The Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) and local musician Odirile Sento, popularly known as Vee in music circles, have been drawn into the controversies surrounding alleged financial impropriety at the Botswana National Youth Council (BNYC). ┬á
Vee is said to have been paid P300 000 for an event that never happened.
Fresh information has emerged indicating that the BNYC approached the Commission asking for sponsorship totaling P500┬á000. The BNYC intended to collaborate with IEC on a project dubbed “One youth One Vote” at the height of elections in 2014.
After assessing the proposal, the IEC wrote a letter to BNYC rejecting the proposal on the basis that the Council failed to motivate its reasons as to how it intended to utilise the funds.
At the same time, the Council had also written another proposal to the Ministry of Youth Sports and Culture requesting for sponsorship worth the same amount. The Ministry’s former Permanent Secretary Ruth Maphorisa had reportedly shown interest in the project but after assessing the proposal, she also rejected it on the same grounds as those advanced by IEC.
The Telegraph has turned up information showing that after failing to secure sponsorship, the youth organisation decided to cancel the events which were billed for 17th October in Francistown and 18 October, 2014 in Gaborone.
At one stage, the Francistown City Council also took the BNYC to task after some posters for the scheduled event were put up at the stadium before the BNYC could pay fees. The One Youth One Vote project was aimed at wooing registered voters who fall in the youth bracket to go to the polls in large numbers.
Following the cancellation of the two events, BNYC reportedly paid Sento P300┬á000 despite the fact that it had cancelled a show that he was scheduled to perform. It is understood that BNYC should have at least paid the musician half of the agreed amount (P300┬á000) instead of the whole amount because the show was postponed to a date yet to be confirmed. ┬áThe other option would have been that the artist should have retained the amount that was paid to him as deposit after the event that he was scheduled to perform at was cancelled.
It has also emerged that the One Youth One Vote funds were never approved by the BNYC board. The musician is alleged to have been paid through cheques in phases. Part of the money that was used to pay Sento is from the funds that were supposed to have been channeled to youth organisations across the country.
Contacted for comment Sento declined to comment saying “I can’t comment on issues that border on politics.”
IEC spokesperson Osupile Maroba confirmed that they had been approached by BNYC to collaborate with the Commission on the 2014 General Elections but they were unable to endorse the request due to financial constraints.
“They wanted to collaborate with us because they are an organisation that is accessible to youth. That was the time when we had already drawn up our budget for the 2014 General Elections and it was difficult for us to include something that could have financial implication on us unless if they were included at the time we drew up our budget,” he said.
A comment from BNYC Executive Director Benjamin Raletsatsi was not immediately available.
BNYC Chairman Louis Sibanda said the P300┬á000.00 was meant for the two shows scheduled for Gaborone and Francistown. He said the Ministry of Youth Sports and Culture was sponsoring the two events.
“The show was supposed to have taken place around 18 October, 2014, a week before elections, we sourced funds from different organisations and individuals; some were unable to help for example the IEC was unable to help. Only the Ministry was able to assist us; that is when we started planning for the event,” he said.
BNYC chairman said due to unforeseen circumstances, the youth organisation agreed with the Ministry to postpone the event to a date to be announced but by the time they postponed the show they had already booked for stage, sound systems, accommodation, and flyers were already printed.
“When flyers are already printed, artists accommodation already paid for and the venue already paid for, there was no turning back. We had to take the responsibility of the costs incurred. We then agreed with artists that next time when we need them to perform at our events we will only pay for their accommodation and their transport, we will not pay for their performances,” said Sibanda.
He added that the initial costs for the two events in Gaborone and Francistown was supposed to be over P 700┬á000.00 but after negotiations with the stakeholders they ended up settling for P300┬á000.00 as the budget for two events including the payment of artists.
“The 300┬á000.00 did not go to Vee only. It was a package for the two events,” he added.
At the instance of President Ian Khama all BNYC bank accounts have been frozen.
┬áCurrently the BNYC has to request for funds from the Ministry for salaries, utility bills and office rentals because its accounts have been frozen. Executive Committee members were also instructed to stop signing for all financial transactions for BNYC and a resolution to be signed by the Executive Committee should be drafted.
The resolution should be submitted to banks and the Ministry should provide a name of the official to countersign for all BNYC transactions.