Sunday, September 27, 2020

Corruption claims rattle BDF command

Members of the Botswana Defence Force (BDF) command are implicated in a shady deal allegedly to fleece the army of millions of Pula.

Secret documents passed to the Sunday Standard further reveal how the army exposed the informant who blew the whistle on the controversial deal.

The whistleblower was allegedly sold out by one of the officers after he gave the BDF’s investigating unity, the General Inspector, a tip off that he suspected some senior officers were fleecing the Directorate of Sport and Administration of millions of Pula.

 BDF spokesperson Major Maswabi confirmed that a Board of Inquiry related to maladministration at the Directorate of Sports and Administration was convened and “it is still seating.”

It is understood that an officer (names known to this publication) disclosed the identity of the whistleblower to other officers implicated in the matter.

The senior officers implicated in the matter together with the whistleblower were transferred from the Headquarters in Mogoditshane to some BDF barracks in what was seen as a cover up and an attempt at killing a looming fraud case.

But the whistleblower challenged the transfer on the basis that it was irregular and it was then that the alleged cover up was exposed and the matter was reportedly brought to the attention of Deputy Commander Major General Gotsileene Morake.

The whistleblower was then summoned to appear before a Board of Inquiry convened by Head of Human Resources Brigadier Kgaswanyane. But the Board was dissolved after it emerged that Kgaswanyane was a potential witness.  This was after Warrant Officer Seretse had allegedly refused to appear before the Board convened by Brigadier Kgaswanyane allegedly on the basis that there was no need for him to appear before the board because he (Seretse) allegedly knew why the whistleblower was transferred.

Maswabi denied that Seretse refused to honour summons to appear before the Board and that he reportedly said he had knowledge about why the whistleblower was transferred.

An independent investigation by Sunday Standard show that after Kgaswanyane’s Board was dissolved he was replaced by Brigadier Sharp as the convener of the new Board. 

Officer Maselesele who was appointed by Kgaswanyane to preside over the matter when Seretse allegedly refused to appear before the first board was redeployed to Namibia as a military attach├®.

Brigadier Sharp reportedly appointed Colonel Gabarongwe to chair the new Board as a replacement for Officer Maselele.

It emerges in the documents that the whistleblower who was supposed to be a witness was now advised that he was likely to be implicated in the matter when the new Board convened. At this stage, a BDF lawyer reportedly wanted to know who the suspects in the matter were and who he was defending the army against.

It was suggested that the matter be taken back to Brigadier Sharp so that he could advise the army on what to do. It was at this stage that the whistleblower refused saying there was need to protect him instead of turning against him after he had been initially identified as a witness.

The whistleblower then roped in his lawyers who notified the Attorney General of their intention to sue after his status was changed from a potential witness to a person likely to be affected by the findings of the inquiry.

“By making representations to the Client that he was a witness the Board compromised his possible defences and stole his innocence by misrepresenting that he was not a person who may be affected by the findings of the Board’s inquiry.”

The whistleblower’s lawyers also stated that by changing their client’ status without any valid reason given to him the decision falls to be set aside as it offends both natural justice and administrative law rendering the proceedings a nullity for of legality.

“Having previously made representations to Client that he is a witness, the BDF is legally stopped from and or prohibited from changing his status without following due process,” the lawyers said.  

The whistleblower is seeking a High Court order interdicting the BDF’s inquiry, reviewing and setting aside the decision making him an affected person to the board other than witness as well as directing that he be reverted to his status as a witness.

Replying, Kgaswanyane of the Attorney General Chambers said “The Board that identified your client as a witness was dissolved as the Convener Officers (Brigadier Kgaswanyane) was a potential witness. Thus lead to the new board being convened.”

He added that “the above Board did not conduct its proceedings and as such your client cannot be prejudicial by his change of status (from being a witness to being affected).”

Maswabi would not be drawn into discussing allegations that the convenor of the first board of inquiry Brigadier Kgaswanyane was conflicted because his son who is at the Attorney General is representing the BDF on the matter.

Insiders say that the current matter is indicative of how the army is protecting those facing maladministration charges as it sold out the whistleblower instead of protecting him/her.

“The BDF is a transparent organisation which has zero tolerance for corruption and as far as we are concerned one has ever been disadvantaged for reporting corruption practices,” said Maswabi.

He added that “In the interest of the investigations we are unable to share the findings as the board is still seating. Sharing any information at this stage will prejudice the outcome of the investigations.”

According to the confidential documents, officer LT Colonel Phefo, Major M Simon, Warrant Officer Seretse and Warrant of Mothudi were “to be given opportunity of being present and represented in accordance with” the BDF Act.

The Board convened by Colonel Gabarongwe is to report among others on whether Warrant Officer Seretse received information implicating any person on maladministration at Directorate of Sports Administration, if so whether Warrant Officer Seretse shared the information with any other person.

It is also to report on whether the Directorate of Sports Administration was in compliance with BDF purchases and procedures during the time under enquiry.

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Sunday Standard September 27 – 3 October

Digital copy of Sunday Standard issue of September 27 - 3 October, 2020.