Thursday, October 1, 2020

Dirty linen flies in PEEPA boardroom brawl

Allegations of marital infidelity, impropriety and requests for illegal favours were flying fast and thick this week as the strained relationship between PEEPA Chief Executive Officer, Joshua Galeforolwe, and his board floundered on a murky patch.
As the saga unfolds and the stakes grow bigger, tape recorders and legal representatives have become a regular feature of meetings between Galeforolwe and board members as trust flies out of the window.

In a thinly veiled attack against board member Parks Tafa and his law firm – Collins Newman, Galeforolwe this week charged that, “on a matter of principle,” he finds it unacceptable that certain people, who sit on the board of PEEPA should have direct dealings with some of the agencies.

Documents and information passed to the Sunday Standard reveal that Collins Newman and Company acted as legal representatives in two of five transactions which are currently on the PEEPA table.
But Tafa maintains that he played by the rules, in as far as declaring all his interests.
In an interview, Tafa said the allegations against him were “outrageous.”

Tafa said he never solicited business from PEEPA, nor use his influence as director, to have business flow the direction of his Collins Newman, where he is a Senior Partner.

Sunday Standard has been able to raise a copy of the minutes from a meeting where PEEPA board members discussed the registration of a privatization trust fund which would warehouse shares of privatized public institutions to be bought by citizens at leisure.

According to the minutes, “Management advised that the recruitment of an advisor to work on the project was due to commence in September, while the preparation of the trust deed was scheduled to commence in December for ultimate approval by the board in January, 2006. Concern was expressed that this scheduling was inordinately long for a project as simple as a trust deed especially since there were already precedents from the CEDA and Venture Capital that would be utilized. The board accordingly directed that management need not go through any elaborate tendering procedure for recruitment of an advisor. Management was to engage a lawyer, with a view to expediting work to ensure that the deed was ready in time for Government to commit funds to the trust when the budget speech is made in February, 2006.”

The result of the meeting was a letter from Galeforolwe to another Collins Newman & Company partner, Lawrence Khupe, commissioning him to register the deed.

On the upside, although PEEPA had budgeted P4,4 million for the legal costs, Collins Newman & Company billed PEEPA only P6 000.

“It doesn’t mean that as a PEEPA Board Member I have to stop practicing law. That would be very bizarre. What it means is that I have to disclose my interests and ensure that my interests do not work to the detriment of the company I work for as Director,” said Tafa.

Galeforolwe is, however, unhappy that this constitutes a conflict of interest and warned that this planted “the seeds for future discord.” At the time of going to press, it was not clear if the charges against Collins Newman and Company would stick.

Sunday Standard has raised a copy of the PEEPA “Directors Declaration of Interest” in which Tafa declared his interest in Collins and Newman, before the meeting that discussed the registration of the Privatization Trust Fund deed.

In an interview with Sunday Standard, Tafa pointed out that the choice of the appropriate law firm was made by Galeforolwe, independent of the board. Tafa maintains that he was not even aware that the contract to register the deed was awarded to Collins Newman and company until he saw it on the board documents and maintains that this does not constitute a conflict of interest.

“At all the PEEPA Board meetings I declared my interests. I never put pressure on anyone to give Collins Newman business,” said Tafa.

Galeforolwe is allegedly also unhappy that Collins Newman and Company is also Botswana Vaccine Institute’s legal advisors in a case which the government-owned Vet Lab is trying to raise P100 million for the bond.

After cabinet approval, the matter ended up at PEEPA board.
Allegedly, BVI has always been a Collins Newman and company client even before they decided to raise money on the private market for their expansion.

Says Tafa; “BVI has always been a client of Collins and Newman. They came here, seeking assistance on a matter that had nothing to do with PEEPA or privatization.”

Other than the two PEEPA transactions carried by his law firm, Tafa maintains that he did all the PEEPA work free of charge “as is to be expected.”
It is also understood that Galeforolwe fell out with another board member when he refused to accede to an illegal request. The board member, whose name is known to the Sunday Standard, allegedly, suspects that his wife is cheating on him.

The director then approached Galeforolwe, as a shareholder and former director in Orange Botswana, to help have his wife’s phone calls tapped. When Galeforolwe refused, the board member turned on Galeforolwe.

By close of business, Galeforolwe had still not accepted his new job. But attempts were under way to increase his powers.
This follows a decision by the Board to have PEEPA headed by two joint CEOs.

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