Thursday, September 24, 2020

Lippe, BTC clash

The relationship between Botswana Telecommunications Corporation (BTC) Chief Executive Officer, Thapelo Lippe, and some members of the board is reported to be so strained that some insiders are already speculating that it is about to snap.

This week, speculation was rife in town that Lippe, one of Botswana’s leading corporate high fliers, was on the brink of resigning his position at BTC. Lippe confirmed this week that the board had asked him about rumours that he will be quitting the parastatal.

“I have assured them that I am going nowhere,” he said.

There is, however, a rift between Lippe and some members of the Board who are querying staff bonus payouts recommended by BTC management.

When Sunday Standard approached him this week, Lippe downplayed his troubled relationship with the Board, saying he was happy at BTC.

“The Board has debated the issues and the Chairman has listened to everyone. The point of the matter is that the payout has gone through,” Lippe said in an interview.

But when quizzed on the matter, the BTC Board Chairman, Len Makwinja, said there were certain “outstanding” issues that he wanted to apply his mind on before he could sign off the bonuses.
According to Makwinja, at issue is the bonus payout for the current year.
“As for the previous year I have no problem with it,” said Makwinja. “In fact, I have already signed it off.”

But of more significance is this year’s bonus which, as recommended by management, is substantially higher than all from the previous years.
A BTC insider said during a Board meeting this week some Board members queried the proposed bonus payout so much so that some of them fell short of calling an inquiry on whether or not management had been true to the spirit of the BTC policy vis-├á-vis the company’s performance.

“We are worried that if we are not careful some of us will be sued in our individual capacity if we pass a bonus payout that does not comply with the corporation’s policy,” said one Member of the Board who has not been authorized to speak with the media on behalf of the corporation.

“The least that can happen is that if we do not comply Government will either sack us as directors or, at the very least, call on us to resign,” said the same Board Member.

Thapelo Lippe said BTC has not paid out any bonuses to staff over the last three years.

Investigations by The Sunday Standard show that if bonuses are to be paid for the current financial year, the corporation will have to provide for millions of Pula.

This will be in addition to the P14 million that BTC has already paid to Botswana Government in dividends and close to P60 million in loans repayments.

“I think its time to pay the people,” said a confident Lippe.

He, however, said during the Board meeting, the Chairman underscored the importance of following all the necessary procedures, including notifying the line Minister, Frank Ramsdan, before the payout was made.

While Makwinja told The Sunday Standard that he has given himself “at least a month” to digest all the outstanding issues, Lippe on the other hand said he wanted payments “done by December.”
Lippe said the current BTC executive, almost all of whom are new in their positions, will not be eligible for the bonuses.

“Also some people have done nothing. So they will get nothing,” said Lippe.
Commenting on the likelihood of Lippe resigning as a result of the fallout over bonuses, Makwinja said he had no idea if the Chief Executive would leave.
“I have heard about the rumour and I have asked him about it. He has assured me that he is not going anywhere,” before adding that “sometimes a man keeps it a secret.”

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