Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Is it Gov’t or the BoB that should pronounce on the P100 billion theft?

The alleged more than P100 billion theft from Bank of Batswana by seemingly those who have been entrusted with running the country and ensuring the adherence to good governance, security and the rule of law amongst others, seems destined to cause more harm than good, particularly on both the national and the international stage, to both the country and the ruling party.  In the Sunday Standard (SS) edition of August 23-29”, the front page carried an article with the heading “BoB still unable to account for missing “large amounts” –Auditor General”. In this article one is made to believe that indeed the alleged theft could have possibly occurred if indeed the story is to be believed and seen as capturing the sentiments of the Auditor general. The central bank or BoB was quick to respond to the said article blaming the newspaper for misinterpreting the report of the Auditor General. My reading of a Press Release by BoB headlined “Rebuttal of Sunday Standard Newspaper story headlined “BoB still unable to account for missing “large amounts” –Auditor General” seemed not to refute the discrepancies alluded to by SS in terms of the financials. BoB apparently had serious reservations about apportioning those discrepancies to the bank in general and its governor in particular. I for one did not read any refusal by the BoB that such discrepancies may exist, but that if at all they did, it has nothing much to do with them, save for the fact that they are a banker of government and not in any way running the government finances.

I have last week in this very same publication raised my concerns with regard to what appeared to be contradictory narratives by BoB and the Directorate of Public Prosecutions (DPP) regarding the alleged stolen money. On the basis of the rebuttal by BoB I am starting to suspect that BoB might be right in saying there is no money stolen from BoB since their role is probably to be a banker of government and not necessarily a manager of government finances. If this is indeed the case, it could so happen that money could have left the government account at BoB procedurally and be diverted to illegal accounts. If such is the case then I do say both BoB and DPP might not necessarily be at variance with their chronicles surrounding the P100 billion that has become a trending issue for some time now. I would be in agreement with BoB that there is no money stolen from the bank. The managers of the account is the Botswana government and they should thus be the ones to pronounce on the theft or otherwise of the money. BoB I believe has no right to poke its nose in the affairs of their clients’ accounts. The fact that the government has gone to court and engaged AfriForum is testimony that she is convinced that the money is stolen. It is possibly their account after all, from which the money might have been stolen. I am of the view that indeed BoB is right to aver that they have no stolen money, for indeed they might have no stolen money. The government is the one that should come out clear on this money and that the Finance Minister has been cagey, when quizzed about the money doesn’t help the situation.

The engagement of AfriForum, “a white supremacist organisation” is said to have caused some murmurs within the South African ruling African National Congress (ANC). This has apparently led to talks between the ruling ANC and Botswana’s ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) to possibly mitigate the possible strained relations emanating  from the engagement of AfriForum by the BDP led government. We are all aware that the media has been awash with the enlisting of AfriForum by government in the money laundering case. This is said to have strained relations between the two ruling parties and by extension the two governments. One would have thought that the two governments, given their alleged close association, if at all it is there, should have possibly engaged on the matter towards a peaceful and less costly solicitation of information regarding the case. The engagement of any third party should have been a last resort and would have been justifiable. The engagement of the two parties to mend fences would then have been avoided most likely.

Moving forward one wonders as to how the two parties will resolve the issue. Are we most likely to see the government cut short its marriage to AfriForum so as to maintain good relations with the ANC.? What would be the national cost of the engagement of AfriForum and could that cost have been avoided if the current dialogue between the two parties preceded the engagement of AfriForum. Was it indeed a mistake to engage AfriForum without a prior engagement of the two parties and their two governments? Would the Botswana government be arm twisted to drop the services of AgfriForum so as to appease its neighbour, and if so at what cost?

The issue of the P100 billion theft is a serious dent on this country, which has for long been touted as Africa’s model of good governance. With the alleged institutionalisation of corruption emanating from the last administration this shouldn’t leave us astounded. It’s becoming another typical African country.

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The Telegraph September 23

Digital edition of The Telegraph, September 23, 2020.