Monday, September 21, 2020

CEO named as biggest fish in BPC cesspool of corruption

Botswana Power Corporation Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Dr Stefan Schwarzfischer who last week confessed that the power utility is a cesspool of corruption has been fingered as the biggest fish in the sleaze sewer and the board has resolved to launch an investigation against him.  

BPC board chairman Bonny Thebenyane confirmed this week that the board has resolved to investigate allegations of corruption leveled against Schwarzfischer. The BPC board is understood to be already pondering over life after Schwarzfischer and Thebenyane told the Sunday Standard this week that “while the BPC board wishes that the position of a CEO should be taken by a competent local at some point, If there is no any local person who meets requirement, then the board will have to spread their wings globally.” He said investigations against Schwarzfischer will commence as soon the board is done with its legal battle against former Chief Operational Officer (COO)Jonathan Hossein which is likely to end up in court. “I do not have any time frame when the legal process will be completed” he said.

Hossein told Sunday Standard that “personally I want and I will always plead with BPC to resolve my issue internally and amicably without going to court”. Hossein said he has been pleading with BPC to sit around the table and discuss the issue with BPC but his efforts failed.

The BPC board’s decision to investigate its CEO is reported to have emanated from the recent disciplinary proceedings against Hossein who allegedly let slip on a number of corrupt practices by Schwarzfischer.

Asked about the crucial information implicating the CEO that he allegedly volunteered during the disciplinary hearing, Hossein told Sunday Standard that, “it was in fact the BPC itself that introduced the evidence in the hearing that implicated the CEO.  Hossein says he simply answered questions that were asked of him by the panel during the hearing  and certainly highlighted the irony that the evidence led by BPC in fact implicated the CEO Dr. Schwarzfischer who was the one who laid the complaint in an apparent shotgun approach to find a charge that would stick on him (Hossein)
 
Hossein as the BPC COO and a citizen was in pole position to take over fromSchwarzfischer at the end of his contract. Hossein was charged with six counts and the disciplinary panel cleared him of any wrong doing.

An independent investigation by the Parliamentary Committee on Statutory Bodies and Public turned up information suggesting corruption in the BPC award of tenders worth more than P2, 4 billion in the North West Transmission Grid (NWTG) to Asian companies. Quizzed by the parliamentary committee, Schwarzfischer admitted two weeks ago that BPC was corrupt.

 “I agree with your statement. I have been there seen it and I am the one who is fighting tooth and nail to root out rampant corruption at the power utility,” he said. Schwarzfischer also indicated that they are redrafting tender regulations in order to close gaps that exist which allowed rampant corruption. Information passed to the BPC board however suggests that Schwarzfischer is part of the BPC corruption.

The parliament committee stated that its investigations turned up information suggesting corruption in the award of the P2, 4 billion North West Transmission Grid. Specially Elected MP Mephato Reatile stated during the current sitting of the committee that there was enough evidence showing that the tenders were corruptly awarded. “We know people who were celebrating even before the tenders were adjudicated. They were celebrating because they had already won the tender,” said Reatile.  Committee Chairperson MP Samson Moyo Guma said the BPC procurement department was the most corrupt in the country. “This I am speaking with conviction because we have done thorough investigations. It is something that you need to work on very quickly and clean up. If it should ever come to that we must clean your mess for you, know that you will have no jobs,” lamented Guma.

The committee revealed another BPC corruption whodunit in which a “fraudulent” tender worth P1.4 billion was awarded to CSC & EC (Pty) Ltd on 23rd August 2018.
A letter presented at the ongoing session of the Parliamentary Committee on Statutory Bodies and State Enterprises – also seen by The Sunday Standard, state that CSC & EC (Pty) Ltd has been awarded a contract to install solar photovoltaic power system for associated works for North-West transmission grid connection project at a total cost of P795 000 000.00 and P647 000 000.00.

The letter which carries credentials of the Ministry of Minerals Resources, Green Technology and Energy also state that the contractor is expected to commence the work on the 10th September 2018.

While the letter is signed under his names, the Permanent Secretary in the said ministry – Cornelius Dekop has described the tender as “fraudulent”. Dekop was last week summoned by the Parliamentary Committee after Dr Schwarzfischer expressed shock about the tender. “We have not signed any PPA with anybody and BPC was not consulted about this North-West solar power project,” Dr Schwarzfischer told the committee.

Dr Schwarzfischer told the committee that ‘someone, somewhere’ is acting outside the BPC Act and also disregarding policies around power generation licensing in the country. He pointed the committee towards the Botswana Energy Regulatory Authority (BERA) which he said was mandated for such, and could have better answers.
When appearing before the same committee last week, Dekop distanced himself from the fraudulent offer letter of the tender. He told the committee that “someone” signed the letter on his behalf adding that even his names have been misspelt in the said letter. Dekop went on to say that as per national public procurement laws, his office is not even authorised to issue tenders of that magnitude.

“This should be done through PPADB and I only authorize or recommend up to P600 million and not these kind of financial figures”, Dekop said.

In addition to the mysterious tender, Dekop says the have since reported another fraud case that involves fake tender issuance within the Energy Ministry to the Serious Crime Squad in the capital Gaborone.

Meanwhile Botswana Power Corporation Workers Union Secretary General of Boikanyo Tsumake said they were shocked by utterances made by the CEO at the parliamentary committee on statutory bodies and public enterprises about the rampant corruption within his organization.

He said the union will engage management about the allegations and demand a detailed report on the extent of corruption the power utility. He said the union has not yet received any official report that implicates the CEO of corruption.
 

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