Friday, July 12, 2024

High Court in shady deals

The High Court of Botswana has built an insular system that cloaks its shady dealings, apparent corruption and disregard for the norms of good governance in secrecy and obfuscation, Sunday Standard investigations have revealed.A clutch of documents among then an internal audit report, internal correspondence and minutes of The Ministry of Justice and Security Audit Committee which have been passed to the Sunday Standard detail how the Registrar and Master of The High Court Michael Motlhabi awarded a contract without following Government procurement procedures and managed to keep this away from the Auditor General, the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC) and the Public Accounts Committee (PAC).

Indications are that this was not an isolated incident. Documents raised by the Sunday Standard suggest a pattern of behaviour, that the Administration of Justice leadership has been able to build an insular system that hides their alleged misconduct from public view in all but the rarest cases. The cover-ups, obfuscations, denials and secondary lies have piled up to such a precarious height that removing even one rotten plank is likely to bring the whole edifice tumbling down (read more details next week).The documents passed to the Sunday Standard further suggest an attempt to falsify records of The Ministry of Justice and Security Audit Committee to cover up the Registrar’s apparent misconduct.

It emerges from the Administration of Justice internal audit report that Nanor and Company (PTY) Ltd was appointed to provide training consultancy services to the Law Reporting Unit of the High Court of Botswana at an estimated cost of a monthly fee of P110, 000.00 for a period of two years without following government procurement procedure. This apparently went on for years and was never picked by the Auditor General. The Ministry of Justice and Security Audit Committee resolved on 21st of March 2019 that the matter be reported to Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC).

The Registrar and Master of the High Court was assigned to report the suspected corruption to the DCEC. Twenty months later, Motlhabi has still not reported the case to the DCEC.A further recommendation was made that the matter be reported to the police. This recommendation was never acted upon.Another recommendation was made that action be taken against all officers of the High Court who failed to follow procedures when engaging Nanor and Company. This recommendation has been swept under the carpet.Instead, it emerges that there was an apparent attempt to falsify the Ministry of Justice and Security Audit Committee records to cover up the misconduct.At the meeting of 21stMarch 2019 the chairperson revealed that a previous report to the committee that a submission has been made to the Ministerial Tender Committee for correction of this anomaly was incorrect.And that it was clear that such assurances that a submission has been made to the Ministerial Tender Committee for correction of the anomaly “were in fact not correct”.

In another attempt to clean up, a series of letters were exchanged between the Registrar and the company. In one of the letters, Motlhabi concedes the worst and lament to Mr. Tetteh (Junior) that “your qualifications indicated that you had a Degree in Economics together with a Master’s Degree in Information Systems from the University of Illinois at Chicago, USA, qualifications of which do not have a bearing on the training or setting up of a Law Reporting Unit”. This revelation by the Registrar and Master of the High Court does not answer how in the first place such a company was appointed outside the normal competitive bidding process, flouting procurement procedures.

The background of the matter reveals that Nanor and Company was engaged to train the Law Reporting Unit. This service was procured from Nanor and Company primarily because the Administration of Justice needed the services of one of its directors Emmanuel Kofi Teeth.It was discovered after the death of Emmanuel Kofi Tetteh whereupon his son took over that the company lacked the necessary skills.

Upon the death of Emmanuel Kofi Tetteh, his son took over as Managing Director of the company. The Registrar however did not object to the company continuing with training the Law Reporting Unit even though it no longer had the requisite skills.

Instead, Motlhabi negotiated a reduced monthly fee from P 110, 000.00 to P 85, 000.00.Sunday Standard investigations have revealed that Motlhabi and the company entered into a gentleman’s agreement with no formal contract signed.In a letter from the Registrar and Master of the High Court a copy of which has been passed to this publication, Motlhabi concedes that “we have perused the handover notes and observe that the notes indicate that little to nothing has been done or achieved by the consultancy since the passing of the late Emmanuel Kofi Tetteh”. Documents passed to the Sunday Standard indicate that the Registrar and the company fell out following demand of payment on due invoices by Nanor and Company after Emmanuel Tetteh’s death.

In a letter directed to the Managing Director of Nanor and Company, Motlhabi concedes that, the Administration of Justice engaged Nanor and Company as a result of the technical expertise of one of the directors, being the late Emmanuel Tetteh, who had the requisite qualifications and experience to train the law reporters and set up a functioning Law Reporting Unit and “the hand over notes confirm that no training has been done since the passing of the late Emmanuel Kofi Tetteh”.

In yet another document that this publication is in possession of, details are spelled out on how there was “a failure to adhere to proper Government Procurement Procedures on the appointment of Mr. Tetteh (owner of Nanor and Company) as a consultant for the Law Reporting Unit”.  The document details how the company had no specific vote to be paid from and money had to be pooled from different votes.

The documents further detail a meeting where it was reported that “it would have been expedient for the contract to be concluded at the earliest convenience because as matters stand, this does reflect well for the Administration of Justice”. Particularly from a legal perspective for a consultancy to be operating without a contract for over a year, without any solid document in place to measure the deliverables. And the fact that payments have been effected to the consultancy, “all this paints a gloomy picture because there is no document in place for the parties to refer to”.

In response the High Court, the Registrar and Master of the High Court lamented the failures by the company. This is despite the acknowledgement that there were never any terms of engagement agreed upon. In a subsequent development, Motlhabi wrote to  the Managing Director of Nanor and Company, the son of the late Emmanuel Tetteh that “Effectively with there being no legally trained personnel to carry out the outstanding responsibilities left by the Emmanuel Kofi Tetteh in terms of training Editors and Law Reporters in proof reading, selection of judgements and quality assurance of the Law Reports, this report fails to provide a detailed account of what you were doing to train staff and what areas still need to be focused on”.


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