PARLIAMENT ÔÇô Cash strapped copper nickel miner, BCL reportedly owes its suppliers at least P595 million. The revelation was made by Minister responsible for minerals, Kitso Mokaila in Parliament on Thursday. Mokaila said the number of suppliers currently owed by BCL surpass 600, with local suppliers owed at least P452 million while foreign suppliers debt at P143 million.
Minister Mokaila added that the intention is to make sure that the company stays afloat. At the same time, Mokaila says BCL liquidity will continue to be affected by the current base metal prices. He however refuted allegations levelled against BCL Limited General Manger Dan Mahupela regarding late payment of workers at the copper nickel mine.
Mokaila’s defence of Mahupela comes after area MP Ditlhapelo Keorapetse, through a parliamentary question, alleged that BCL employees continue to be paid salaries and allowances late despite a previous agreement between BCL management and the workers union.
In response to the allegations, Mokaila said: “BCL has never paid its employees late in the current financial year. The 2016 payroll schedule has been communicated to all employees and is being honoured 100 percent.”
He further told parliament that he will launch an investigation to verify the allegations.
“I recently communicated with the general manager over alleged late payment of employees to which he responded in the negative. I will take appropriate action should fresh revelations expose that he misled me.”
However, Keorapetse remained adamant that his constituents are continuously dealt a deliberate raw deal by BCL as their salaries and allowances are paid late. He further said such a practice has led to his constituents making irregular payments of credit to financial institutions and subsequently incurring costs due to interest rate charges.
Sunday Standard is informed that the collapse of global commodity prices is not the only reason behind BCL’s woes, as pundits have also opined that BCL is near collapse because of internal governance lapses on the part of its management. Insiders have revealed that BCL’s troubles started when management decided to divert funds that were meant for operations towards fixing the smelter, the most significant component of the mine’s operations.
The awarding of the smelter shut down tender to South African company Kentz SA, which has a chequered history in Botswana, caused uproar as citizen owned engineering companies questioned why they were overlooked in the multi-million Pula project. In early February 2016 Mokaila told parliament that the smelter shutdown cost a total P749 million. He also revealed that the project took 112 days instead of the initially planned 62 days.