The Minister of Finance and Development planning has defended the impromptu expulsion of Botswana Development Corporation board members amid allegations that the agency is covering his back.
In a dramatic twist of events Tuesday, Kenneth Matambo kicked out of office Nightingale Kwele, Thuso Dikgaka and Odirile Merafhe who were leading the campaign for disciplinary action a day before the board was to commence disciplinary hearings against three BDC managers.
Answering questions in parliament Friday, Matambo, whose portfolio oversees the overall administration of the BDC, indicated that there were no ultra motives in expelling the trio.
“It was in the ministry’s and public interest that the glass manufacturing plant succeed. Almost every part of the project is virtually complete and to stop it will be unfortunate in the interest of the nation,” Matambo said, insisting that the Palapye glass manufacturing project was to uplift the economic life of Batswana and the country adding that it would also accrue public financial leverage from selling excess to other countries.
Situated in Palapye in the central district, the glass manufacturing plant is embroiled in controversy following an audit report that uncovered gross acts of corruption by BDC executives.
The audit has found that contractors were overpaid and, in some instances, paid for supplies not delivered.
“Our aim was not to protect the integrity of individuals but the reputation of BDC. Those remaining in their respective positions are so because of their leadership capabilities in the past to ensure the stability and that the project succeeds,” he said, adding that his motive was to protect the integrity of the ministry.
Board Chairman, Solomon Sekwakwa, has been demoted to become an ordinary board member.
Interestingly, Sekwakwa is also Matambo’s Permanent Secretary while government is the sole shareholder of BDC.
“Nobody is to stand on the board to frustrate investigations. I came into the picture principally in the interest of the project which was coming to a halt as people on the ground were quickly leaving the project,” he answered when asked by Kweneng East MP, Moeng Pheto, and Molepolole South MP, Daniel Kwelagobe.
Matambo added that it was a coincidence the expulsion and investigations took place at the same time.
After establishing that some executives had received millions of Pula into their bank accounts, the auditors then recommended that the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime be brought in to investigate possible acts of criminality. Matambo is, however, reported to be opposed to plans by BDC to suspend the top executives.
“There is nothing to hide. Investigations must go on. The trio was expelled because their contract was on the verge of expiring but primarily because they were leaking information to the media. We did not target individuals but were concerned about the integrity of BDC which was at stake.”
Asked by Gaborone Central MP Dumelang Saleshando, who initiated the question, if he was present during the initial planning of the project, Matambo answered: “I was there when the project started but the implementation and other things, like ground-breaking happened in my absence. It is for this reason that I fully support the project.”
BDC is working in partnership with a Chinese partner who is concerned at the latest reports, which indicate that the project could be terminated.
Already in trouble over corruption charges, it remains to be seen what the course the investigations will take.