Some of the reasons why the former Botswana Meat Commission (BMC) CEO, Dr David Falepau’s contract was terminated by the Minister of Agriculture, Christian de Graff, broke into the open this week during the Parliamentary Special Select Committee hearing.
The committee, which is investigating causes of the decline of the beef industry in Botswana, heard that Falepau had allegedly requested for millions of Pula from Government to turn around the fortunes of the ailing commission.
┬áSince De Graff terminated Falepau’s contract last year, the committee was told, senior managers and the staff in general live in fear as they believe that their future is uncertain.
This revelation came after BMC Human Resource Manager, Thomas Mothusi Ntobedzi, and members of the Parliamentary Select Committee locked horns over key issues, such as the reasons behind Falepau’s dismissal; why former BMC Manager for Livestock Procurement, Clive Marshall, was paid more than the former CEO Raborokgwe and other senior managers.
Ntobedzi who was cagey with details when he was being asked questions by the committee members, apparently for fear of being victimised by the powers that be at the Ministry, initially told the committee that he did not have answers as to why Falepau’s contract was terminated.
“Falepau called me saying he received a letter from the Minister terminating his services. Even the employees are still asking me why Falepau’s contract was terminated. I don’t have an answer to that as head of HR Department but if I had issued the letter I would be in a position to answer that question,” said Ntobedzi. He was responding to a question from committee member Gilbert Mangole who wanted to know why Falepau’s contract was terminated.
But when committee members pressed Ntobedzi for more details, the BMC Human Resources Manager revealed that Falepau had asked for P18 million to turn around the fortunes of the ailing Commission.
“He was asked if it was enough and he answered in the affirmative. There is hearsay that later Falepau, after realising that the money was not enough, asked for more to augment what he had, that did not go down well with the authorities and after that he received a letter terminating his services,” said Ntobedzi, whose answers were described as unsatisfactory by the committee – earning tongue lashes in the process.
The most vicious of exchanges was to come when another committee member, Prince Maele, a Human Resource practitioner by profession, racked Ntobedzi over the coals accusing the latter of ‘bypassing’ the committee’s questions.
His sentiments were also shared by another committee member, Gilson Saleshando, who after the break was asked by the acting chairman of the committee, Frank Ramsden, if he still wanted to progress with questions but Saleshando answered in the negative and accused Ntobedzi of refusing to answer his questions.
But Ntobedzi defended himself by telling the committee that he was curtailed to give those answers they want because he feared victimisation; prompting Maele to wonder “if senior managers could be scared of the Minister’s car what about the junior officers”.
“When we started you were defensive and that is why we were hard on you, little did we know that you feared victimisation,” said Maele.
“It is difficult for us to ask questions at BMC, we fear victimisation. For instance when the Minister’s car arrived before we could see who was there, the employees said maybe they are bringing us another one; and Dr Akolang Tombale (acting CEO) was there,” said Ntobedzi.
The committee also heard that mystery still surrounds how BMC board member, Ian Thomson, was appointed the acting CEO after he was shoved on the Commission by the Ministry’s Permanent Secretary, Marcus Chimbombi, and there was no file opened for him.
“Chimbombi brought Thompson and the understanding was that he would not be paid a salary but only receive car fuel allowance. How he left the BMC as acting CEO was never made official to us,” said Ntobedzi, who added that he had not opened a file for Ntobale saying he would request permission from Permanent Secretary, Marcus Chimbombi to do so.
Maele and Saleshando were also to take Ntobedzi later when they asked him why he did not intervene as a head of HR when the BMC board decided to┬á renew Marshall’s contract when it was clear that he was too costly to BMC.
“The 2007 skills audit shows that you realised that Marshall was not fit but in 2010 you allowed the HR committee to extend Marshall’s contract though he did not have qualifications,” stated Maele, to which Ntobedzi replied that the decision to renew Marshall’s contract was taken at a closed session of the board and he was not involved and, as an HR Manager, he had to implement it.
The committee also heard that the difference between Marshall’s salary and the then CEO (Raborokgwe) was P37 000 and between his colleagues (senior managers) was P9 000.
Ntobezi also revealed that Marshall was paid outside the BMC structure.
Parliamentary committee member John Toto put it to Ntobedzi that Marshall had cost BMC P2.2 million after a farmer had disappeared with the Commission’s money and had a tendency of ignoring the BMC procedures and CEO, but no action was taken against.
“The CEO confirmed to the board that he had looked at the issue and he did not want to throw away the bath with the baby and wrote a letter of reprimand to Marshall,” he said.
Saleshando and Moeng Pheto concurred with Maele that as an HR Manager, Ntobedzi was empowered stop renewal of Marshall’s contract; Ntobedzi replied that he could not stop that, adding that he could not overturn the Board’s decision.
On the way forward, Ntobedzi recommended that Tombale’s contract (he has a one year contact) should be extended saying, just like Falepau, the former’s consultation with his staff has seen him becoming a favourite among employees and staff morale has been relatively restored.