Thursday, August 5, 2021

Culprit or Victim?: The curious case of Tariq Babitseng

BY BOTLHALE KOOTHUPILE

When it comes to misappropriation of monies and Tariq Babitseng, nothing is ever certain. Either he is a culprit or victim.

But for the man who has faced countless charges, nothing ever seems to ever stick for the man who has morphed into the ‘Teflon Man’ of Botswana football.

For the umpteenth time in his football administration career, the youthful administrator Tariq Babitseng is in hot soup over suspected misappropriation of funds under his care.

On Friday, Extension Gunners football club confirmed allegations that they had suspended their erstwhile chairman ‘pending investigations in respect of P30 000′ that went missing from the club’s account.

The monies are said to have been an advance given to the financially struggling Peleng club by the Botswana Premier League (BPL) ‘on or about 5 April’ this year.

The suspension of Babitseng comes at a time when he is facing constant pressure from the Botswana Football Association (BFA) to pay back the monies he allegedly owes the association.

The BFA accuses Babitseng of having misappropriated at least $ 7 257.93 (P72362.21) given as contingency funds when he was a Head of Delegation (HoD) during the senior men football national team’s trip to Guinea in 2014.

Earlier this year, Extension Gunners executive committee was forced into a defensive mode as the BFA called it out to ‘remind them of their obligations as a member’ in regards to their relationship with Babitseng.

Almost at the same time, the Gunners executive had suspended the then club vice chairman Tapela Boti for ‘insubordination’ after he had allegedly called for accountability.

While Gunners were at the time cagey with details as to why Boti was suspended, it has since come to the Sunday Standard’s attention that he had wanted the executive to account for the money made from replica sales.

“Unfortunately, Boti was then kicked out for alleged insubordination as he insisted that the executive should be transparent as it had promised,” the source said.

Now with the wheels seemingly having come off Babitseng’s Gunners ride, Boti has been appointed acting chairman while the club looks into the alleged financial irregularities.

While details are sketchy, the Sunday Standard has been reliably informed that the team had on at least two or three occasions sought for an advance from the BPL.

It is alleged that prior to the P30 000 granted on or about 5 April, the team had also been given some advance estimated to be around P40 000.

Reached for comment, Gunners communication manager Willoughby Kemoen confirmed the team was investigating financial irregularities and a possible fraud.

Kemoen said given the gravity of the matter, they are seeking to involve the Botswana Police Service and or the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC) as this could amount to corruption.

Queried as to how the money could have been withdrawn, the Gunners Communications Manager pleaded ignorance. He added that as a committee, they were also not aware that the team had at any time requested financial advance from the BPL.

“As per our policy, we have three signatories to our bank accounts, they being the Chairman, the Treasurer and the Secretary General. For anyone to withdraw the monies, two out of the three signatories should have signed. So we are trying to find out who of the three signed for the monies to be withdrawn,” he explained.

Asked if they had had any engagements with the treasurer, who allegedly resigned from his post this past Friday, Kemoen said it is hard to link him to the matter as he had been away from the club for a long while.

“Our treasurer has been away from the club since November last year due to work commitments. He wrote us a letter this past Friday informing us he is resigning from his post as he could not fulfil his duties due to work commitments,” Kemoen explained.

The Gunners chairman also pleaded ignorance as to who could have written the letters to the BPL asking for an advance.

“As a committee, we are still not aware as to who wrote the letters. But what we believe is that for the BPL to have furnished the requested advance, a club letterhead should have been used and there has to have been signatories,” he said.

“The truth is that as a committee, we only got to know all these issues when the players refused to board the bus to Orapa to honour a fixture on the 5th April. When we enquired, the players informed us that they had gone unpaid for five months,” he explained.

“This caught us by surprise as we all along did not know that players are owed monthly dues. This is when all broke loose and we got to know of the P30 000 we had allegedly been given by the BPL,” he said.

Kemoen meanwhile reiterated that at the moment, investigations are ongoing and as such, ‘no one is guilty’ of embezzling or defrauding the team ‘until a culprit is found and proven guilty.’

Meanwhile, a source close to Gunners has alleged that prior to leaving in November, the treasurer had allegedly pre-signed some cheques to ensure the club did not struggle when he was away.

“This may have been an oversight  on the part of the Treasurer as he may inadvertently played into the hands of an unscrupulous executive member who then signed off the cheques for his own benefit,” he said.

Concerning the letters, another source said it will be interesting to see who could have written them as the club Secretary is usually the one who has to write them.

Allegations are that the Secretary could have written the letter to the league but it will only be established during the investigations.

Attempts to solicit comments from both Babitseng and the BPL chief executive officer (CEO) Thabo Ntshinogang proved futile at the time of going to press as their phones were off air.

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