In a bid to put the country at par with its peers in the region, Botswana has been advised to look at awarding the role of a Government Diamond Valuator to a local firm.
The GDV is a contracted company that acts as a technical advisor to the government on diamond sorting and valuing of Debswana production and, over the years, the work has been done through the Central Selling Organisation (CSO) now Diamond Trading Company (DTC).
Its role is to advise government on whether the prices set by De Beers were right or wrong, but diamond pundits said the valuator was merely rubberstamping the prices as they were set using the International Price Book.
This week, government was again at pains to defend the appointment of a foreign GDV when locals have amassed skills over the years since the discovery of diamonds.
The Managing Director of Afrimond Diamond & Jewellery Institution and beneficiation advocate, Todd Majaye, suggested that the competencies that the foreign GDVs have, the locals also have and added that government may even look at taking the route of joint ventures between foreign companies and locals.
“I think there should be a balance,” Majaye said at a diamond beneficiation workshop this week.
“At the end of the day, we want people to do things.”
The current GDV is said to have a staff compliment of 10 people with 8 of them being foreigners.
Majaye said the Botswana situation is in contrast to Namibia, which came late to industry, and to South Africa, both of which have local GDVs.
“Namibia, which came into the picture years later, is self sufficient in that regard,” Majaye added. “South Africa is also the same. Why are we not where they are? Obviously there are reasons for appointing a foreign GDV,” he added.
However, government officials say the GDV work is an important area for Botswana, which, if not contracted diligently, could lead to the country losing billions of pula in revenues.
Diaval Limited is currently contracted to offer GDV services to government until the end of 2013.
Acting Deputy Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Minerals, Energy and Water Resources, Nchidzi Mmolawa, said even in Namibia, the core GDV team is from Dubai and he is of the view that fronting should be discouraged.
However, Majaye, whose company organised the beneficiation workshop, has praised the much criticised partnership between Botswana government and De Beers, saying ‘the two needed each other’ over the years.
“De Beers came with the expertise. It made Botswana what it is today. Really, it worked well for the time. Of course, it was not enough; we could have done better,” he said.
But Majaye advised that the blame should not be put on government as the industry moves in stages,” he said.
“We were evolving and we do not want to blame the past,” he added.