Sunday, October 17, 2021

BDF in P90 million procurement fraud scandal

Details of Botswana Defence Force (BDF)’s ‘secretive’ procurement deals are expected to be revealed when a case in which a Spanish military and Security Company intends to sue the army and the Ministry of Investment, Trade and Industry. Suyfa Defence, a Spanish company which was planning to operate from Botswana has notified the Attorney General Chambers of its intention to sue the Ministry of Investment Trade and Industry and BDF. The Spanish company is accusing the two organisations of liability for fraud allegedly committed by its officers. The company is demanding more than P90 million from BDF and Ministry of Trade alleging that it was swindled by Botswana’s crooked tenderprenuers and officers from the two organisations using the BDF and Ministry’s offices to flight a fraudulent tender to supply BDF with spare parts. The Ministry and BDF are cited as the First and Second Respondents respectively while the Attorney General is the Third Respondent. Lawyers representing Suyfa Defence, Gobhoza Legal Practice state in a statutory notice that the company’s authorised agent, one David Fernandez participated at the Botswana Investment Trade Centre Trade Expo in 2015 which was held in Gaborone. Giving a background of the saga, the lawyers say it was during such a trade expo that Fernandez met an employee of the Ministry of Trade, one Kutlo Kalanke who identified herself as Trade and Investment Officer within the Department of International Trade and responsible for facilitating investment and trade deals.

The lawyers say that Fernandez having advised Kalanke of his company’s desire to either set up a distribution branch of its products in Botswana or make supplies of any desired military products to the Government of Botswana particularly through BDF, was advised by Kalanke that her office would link them up with a local business person whom they could join hands with and proceed with their intensions. “Indeed Ms Kalanke proceeded to give the name of the said recommended citizen as one Mr Benedict Tebogo Molefe, a Director of a locally incorporated company called Outtoppe Sonke Holdings (PYT) Ltd,” say the lawyers. Subsequently, the lawyers further states,  Suyfa Defence proceeded to engage with Molefe and sometime in April 2016, the duo signed a their private agreement in terms of which Molefe and company were appointed representatives of Suyfa Defence in Botswana. Consequently, the layers say, at the advice of Molefe, some time on or around 9th November 2016, Suyfa Defence was invited by the BDF through a letter dated 9th November 2016 which was authored and signed by Brigadier Domcaza Kengaletswe Mokgwathi for an on behalf of the Commander to come and make a presentation on their products.

According to the lawyers, following an invitation by BDF, Suyfa Defence, through Fernandez attended and made presentations on 24th November 2016 at BDF’s instance and request at Sir Seretse Khama Barracks, Mogoditshane, “which presentation meeting was fully attended by several unformed Botswana Defence Force officers of different ranking whose names and details are to the Claimant, unknown.” “Subsequent to which an invitation to tender which called upon the Claimant to submit a quotation for the supply of various tyres and batteries for various 2nd Respondent’s vehicles was issued by the 2nd Respondent and delivered to the Claimant through an email communication.  Following the said presentation and specifically on the 15 December 2016, the 2nd Respondent wrote a letter of appreciation to the Claimant,” the lawyers say.  Thereafter the, the lawyers say, Suyfa Defence was advised by its agent (Molefe) that BDF had resolved to enter into a contract for the supply of spare parts and tyres and batteries with the their client.    Suyfa Defence was later advised by Molefe that a contract had indeed been drawn by the Botswana Government and since the parties’ transaction was an international transaction, the said contract was to be signed by the Ministry of Investment, Trade and Industry particularly under the Department of International Trade for and on behalf of Botswana Defence Force. On or 21st December 2016, the papers from the lawyers, Suyfa Defence was made to sign a contract which was counter-signed and stamped by Kalanke. Suyfa Defence acquired from its suppliers goods amounting to more than P80 million and further paid Molefe through Outtope Sonke Holdings more than P 7 million being the agreed half share of the commission which was due and payable upon signing of the contract.

“However to the Claimant’s dismay, when delivery was to be effected both 1st and 2nd Respondents confessed their ignorance of the existence of the parties contract and therefore refused to perform as per the contract,” the lawyers say.  They reveal that “It later came to the Claimant’s knowledge that the contract in question which was initiated and produced by the Respondents’ employees in conjunction with one another was bogus and fraudulent and was a clear result if misrepresentation of facts which unfortunately misled and induced the Claimant, an innocent party to sign contract and perform thereto.” Suyfa Defence says that BDF and the Ministry are liable on one or more grounds. The company argues that it was induced to enter and sign the contract in question by the employees of both the Ministry and BDF through their fraudulent and misrepresentation who at all material times acting within the course and scope of their employment in that they acted during their working hours, within their workplace and acted in their official capacities using Government protected seas, uniform and official stamps. The company said Kalanke was acting within the course of and of her employment during 2015 BITC exp when she fraudulently referred the company to Molefe, when she was fully aware that Molefe was a conman and a fraudster. 

 “The 1st Respondent’s employee Ms Kutlo Kalanke was acting within the course and scope of her employment when she fraudulently authored the end user certificate and letters or communications which were all issued under the protected seal of the Government of Botswana,” the Spanish company says. With regard to BDF, the company says “The 2nd Respondent’s employees whose names   and details are unknown to the Claimant acted fraudulently whilst within the course and scope of their employment when they invited the Claimant to male representations and further attended a presentation meeting on or about 24th November 2016 which meeting was held at Seretse Khama Barracks Mogoditshane.”

The company further BDF employees, “particularly Brigadier Domcaza Kengaletswe Mokgwathi and whoever signed the letters purporting to be the latter acted fraudulently and maliciously by issuing such letters under the protected seal of BDF whilst  within the course and scope of their employment.” Therefore the company is demanding more than P90 million being payments “effected to third parties pursuant and as result if the Respondents’ employees misconduct.”

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