Wednesday, September 23, 2020

BoB still unable to account for missing “large amounts” – Auditor General

Claims that billions of Pula have been stolen from the government’s main account with the Bank of Botswana (BoB) took a new twist this week with the Auditor General stating that the bank governor has failed to account for missing “large amounts” from the controversial account.

The account is currently at the center of a money laundering investigation by the Directorate of Intelligence and Security Services (DIS).

While DIS investigating officers claim the former administration raided the account, BoB Governor Moses Pelaelo insists that no money has been stolen from the account.

A high-level team made up of Cherie Blair wife of former British Prime Minister Tony Blair and Thuli Madonsela South Africa’s former Public Protector put together by former President Lt Gen Ian Khama and his South African ally Bridgette Motsepe to challenge DIS claims latched on the BoB governor’s statement to support their campaign.

The Auditor General’s report made public on Thursday August 20th 2020 however revealed that the controversial government account with the central bank “remains open to doubt”, because transactions “involving large amounts” cannot be accounted for.

In the report released this week, the Auditor General Pulane Letebele said the credibility of the account remained “open to doubt” because of failure by BoB to account for items “involving large amounts.”

The “large amounts” that the BoB cannot account for is however nowhere near the P100 billion that the DIS claim has been stolen by the previous administration.

The Auditor General says despite assurances by the bank Governor Moses Pelaelo to the 2016/17 sitting of the Public Accounts Committee that he would have reconciled the accounts by “October 2018, as at March 2019, the bank reconciliation statement still included unidentified items going back to 2005, involving large amounts.”

The BoB has been unable to account for the “missing” money for sometime now.

In her 2017/2018 report, the Auditor General issued a qualified audit opinion on the account because transactions running into billions of pula could not be accounted for.

The Auditor General further called for an investigation into the account. In the previous report, the Auditor General revealed that government could not account for debits of P 4 933 156 857 in the controversial remittances account which is the main government account with BoB. The Auditor General stated that the bank statement balance included among others unidentified debits totalling P4 932 156 857 in the bank statement and receipts totalling P114 459 342 728 in the general ledger which should be investigated”, she stated.

It emerged that some of the items that cannot be accounted for date as far back as 2005. “I have not been able to appreciate how receipts of this magnitude could be in the General Ledger and not in the bank statement over such a long period”, stated the Auditor General.

The Auditor General said she could not certify the correctness of the value of the government’s main account with the bank of Botswana because “verifications of cash and bank balances as at March 2017 had shown weaknesses and shortcomings in the reconciliations and monitoring of the accounts making up the year-end totals. She said this was part of the reasons leading to the qualification of the account.

In her latest report released this week, the Auditor General said she could still not certify the correctness of the value of the government’s main account with BoB because the governor had not cleared reconciliation issues.

The report states in part: “ the remittance account, the main government bank account at Bank of Botswana had an overdrawn balance of P 356 662 620 as at 31st March 2019, despite the Accounting Officer ( bank governor)’s assurance to the Public Accounts Committee that he would have cleared all bank reconciliation issues by October 2018. As at March 31st 2019, the bank reconciliation statement still included unidentified items going back to 2005 involving large amounts. Until the old reconciliation items are cleared and the reconciliation brought up to date, the correctness of the year end balance of this important bank account would remain open to doubt.”

RELATED STORIES

Read this week's paper

The Telegraph September 23

Digital edition of The Telegraph, September 23, 2020.