Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Impact on the absence of the BERA Board not yet felt- says CEO

BY PORTIA NKANI

Rose Seretse ÔÇô the former captain of the anti-corruption agency ÔÇô DCEC and now the Chief Executive at the Botswana Energy Regulatory Authority ÔÇô BERA could not help but mumble when appearing before the parliamentary committee of statutory bodies and state enterprises this week.

Seretse was summoned by the committee to explain amongst other things governance issues at BERA. Her appearance comes hardly a few weeks after the minister responsible for energy – Eric Molale fired the BERA board.

BERA auditors ÔÇô PWC have also expressed worries still on governance. Giving an account of audit and books records to the Auditor General for the financial year 2017/18ÔÇô PWC auditors are said to have noted that the executive board members of BERA were reporting directly to the Board hence by-passing the Chief Executive Officer ÔÇô Rose Seretse.

The auditors opine that the setup is not consistent with good corporate governance.

“Good corporate governance requires for all employees including executive board members to report to the Chief Executive Officer”, said the Auditor General ÔÇô Pulane Letebele.

Established hardly two years ago through an act of parliament, ÔÇô the Botswana Energy Regulatory Authority (BERA) already finds itself in a snake pit.

This past Friday, the Statutory Committee led by Pius Mokgware sought to establish how BERA is running its business in the absence of the Board. Furthermore, asked on how the organization is operating without the Board and any impact felt, Seretse said the impact has not yet been felt. However, she told the Committee that, “for those decisions that require approval of the Board, will be approved/handled by the Minister and those that are fit for management will be handled by the management.”

The Committee was left in a shock and pressed Seretse further to show the section from the Act that established BERA that stipulates such a procedure. Rose said after the suspension of the Board, she went to the Minister Eric Molale to seek for advise, which then the Minister advised as explained above. According to Seretse, the agreement was made in verbal conversation, no written paper to prove that.

“The Minister is the appointing authority of the Board. There is no section in the Act that grants the Minister to act as the Board. After the Board was suspended, I went to the Minister to seek guidance and what I got from him was that any matter that needs the Board’s approval should be forwarded to the Minister, and the management will handle those that require management only,” she told the Committee.

The Committee chairman questioned the standard mode of communication between the CEO and the Minister which deliberated on the matter verbally and with no trace on paper, so that there is a formal written instruction.

This worried the Committee as it indicated that the Minister can in any day reverse what he had said to Seretse, and she will find herself in trouble alone. Committee member, Dr Phenyo Butale warned Seretse that, “we do not want a repeat of Botswana Tourism Organisation where the Minister turns himself into a Board. You should be very careful. You are offending the dictates of corporate governance.”

Seretse is currently in the dark as to when the new Board will be appointed, so she told the Committee. Going forward, the absence of the Board will definitely have an impact as there is a missing structure. “We have not felt it yet but we are yet to see how it unfolds. Otherwise the Authority is carrying on its mandate. We have been able to complete the regulations and have been submitted to the Ministry,” she said.

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