Thursday, October 28, 2021

Debswana official donated to school department headed by his wife

A former Debswana Diamond Company manager may have siphoned money from the company Corporate Social Investment (CSI) programme through many more organisations than previously reported in Sunday Standard.

In our August 28, 2017 edition, we reported that this official siphoned money through fake donations to the Nata Village Development Committee. It has since emerged that four years ago, he also made a dubious donation to a Gaborone junior secondary school. Not only did his wife teach at this school, the donation was made to the department that she heads. The donation was in the form of a three-bedroomed sick bay for the Department of Guidance and Counselling which Debswana itself built.

However, sources doubt that Debswana selected the contractor because the couple’s own four-wheel drive vehicle (a Land Cruiser) was used to deliver building materials during construction. The builder and his hands themselves didn’t appear to be associated with any registered construction company, leading some to speculate that they had been engaged by the couple.

 The house was built in record time (two months) and upon completion, was furnished with three-quarter beds, a stove and a refrigerator and immediately put to use. Procedurally, the house should long have been officially handed over to the school but to date that has not happened. According to sources, the Debswana man (the husband to the teacher whose department was built the house) didn’t seem willing to hold such ceremony. Once when asked when the handover would be, he reportedly said that Debswana was still trying to get Btv to cover the event. The real reason, it is alleged, was that Debswana’s donation was for two classrooms ÔÇô which would have been used by the entire school ÔÇô and not a sick bay for one department.

After discovering that its CSI funds were being diverted elsewhere, Debswana called in law enforcement which is investigating the matter. Two weeks ago, two male investigators showed up at the school in a GP-registration car and asked to inspect the sick bay.

Responding to Sunday Standard queries, Debswana’s Corporate Affairs Manager, Matshidiso Kamona, confirmed that the company has built a structure at the school in question through the its CSI programme. She revealed that the donation was for the construction of a counseling block and that the total cost for the project was P260 000.

 “The project was handed over to the school although there was no event held to officially launch the project. We cannot comment further on this matter as investigations are still underway,” she said.

On the other hand, the school headmaster ÔÇô who revealed that the house was built by an individual she named ÔÇô gave a fuller and clearly contradictory account about the handover.  

 “Debswana is yet to hand over the project. The delay to have the structure handed over to the school has to do with our tight schedule – school terms are short and congested,” she said. 

The manager in question has resigned while another one has been suspended. Both are now being investigated for diverting millions of pula from Debswana’s CSI budget to line their pockets. Sunday Standard investigations have turned up information that the duo fabricated CSI spending, in one case using the Nata VDC to launder the black money. Between P3 million and 4 million was reportedly siphoned from the CSI budget, routed through the VDC and later transferred to the bank account of a private company jointly owned by the former manager and an unidentified VDC member.

Botswana Police Service Public Relations Officer, Assistant Commissioner Witness Bosija, has both confirmed that the police are investigating the case and revealed that the completion of investigations was likely to be followed by the arrest of the former manager who is said to be self-employed now.

While no wrongdoing has been alleged in this particular case, the manager in question is said to have had a very close personal relationship with an orphanage in Gamodubu, a small village along the Gaborone-Molepolole road. Last year, when he turned 50, a celebration was held in Gaborone but the birthday cake was reportedly taken to and cut at Gamodubu and shared with the orphans.

Debswana is itself not blameless in this matter because the case has revealed that its internal controls are lax.

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