Wednesday, January 19, 2022

DCEC probes network of govt big shorts

A whistle-blower has compiled a report for the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC) detailing how “a syndicate that involves very senior government officials” is looting the e-government multi-million pula budget to raise funds to buy Botswana Telecommunications Corporation (BTC) when it is privatised.

The whistle blower, who is employed as Head of Strategy Division at the Department of Information Technology (DIT) was approached by DCEC to come up with a report after the graft buster received an intelligence feed from the Directorate of Public Service Management (DPSM) to investigate allegations of corruptions surrounding the e-Government project.

The secret report ÔÇô a copy of which has been passed to the Sunday Standard – makes allegations on how senior government officials at the level of permanent secretary, deputy permanent secretaries and department directors (names withheld) have been redeployed or forced to resign to pave way for the grand scheme hatched by the syndicate of senior government officials. The whistle-blower directs the DCEC to the named officials who were either redeployed or forced to resign for further clarification.

The whistle-blower states that he was part of the team that was tasked with analysing the scope of work for the contract of expert advisor to government on how to develop and implement the National e-Government Strategy details how the syndicate of very senior government officials fiddled with the tender and forged contract agreements as part of their design to loot the e-government.

“I had participated in development of the terms of reference for the engagement of an e-Government Expert and I immediately noticed that the scope of work that was in the e-Government Expert contract for negotiation with the successful bidder (Public Sector Transformation Group PSTG, based in Toronto, Canada) was a reduced scope from the tender terms of reference.” The Head of Strategy Division states that he brought the issue up with his superiors, but his concerns were shot down.
“I was therefore shocked when the deliverables that were removed from the e-Government Expert contract, and the Enterprise Architecture later appeared as part of the terms of reference” in the questionable renewal of a contract to a consultant which he claims is part of the syndicate.

“ I advised the national e-Government Program Management Office that the scope of the new contract was very different from the preferred consultant’s first contract and as such the consultant should not be appointed directly but rather through an open tender. I argued that to the best of my knowledge and belief a contract renewal should not have a change of scope from the initial contract.
He goes on to explain that the renewal of the contract of the consultant preferred by the syndicate was a fraud and that the consultant had been used to loot the e-Government budget.

The preferred consultant had been awarded a contract as e-government project supervisors to oversee another local IT company Corporate Business Solutions (CBS) who were tasked with developing and implementing the e-Government portal. During the course of 2009, the preferred contractor advised that CBS contract be terminated for non performance, “ which was subsequently done without an End of Activity Report as required by project management principles.” The whistle-blower states that he advised his superiors that the preferred consultant’s “scope and payment be reduced proportionally since the supplier was no longer available to deliver the remaining deliverables that the consultant could have project managed.”

He says to his surprise, the preferred consultant, “continued to provide project management services and received full payment to the end of their two year contract even though the supplier was no longer on the scene.”

The whistle-blower says at the end of the preferred consultant’s contract, his principals, “ pushed for the renewal of the contract for a further two years. As the Strategy Advisor, I objected” and advised that the contract be put on open tender. “As a senior manager at DIT, I have the privilege of reading all incoming mail to the department if I happen to be available in the office at the time when the new mail is circulated in a box before the registry files it. During the period around July 2009 to around November 2009, I read several incoming letters which were replies from PPADB to DIT seemingly objecting to the DIT request to renew the contract. PPADB seemed to be uncomfortable with the reasons given for the renewal and kept on seeking justification and giving advice on some aspect of the public procurement process. It was evident to me that PPADB seemed to be saying to DIT that the issue should go for open tender. All in all there could have been 4 or 5 such letters. I did not have the privilege to read the outgoing mail from DIT to PPADB and as such I am not privy to the reasons DIT was giving for the renewal. What I can recall is that the subject heading for the requests for contract renewal kept changing as if someone was fishing for something.”

The whistle-blower further states: “when we went for the Christmas break in 2009, the consultant’s contract was not yet renewed according to my knowledge, but upon resumption of the project Management Office (PMO) in January 2010, PMO staff were informed that the preferred consultant’s contract’s had been renewed sometime in December 2009. I also heard later that the consultant then invoiced DIT backdating their invoices to the time their first contract ended. I asked my principals (name withheld) why the consultant were kept on the job when their contract renewal was being negotiated. I also asked why a retrospective Government Purchase Order was not issued in view of the fact that payment was being backdated from the date of the contract signature but I was given no answers. I however learnt with time that the renewal of the contract was done in March 2009 before negotiations with PPADB for contract renewal commenced in July 2009 ( something that I am unable to verify as the contracts are kept in the Director’s office and I have been refused access). Keeping a contract in the Director’s office is an anomaly as all contracts are kept by contract managers. The preferred consultant’s contracts are an exception to the rule.”

The whistle-blower says, “ I have come to the conclusion that the forgery was obviously done to get around having to explain why payment to the consultant was done retrospectively without evidence of authorisation.

The whistle-blower says the procurement process contravened “ provisions of Part X, regulation 95 (7) of the PPADB Act, where the contract was amended more than once and the cumulative value of the contract amendments exceed the stipulated 25% threshold of the original contract price. To be precise, from P2, 965,670.40 ( sum of two separate contracts awarded to the consultant) to P4, 560, 000.00 resulting in an increase of P1, 594, 329.60 translating into 53.76%. This is well in excess of the stipulated 15% and even well above the stipulated cumulative threshold value of 25%.

The whistle-blower further reveals that despite a clause in the consultant’s first and second contract that barred them from engaging in any further business with the Botswana government during the tenure of their contracts with DIT the consultant “ has used their being insiders to solicit for further business much to the chagrin of other local IT companies. To date, the consultant has been awarded several contracts by the Directorate of Intelligence Services (DIS) without going through formal tender. The consultants used their knowledge of DIT applications ( as DIT database administrators) to initiate a security audit project of DIT Oracle applications without going through tender. As DIT database administrators, the consultants should have acted faithfully as advisors to DIT and alerted them on any information systems security loopholes instead of going behind DIT’s back to engage DIS without formal tender. Several new contracts with DIS have since been processed using e-government budget necessitating the drafting of project memorandum addendum for the e-government programs because the new unbudgeted projects have exhausted the DTI e-government budget.”

The whistle- blower revealed that he has been assigned to write the memorandum. “ I am not keen to cooperate but I have no choice as the e-Government program has to keep moving without stalling.”
He further states that, “ it is alleged that the frantic scramble to loot the national e-Government budget is meant to raise money for the syndicate members to enable them to buy the lion’s share of the public offering of the BTC shares.”

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