on this account, I’m not aware of it status as it has continued to be omitted from the financial statements to date.
Replying the Ministry stated “Indeed the USD call account existed and had been omitted in the 2013/2014 financial statements. The account was opened for the purpose of procuring strategic stocks from Mozambique. The account was eventually closed and confirmation of the remittance funds (US$ 645 761.14) from this account to the NPF account made.”
The Ministry further conceded that due to inconsistence record keeping indeed it may appear that there was laxity on management of the financial affair of the Fund. The Ministry said presentations on Fund performance were made to the Management Committee on 25 March, 28 august 2015, 9 march 2016, 28 November 2016 and 29 march 2017 the record of which is available.
The Auditor General further noted that there is no evidence that the management committee sought written approval from the Minister prior to investment of monies of the fund.
“We have note that the in making investment decision as the management committee we had to seek written approval from the minister to ensure that the assets of the Fund are be prudently invested so as to retain the value of the assets as per the Fund Order,” the Ministry stated.