Saturday, October 31, 2020

Debswana spygate – union demands answers

Botswana Mine Workers Union (BMWU) is demanding a forensic audit into the goings on at Debswana Diamond Company Limited.

This emerged during a recent meeting between the union and the Debswana executive management, Sunday Standard has learnt.

The union demands that the audit should focus on procurement, contracts and recruitment procedures.

It is understood that at the same meeting, Management argued that a forensic Audit would be expensive and asked the union to specify cases they want audited.

BMWU president, Joseph Tsimako told Sunday Standard that: “This is where parties disagreed, with the union standing its ground on the demand for a holistic forensic audit.”

The parties also discussed issues the legal action brought by Infortrac which is demanding more than P110 million from Debswana for alleged breach of contract.

“It is our contention that there have been elements of corruption that happened in this saga. If you relate back, Infortrac was engaged by the then senior management of Debswana to provide its services (investigations) to the company, and in our view the service were not in any way beneficial to the company but were meant to serve the interest of individuals (Debswana Management),” said Tsimako.

“Further, there was a plan made on how this amount would be disbursed from the company to Infortrac and this plan was not in line with corporate governance and Debswana procurement payment processes, and this alone clearly suggests that there was corruption”, he said.

Tsimako said the union’s position on this matter was that, Debswana Management should ensure that this matter is resolved in house between the two parties.

“It is our considered view that whatever may be revealed in court as evidence by Infortrac may seriously have a negative impact on Debswana as a diamond mining company which would put the company’s good name in disrepute and therefore negatively affect diamond sales which as a consequence would be undesirable for the country’s economy since diamonds are the breadwinners of this country,” said Tsimako.

Another thorny issue is the alleged use of spy equipment on staff.

“It is clear from the evidence at hand that Debswana Management has purchased spy equipment from Infortrac with intentions to spy on union officials and employees. This issue of spy equipment was previously argued in court where a decision was made that it was unlawful for the company to plant spy equipment in the vicinity of the employees’ movements or working place,” said Tsimako.

He said the union thought the matter had been laid to rest. Indications, however are that Debswana continues to spy on its employees.

“The Union has therefore brought this matter before the management with the following demands;

Debswana Management should accept that they have bought the spy equipment and state the reasons for the purchase and its benefit to the company; Debswana should tell us where they have planted this spy equipment and why they wanted to spy on their employees and Union officials,” said Tsimako.

Tsimako claimed that management admitted that the spy equipment was bought but that there was no intention to use it on employees and union officials. He further said management indicated that they were carrying out investigations on the rational of buying that equipment and where it is placed.

He said the parties disagreed because the union was not convinced.

Responding to Sunday Standard queries, Debswana Head of Public Affairs Rachel Mothibatsela said: “Debswana does not share the contents of its bilateral meetings with stakeholders such as the BMWU with the media or the public.”

She said Debswana’s relations with the union are not only based on mutual regard, but also a recognition agreement, which sets out the context for their meeting.

Asked if the meeting was in relation to allegations that a spying equipment was being used by the company to spy on staff and a case involving Infotrac Pty Ltd, Mothibatsela said Debswana could not share any further information on the Infotrac case, as the matter was currently before the courts.

‘We would not want to prejudice the company’s defense on the matter nor pre-empt the decision of the court,” she said.

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