Saturday, January 23, 2021

DCEC probes Casino board

The Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime is investigating the Casino Control Board (CCB) over circumstances that led to it issuing a licence to Workman Holdings, a company that was to operate a gambling operation at Masa Centre in the new Gaborone CBD.

While the licence was later revoked following a court battle with already established casino operators, there are still unanswered questions about the manner in which the licence was issued.

In an affidavit she has deposed at Borakanelo Police Station that has been passed to Sunday Standard, CCB member, Boikanyo Mathipa, details a chain of events that on August 11, 2010 culminated with Workman Holdings being issued a casino licence to operate a casino at Masa Hotel.

The licence was issued by then chairman, Lekwalo Mosienyane and secretary, John Matsheng.
“This was done even though construction of the hotel at which Workman Holdings will operate the casino is not yet complete. This was not procedural,” Mathipa says in her affidavit.

A few more things about this licence raised her eyebrows. A survey conducted for CCB recommended that three casinos in Gaborone were enough and at a subsequent stakeholders’ workshop that recommendation was endorsed. Contrary to what the law prescribes, the proposed casino was to be set up in a retail shopping centre and, contrary to Gaming and Gambling Policy for Botswana, the casino – in which foreigners were majority shareholders – had potential to cripple a citizen-owned one located only 400 metres away at Gaborone Hotel. At a CCB meeting held in Phakalane on March 10, 2010 that Mathipa was unable to attend “due to some urgent work commitment”, Workman Holdings was alerted of errors in its application and advised to re-apply.

Mathipa, who is Director of Tax Policy in the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning, notes of this in her affidavit: “Generally, the procedure was either to approve or reject an application or to ask for further information if a decision cannot be reached. The CCB therefore went an extra mile by asking the applicant to correct their mistakes. Another important thing to note is that it was later realised that even though the CCB made a decision on March 11, 2010 that the applicant should reapply, the applicant had placed an advert in the Government Gazette on March 10, 2010.

This gave an impression that information had leaked to the applicant regarding what Board was going to decide. This anomaly was discussed and argued at a later Board meeting.

Following Workman Holdings re-advertising its intention to operate a casino, the required 60-day waiting period was to elapse on May 26, 2010. However, its re-application was submitted two days before that date and the approval given within a week. Mathipa is keen to stress that “the meeting on June 1, 2010 was not a quarterly meeting”, the relevance of this point being that, in terms of procedure, applications are considered at quarterly meetings only.

She goes on to state that on August 12, 2010, CCB wrote a letter to Workman Holdings to notify it, saying that its proposal of the operational structure was approved.

“I am not aware of any CCB meeting at which this operational structure was approved. It appears that on August 11, 2010, a day before the approval of the proposed operational structure, Chairman Mr. Mosienyane and Secretary Mr. Matsheng issued the CASINO LICENCE to Workman Holdings,” Mathipa affidavit says.

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