Sunday, May 16, 2021

Doubts over Botswana’s multi-million Pula deal with Anglo American

A multi million Pula deal between the government of Botswana, Anglo American, Debswana and De Beers has raised suspicion among opposition Members of Parliament and shed light on clandestine operations at the Office of the President; where cabinet ministers are left in the dark during negotiations for programs that should fall under their purview.

Sunday Standard is in possession of a draft contract between the government of Botswana and Anglo American in respect to funding of Tokafala, dated 13 March 2014. The contract states that Tokafala is an enterprise development program founded by Be Beers, Debswana and Botswana to foster growth of commercially viable micro, small and medium sized businesses. For purposes of implementing and establishing Tokafala, Anglo secured the services of Techno Serve Inc (TNS), which immediately forecast that the project would cost US$7,91m (approximately P75.9m) over the next three years, to be funded by Anglo and Botswana in equal proportions. Anglo contributed US$3, 957,726 while Botswana contributed US$3, 953,134 to the project.
A bank account was opened in respect of TNS at Bank of America. Investigations indicate that while the agreement was drafted in March 2014, TNS had opened a bank account (number 2-24881-6) with the Bank of America, 48 Wall Street Norwalk CT 06850, by 19 December 2013.

Confidentiality

The contract expressly states that each of the parties involved will keep the details of the agreement confidential.
“The parties shall agree to keep confidential all the information and disclose it only to officers who are required to know, are aware of the confidentiality of the information and have been directed to keep the information confidential,” reads the contract.

The contract also states that the obligations of the parties in relation to non disclosure of confidential information shall endure indefinitely, notwithstanding termination of the agreement. Aggrieved parties reserve the right to cancel the agreement immediately upon giving notice of cancellation.

Ministers in the dark

While the Tokafala program was on paper a noble project that would foster entrepreneurship in Botswana, there are more questions than answers as to exactly what it is, what it does and who controls the massive public funds that have been poured into its operations.

When responding to the Ministry of Finance’s budget presentation last week, Goodhope Mabule Member of Parliament, James Mathokgwane asked Finance Minister Ken Matambo to explain circumstances surrounding the Tokafala program and why its finances were deposited in a mysterious account in the United States instead of Botswana. He also wanted to know why the parties had emphasised on confidentiality in the agreement when public funds were used to establish Tokafala. In response, Matambo said he was not aware of the program.
Minister of Trade and Industry Vincent Seretse was also at pains to provide insight on the Tokafala program when he presented his committee of supply speech last week. Seretse said Tokafala has so far benefitted 63 companies at a cost of P63m and supporting 585 jobs.

“Out of these companies, 40percent are owned by women, 20percent of whom are youth,” he said.
However, Seretse was caught off guard by Mathokgwane who asked the minister to state the 63 companies that have benefitted from Tokafala. Seretse hit a u-turn and said he did not know anything about the program. Vice President Mokgweetsi Masisi intervened and explained that Tokafala was an on-going program that is benefitting Batswana entrepreneurs.

Opposition MP raises alarm

In an interview with Sunday Standard, Mathokgwane said there is more than meets the eye in the Tokafala saga. He questioned the parties’ insistence on confidentiality when the Tokafala program was funded through public funds, adding that there can be no logical explanation for the exclusion of relevant cabinet ministers from a program that should fall under their portfolio.

“Why is it that negotiations over a program that was meant to foster entrepreneurial development were conducted by the Office of the President instead of the relevant ministries of finance and trade?” said Mathokgwane.

He also raised suspicions about the real intentions of Tokafala, saying there is a possibility that public funds were used to finance private interests instead of development policies.

“Government poured US$3, 953,134 (P38m) into this project and Batswana never knew about it. Why was that money put in a bank account in the US when they claim the project was to be implemented in Botswana? The fact that the said bank account was opened a year before negotiations were concluded also raises suspicion. Something is not right in this whole thing,” said Mathokgwane.

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