Sunday, April 11, 2021

Botswana looks Kuwait gift horse in the mouth

The parliamentary Public Accounts Committee has raised concern that a decision by the government of Kuwait to provide security and pay rentals and salaries for Botswana envoys in Kuwait City may compromise Botswana’s security.

The unprecedented move by Kuwait has also raised the Auditor General’s eye-brows. A document leaked to the Sunday Standard reveals that the “Auditor General examined the Mission’s accounts and raised observations which were responded to by a savingram” from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

“The responses provided by the Head of Mission were assessed and endorsed by the Permanent Secretary.”

The responses in question state that “”It will be noted that the Government of Botswana continues to receive financial assistance from the Government of Kuwait, through the embassy.”

According to the report, the mission receives P139, 655.34 and P111, 742.28 to cater for rentals for the Ambassador and staff salaries respectively.

The report states that the Botswana mission receives more funds monthly to cater for local staff salaries including security and cleaning personnel at the official residence.

The Auditor General’s report further states that the mission continues to enjoy 100 per cent budget. However it was not clear whether the embassy returns the budgeted funds to government coffers or reallocates it. 

The Public Accounts Committee (PAC) expressed concern last week that Botswana Embassy in Kuwait was receiving curious generosity from the host government.

PAC said the handouts could put Botswana in a very compromising position.

Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Gaimelwe Goitsemang however assured PAC that there were no strings attached to the Kuwaiti generosity.

“It is just a question of knowing the country that you are dealing with. There are no conditions attached to the gesture. Professionally we looked at the matter extensively and decided that it is just a generous gesture from the host government,” he said.

Chairman of PAC Abram Kesupile cautioned that for such gestures the ulterior motive is seldom ever pronounced.

“When countries give something like what I see happening, they never say what they expect in return,” said Kesupile. He further asked for clarity as to how the ministry will be able to mediate objectively should it find Kuwait in a compromising position with another country.

“At the back of your mind you will know that Kuwait is the hand that feeds you, how will you mediate against it without fear of them withdrawing all the favors?” he asked.

Goitsemang said “we will deal with the matter as it arises”.

 Tati East Member of Parliament and PAC member Samson Guma said his concern was that of security. “If Kuwait is the one that is furnishing our embassy with security officers and their salaries, isn’t Botswana’s safety compromised as Kuwait obviously has too much insight into our embassy?” 

In response the Permanent Secretary said the security personnel does not have access into the mission offices as they only guard the premises from outside.

According to the Auditor General’s report, a representative of the company for the security services and cleaners goes to Botswana Embassy in Kuwait to claim funds monthly.

“They claim P32, 895. 57 monthly through paper work to be signed and stamped at the embassy in order for them to claim the money from Kuwait government,” reads the report.

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