The Minister of Trade and Investment Vincent Seretse has been accused of impropriety during the re-appointment of his brother in law Bashi Gaetsaloe as Managing Director of Botswana Corporation (BDC).
The Public Accounts Committee (PAC) which learnt this week that Gaetsaloe is Seretse’s brother in law described his reappointment as clumsy. It also emerged during PAC deliberations that Seretse sidelined the BDC board which was not properly constituted and recommended Gaetsaloe’s reappointment to Cabinet.
This comes amid concerns that Seretse is running a one-man show at BDC. The corporation forms part of Seretse’s ministry portfolio responsibilities.
Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Trade, Peggy Serame who had maintained composure when questions were fired at her choked when PAC members requested that they be taken through the process that was followed in reappointing Gaetsaloe.
PAC member Reggie Reatile informed Serame that the Committee was in possession of letter dated 23 March 2017 written by Seretse and addressed to Gaetsaloe informing him of his reappointment.
“Please refer to the letter dated 23 March in which Seretse wrote to Gaetsaloe. Don’t you think this is improper? Don’t you think Batswana need to be told that Gaetsaloe is Seretse’s brother in law,” said Reatile.
PAC Chairperson Abraham Kesupile interjected and asked Serame to confirm claims made by Reatile that the two men were related. Serame said she was aware that Seretse and Gaetsaloe were related.
“The Minister had declared interest,” said Serame to which another PAC member Samson Guma Moyo replied that “when a person declares interest he recuses himself from the subject matter.”
Another PAC member Dithapelo Keorapetse sought to know what role Seretse had played in the “hiring of his brother in law and in the process to whom was the declaration of interest done and what did the minister do.”
The Permanent Secretary said it was done to President Ian Khama.
Serame further stated that the recommendation letter to reappoint Gaetsaloe came from the Chairperson of the BDC Board and it was addressed to Seretse.
Blackie Marole is the Chairperson of the BDC Board. “We submitted a memorandum to Cabinet and it was agreed that we re-hire the Managing Director.
Guma put it to Serame that the role of Seretse was to prepare a Cabinet memo to which Serame answered in the affirmative.
“Then why is it difficult to say the minister recommended to Cabinet the rehiring of his brother in law,” Keorapetse asked.
Guma-Moyo insisted that due process was not followed in reappointing Gaetsaloe.
“Having known that there was a conflict of interest; procedures should have been followed because there were going to be perceptions. We are not questioning the qualifications of the CEO (Managing Director) to perform but we are questioning the process. We are saying government processes should be followed,” said Guam- Moyo.
He added that “The board committee was not constituted. The Board did not meet to deliberate on the issue. It is clumsy.”
Serame said the Constitution of BDC states that there has to be seven members of the board deliberating on the appointment of staff.
“When contract expired there were six members, and the Chairman constituted board members and made a recommendation to the minister,” said Serame.
Guma-Moyo sought to know whether the board Committee met to consider the reappointment of Gaetsaloe, to which Serame answered in the negative.
“The Committee did not meet because there was no quorum,” she said.
Guma Moyo replied: “are you comfortable with the way things were done.”
“Yes I’m comfortable with what happened at the time,” said Serame. Keorapetse asked if ‘what happened was proper” and Serame said “I don’t think I have a response for that.”
Serame also stated that any renewal of contract of employment goes through the Human Resource Board Committee but in Gaetsaloe’s case the renewal of his contract did not follow the same process. She explained that the Human Resource Committee Board was in charge of recruitment and make recommendations to the BDC Board. She agreed with Guma Moyo that the Managing Director is not excluded from this process.
Asked by Guma Moyo if the renewal of Gaetsaloe’s contract followed the same process, Serame said it didn’t.