Thursday, August 6, 2020

Debswana in cross-hairs as company faces P140 million mystery bill

Debswana has been hit with a mysterious demand of P140 million pula by a company trading as Infotrac which markets itself as an intelligence outfit.

According to documents seen by Sunday Standard the amount of money demanded has been varying over time reaching P140 million at the latest count.

A string of messages between Debswana executives and those of Infotrac culminating in a meeting at Debswana head office has led to a suspension of three Debswana executives; Head of Security, his deputy and a Senior Human Resource Manager.

In one of the meetings with Debswana officers, Infotrac was represented by Mompoloki Motshidi identified as managing Director and also Tsolofelo Mvungama identified as Technical Partner.

Mvungama has recently been in the news on a similar but unrelated matter where one company claimed P15 million from the intelligence services apparatus (DIS). DIS has said they had no contract with that company.

At the Debswana meeting Motshidi and Mvungama made starling allegations that Debswana employees had caused for varying of a consultancy service following which the appointment of Albert Milton as managing Director was possible.

Sunday Standard can confirm that the former Debswana Managing Director Balisi Bonyongo had at one time engaged Infotrac to investigate Milton. By that time Milton was General Manager at Jwaneng Mine.

In a report to Bonyongo, Infotrac effectively vindicated and exonerated Milton of any wrong doing.

Now Infotrac is backtracking on its findings to effectively say Milton was acquitted of all wrongdoing because there was a back-to-back deal between himself, a few Debswana executives and Infotrac’s Mompoloki Motshidi.

“Subsequent to the official order Debswana representatives (Mpho Kewakae, Tshephang Mazwigwila} engaged with him [Motshidi] on different occasions to change the original scope to ensure that the findings of the report will not jeorpardise Albert Milton’s opportunity to be appointed the MD. The work was to ensure that he assists in the best possible way to ensure that he pulls all the strings to ensure the appointment. He did admit that part of this meant him deploying unconventional means to get whatever information needed or to pull strings,” reads minutes of the meeting in part.

Records show that at one-point Motshidi also met with Carter Morupisi who was then Permanent Secretary to the President and also chairman of Debswana Board of Directors.

It is not clear why Infotrac would agree to be part of such high criminality as to manufacture its own findings to start with.

But Motshidi answers this elsewhere by saying he could engage in unconventional ways to get to a bigger goal.

Armed with all these vague documents that read like a Hollywood spy-hunt blockbuster, Infotrac wants to be paid millions.

And Debswana is not having any of it. And is refusing to play ball.

“We note that your letter does not provide any detail on the contract which it is alleged was concluded between our client and Infotrac. We note that your letter does not indicate whether the contract was written or oral. We note that your letter does not detail the alleged consultancy services which were rendered by Infotrac to our client. We note that your letter does not identify the price for the rendering of the services and how the price was to be calculated… In the absence of a written contract which complies with our client’s Supply Chain Management process, our client will not entertain any claim by Infotrac, and our client accordingly denies any liability to Infotrac,” said John Carr-Hartley of Armstrongs attorneys acting for Debswana.

An earlier letter to Debswana written by lawyers acting for Infotrac and its Managing Director, Mompoloki Motshidi makes an even starker allegation to then Debswana Managing Director Albert Milton – now deceased; “The material terms of the agreement are as follows; Our client would at your special instance render to yourselves consultancy services and payment for the services rendered would be by way of contracts to our client for additional work. As to the value of the contracts to be awarded he was advised by yourselves and it was agreed that ‘The sky is the limit.’”  

The letter further added that Infotrac had rendered the services as agreed with date of final delivery as November 2018.

At the end of the meeting held at Debswana an agreement was that Infotrac executives would submit all documents that could prove and motivate a case that a contract existed between Debswana and Infotrac to warrant any payment.

According to the minutes of the meeting Infotrac executives agreed to “submit documentation they had advised they were in position of”.

At that meeting they also alluded to the fact that they were willing to negotiate as ‘appropriate with Debswana and failing which he will have no option but to pursue the matter in a way he believes will offer him the relief he wants.’

In the end the Motshidi sent WhatsApp messages between him and a few Debswana officials including the late Managing Director Albert Milton.

In some of those messages seen by Sunday Standard there is nothing even indicating a contract or a promise of it to Infotrac.

A discussion inside Debswana on how to handle Infotrac and its officials has often vacillated between a dismissal of the demand and those saying Infotrac might be hiding important information.

Other Debswana officials have implored management to report attempts of extortion to the police.

At one-point Debswana management sought assistance from the Directorate of Intelligence and Security (DIS).

At the end of a meeting with DIS deputy Director General Tefo Kgothang there was a tentative consensus that Debswana management would report possible acts of criminality to police for investigation. Surprisingly Debswana has still not yet reported.

Kgothang has decline to comment, referring Sunday Standard to Debswana.

“I do not speak on Debswana matters,” Kgothang said.

“They have opted to treat the matter as internal. But there is a clear case of extortion,” one senior Debswana employees said on condition of anonymity.

Responding to a set of questions from Sunday Standard, the Debswana Head of Corporate Affairs Rachel Mothibatsela had this to say about the matter;

It is not our intention to respond to each question or enquiry made, and any failure by Debswana to do so should not be construed as an admission of the allegation(s) or the veracity thereof.

It is also not Debswana’s practice to divulge information regarding its contractual relationships with third parties, or even information regarding whether or not a contractual relationship exists between Debswana and a third party. Additionally, Debswana also does not divulge information regarding its employees.

It is, however, clear that Sunday Standard has seen the exchange of correspondence exchanged between Infotrac’s lawyers and Debswana’s lawyers. As a result, we can confirm that a demand for payment was received by Debswana, from lawyers acting for Infotrac. The amount demanded was very substantial. Debswana’s position remains as communicated by Debswana’s Attorneys to Infotrac.”

She said following allegations received through an independent investigation has been commissioned by Debswana to investigate, inter alia, the claims made.

“The details of the investigation cannot be shared in order to preserve the integrity of the investigation process. The investigation into the allegations made are at an extremely sensitive stage and any information released to any third party whomsoever could seriously jeopardise the investigations and Debswana’s efforts at getting to the truth. However, the investigation is being conducted as expeditiously as the current circumstances permit,” she concluded.

Speaking on behalf of Infotrac Tsholofelo Mvungama denied being a partner or associate of Infotrac.

“Infotrac says it is unable to answer your questions due to confidentiality agreement between it and Debswana. Furthermore, Infotrac says you should request for further details from the sources that sent you that information,” said Mvungama.

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