Monday, July 4, 2022

DCEC pounces on BDC amid alleged corruption reports

Persistent media reports alleging corrupt practices, coupled with court cases interdicting the Botswana Development Corporation (BDC) from entering into contractual agreements with a number of firms for the implementation of its projects, have attracted the attention of the country’s corruption busting agency ÔÇô the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC), impeccable sources have revealed.

Government enclave sources have pointed out the possibility of heads rolling at the government’s investment arm in the wake of the numerous headline reports and court injunctions that have rocked the parastatal in the recent past.

While the position of the Minister of Finance and Development Planning and BDC past immediate chief, Kenneth Matambo, and his Permanent Secretary, Solomon Sekwakwa, who also doubles as the corporation’s board chairman, is not known on the current developments at the country’s oldest government investment arm, there are indications that the duo could be seriously concerned with the latest developments given that the embattled agency falls under their ministerial portfolio.

In fact, it would only do the corporation good if Matambo and Sekwakwa instructed that a forensic audit be instituted at the corporation to unravel the perceived irregularities that have patently besieged the parastatal, given the court injunctions and the stalling of some projects, which could prove costly to implement in the future due to price escalations.

The two could not be reached for comment at the time of going to press as they were said to be on their way from the International Monetary Fund and World Bank meetings according to finance ministry officials.

However, concerned sources from the government enclave are already calling for a fully-fledged investigation to get to the bottom of what they have called a rot within the corporation, which they would want to see cleaned out as quickly as possible.

The concerned sources are also imploring the DCEC to camp at the corporation and smoke out the rot, especially that the BDC is a wholly owned government subsidiary funded from public funds.

Some are confident that the DCEC should have already started its own investigations on the back of the multiple media reports and the court cases.

┬á“As a matter of policy, the DCEC cannot confirm that they have launched an investigation into alleged corruption at the BDC. However, a number of the corporation’s senior executives have already been questioned to explain some of the goings on at the government owned parastatal,” said a government enclave source who is also an employee of the finance ministry and not authorized to speak to the press.

“There is a lot of rot concerning the awarding of tenders at the corporation. It is very likely that some palms have been greased. It is only appropriate that the DCEC launches its own investigation and determine whether corruption abounds at BDC or not,” said an impeccable source who is in support of the corruption busting agency’s efforts in ridding public institutions of corrupt activities and tendencies.

Contacted for comment, DCEC spokesperson, Lentswe Motshogantse, said the information sought by this newspaper was not information that they would want to share with the media. “We do not talk about our investigations unless they have been completed.

It is against our policy to divulge information on our investigations,” said Motshoganetse.

He, however, confirmed that the DCEC was always concerned about corruption matters reported by the media.

“Any matter concerning corruption in Botswana will attract our attention and concern, be it from news reports or other sources,” said Motshoganetsi.

Corruption issues at BDC started emerging in the first quarter of the year when a leaked audit report by G4 Consulting Engineers unearthed a systemic abuse of money by executives at the corporation who may have been colluding with a contractor for passing of invoices for works and equipment that had not been delivered at the BDC’s Palapye Fengyue half a billion Pula Glass Manufacturing plant.

The report showed that the contractor, Fengyue, who is a 57 percent partner in the project, had been overpaid by more than P100 million even as the project completion had dragged longer than scheduled. BDC owns 43 percent of the project.

The auditors also found out, to their dismay, that BDC money amounting to US$1.5 million (about P9 million) was illegally diverted to finance an adjacent oxygen making plant which had nothing to do with the public corporation.

The oxygen plant was linked to one of the BDC executives as a shareholder.

“Please note further that the schedule of paid invoices includes an invoice for Oxygen Making Machine… Oxygen making is not part of the turnkey contract and is being built outside the site as we witnessed at the site meeting. This invoice should therefore not have been paid by BDC,” said G4 Consulting Engineers managing director, Botsile Gubago, in a confidential report to BDC Industrial Manager, Rosemary Mogorosi.

Lobatse High Court recently halted a quantity surveying tender award for the P300 million ambitious Botswana Innovation Hub project following complaints of irregularities in addition to the freezing of the project’s civil engineering tender on complaints of shady dealings.

The court injunction followed an application by Mmile Mhutsiwa and Associates with Davis Langdon (CCMI) who sought an order restraining the corporation and Fitzwilliam Partnership, which was awarded the tender, from implementing the quantity surveying award pending the outcome of review proceedings they had lodged.

In another bizarre development, BDC conceded at the last minute to stop the civil and structural engineering contract in a bid to ward off an application for court interdict filed by Bergstan (Pty) Ltd seeking the court to review or set aside a contract for civil and structural engineering services for the innovation hub project.

Bergstan complained that it was the successful bidder although the tender was awarded wrongfully and unlawfully to Pula Consultants. The company further wanted the court to order BDC to pay compensation as per its determination.

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