Wednesday, October 21, 2020

BR board reshuffled to redeploy former minister

The Minister of Transport and Communications, Thulagano Segokgo, has resolved an unusual problem that he himself created in the first place.

In appointing a board of management for Botswana Railways, Segokgo neglected to bring in a finance or accounting professional. In the circumstances,former Assistant Minister of Agriculture and Tswapong South MP, Oreeditse Molebatsi, became the Finance and Audit Committee. This was the first time since BR, which is worth P4 billion, had failed to deploy the right person to a position that is critical to the organisation’s fortunes.

Sunday Standard’s information is that BR executive management was itself gravely concerned about this anomaly and officialised such concern with Segokgo, with the expectation that he would take corrective action. He did and has now appointedMaynard Mothetho to the board. Mothetho, who is a chartered accountant, will take over from Molebatsi, who has been himself been shifted to the Safety and Operations Committee. Apparently, the board was incomplete because three more members, including Mothetho, have been recently appointed to it. Christopher Mokgware, also chartered accountant who works full-time for Debswana Diamond Company, chaired the Committee of the previous board.

Molebatsi’s appointment was eyebrow-raising on score of the fact that at a period of time that organisations (especially those that are supposed to make profit) are being refashioned on the tenets of corporate governance, someone with no financial knowledge would chair a finance and audit committee. That position is reserved for finance and accounting professionals for the simple reason that they can appreciate and articulate issues of finance, audit and investment from a position of experience and technical knowledge. Where there are fiscal problems, the committee resolves them with the guidance of the chairperson. If an audit identifies a problem, the committee monitors the implementation of plans to correct such problems with the guidance of the chairperson. The one other responsibility of the chairperson is to provide informed opinion on investment and policy decisions.

“If management makes a poor investment decision, the chairperson must be able to provide guidance,” says a government source.

However, the problem Segokgo created is systemic because what happened at BR happens everywhere else in government. Statutes that govern parastatal organisations give ministers way too much power and the exercise of such power doesn’t always occur within the context of rational decision-making. In the past, even ruling-party MPs have complained about “the-minister-shall” clauses in one too many statutes.

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