Friday, October 30, 2020

Marole investigates Debswana corruption

Debswana Managing Director Blackie Marole has instituted an internal audit to investigate allegations of fraud and corruption in the award of tenders for Debswana’s P 6 billion plants rehabilitation project.

This follows a flurry of complaints of “fraud and corruption” on how parts of the P6 billion Debswana plants reconstruction were handled.
Debswana had also been accused of conducting its business “unethically.”
This week Marole circulated an internal memo to Debswana senior staff briefing them that he has since received the result of the audit.
He promised them action is being taken with regards to issues as per the audit report.

Sunday Standard investigations have also turned up information that Debswana senior managers lied last week when they said millions of Pula paid out to Bateman Projects under dubious circumstances have been paid back. This was after a tender that had been won by Bateman Botswana was shifted to Bateman Projects.

Before commissioning an audit, Debswana management had been accused of facilitating the flouting of Botswana tax laws and the disenfranchisement of citizen companies in the award of their contracts.

This week Marole confirmed to Sunday Standard that his office has been receiving such complaints.
He said the audit is now complete and a number of Debswana senior officials are still to comment on it.
He said after looking at the audit it is clear that Debswana made mistakes of treating “various companies with different interests as one.”

He was referring to Bateman Botswana and Bateman Projects ÔÇô two companies which are part of a cluster of engineering groups of companies at the centre of the controversy.
“We have since done an audit which though still in a draught form points to such errors. The effect of the matter is that various Bateman companies have various interests and they should not be treated as one and our chaps unfortunately for one reason or another did just that” conceded Marole.

Specifically Marole had received complaints from Monty Chiepe – Executive Chairman of Geoflux, a citizen engineering group of companies who complained of a “culture of decay” at Debswana.
Chiepe questioned the way projects were “wrongfully and unlawfully” shifted to companies that had not won the contracts.

Further Chiepe alleged that Debswana and or some of their employees were assisting Bateman Botswana (joint venture between Geoflux, Bateman Projects and Bothakga Burrow Binnie) to evade tax.
“We are presenting this matter before yourself for remedy. We trust Sir that that you will do the right commensurate with the level of responsibility and accountability of your office and in line with the laws of Botswana, taxation law imperatives, contract law, rules of natural justice and best corporate governance practices,” said Chiepe to Marole.
Chiepe ended his correspondence by requesting Marole to set a new and higher standard of ethics at Debswana, with respect to procedures of contract awarding.

Also drawn into the saga is the Debswana Deputy Managing Director Len Makwinja who is accused of facilitating a scheme to “abuse Batswana and Botswana.”
“By your conduct you unnecessarily and indeed have inexplicably drawn Debswana into the serious differences and disputes between Geoflux and Bateman Projects. What we find inexcusable is that in drawing Debswana into the fray you do so to make Debswana take the side of a party against who we have leveled serious complaints and accusations of mistreating and disrespecting Batswana and worse still of contravention of the laws of Botswana,” wrote Chiepe to Makwinja.
“In view of your apparent position and our view that you have not acted in a neutral manner nor brig a state of affairs that obtains to a satisfactory conclusion from Debswana’s and the country’s perspective we amongst other things appeal to the Managing Director to intervene to ensure amongst other things the respect for the laws of Botswana; to ensure that Debswana does business with parties who conduct themselves ethically.”
Although Debswana senior managers last week told the Sunday Standard that Bateman Projects has paid back millions of Pula that was paid out to them under questionable circumstances ÔÇô Sunday Standard investigations have established that the money has not been paid back.

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