Thursday, August 6, 2020

Errors mar Debswana/ De Beers report

Botswana’s campaign to protect local diamonds from hostile international NGOs was unraveling this week following a badly researched study by The Bench Mark Foundation.

The report, which has sidelined the De Beers, Debswana and government official line, undermines the multi-million pula “diamond for development”, which was launched by the government six years ago.

The report also tries to lump Botswana diamonds with blood diamonds from war torn parts of Africa.

Although Debswana is widely recognized as one of the most successful Public- Private partnerships in the world, in terms of its contribution to national and community development, the report, titled “Corporate Social Responsibility in the Diamond Mining Industry in Botswana” claims that Debswana operations have not generated benefits for Batswana.

Beyond a handful of reportedly anonymous interviews and a lower than 5% response rate to their questionnaires, the authors of the report did not interview De Beers, Debswana or government officials. They also do not reference any company documentation other than annual reports.

In a written response detailing close to 70 errors in the reports, Debswana and De Beers pointed out that, “ in view of the topic of this report, and the weight afforded to what could best be described as eclectic individual sources, this is a critical omission.”

The report further draws broad conclusions based on wholly impartial review data.
“Thus, for example, the Bench Marks Foundations critique Debswana’s multi billion Pula citizen procurement programme solely on the basis of the views of a single citizen contractor that entered into a contractual dispute with Debswana,” states the report by Debswana and De Beers.

The two mining giants further pointed out that, “the Bench Marks Foundation neither reflects our experience in Botswana nor the findings of numerous reputable independent studies by academics and bodies ranging from the United Nations Development Program to the World Bank. In contrast to the Bench Mark Foundation’s report, these highlight Botswana’s unique success in using its diamond wealth to drive sustainable development at a community and national level as well as the role played by Botswana’s exceptional governance record.”

The report by Bench Mark Foundation has been marred by a number of errors ranging from governance and development, human capital development, SME support, and environmental regulation to environmental incidents.

Debswana and De Beers stated that, “regrettably, due to the scale and number of errors in the Bench Mark Foundation’s report on Botswana, neither Debswana nor De Beers have gained any significant insights from it in terms of our performance as corporate citizens or in terms of defining our role as a development partner in Botswana”.

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Sunday Standard August 2 – 8

Digital copy of Sunday Standard issue of August 2 - 8, 2020.