Wednesday, April 21, 2021

MDCB suspends executive fat cats

BY KABELO SEITSHIROÔÇï

Member of Parliament (MP) for Tati East, also chairman of the Parliamentary Accounts Committee – Samson Guma Moyo must be clapping his hands in glee.

Toby Frears – the man he has long wished he had the authority to fire for ineptitude at Minerals Development Company Botswana (MDCB) – has been suspended alongside two other executives.

“Minerals Development Company Botswana (MDCB) confirms that the Company, with effect from 12 June and until further notice suspended its Chief Executive Officer Mr Toby Frears, Director Human Resources Ms Matilda B. Mangole and the Technical Specialist Mr Dave A. Scott,” said Esther Norris Head of Corporate Communications. She said the MDCB has appointed Sebetlela Sebetlela as the Acting Chief Executive Officer.

Norris said the suspensions were done “to allow an independent forensic audit investigation to take effect”

Frears declined to comment and referred the Sunday Standard to his employer.

A little under a year ago, Moyo quizzed Frears on his appointment to which he replied he was head hunted by the former Minister of Minerals Resources, Green Technology and Energy – Sadique Kebonang.

At the time, Frears said he was still working at another state owned entity – Okavango Diamond Company (ODC).     

“If I had powers and authority I would sack you not because I hate you but because I have a problem with your management style and failure to deliver. Mining is the core of the economy of this country,” Moyo told Frears to his face then.

Moyo’s attack on Frears came after the Parliamentary Committee raised concerns about the unsatisfactory performance of the MDCB. Amongst other things, the committee had said the state owned company did not fulfill its mandate but had incurred exorbitant costs which are linked to high remuneration packages of senior executives.

The salaries of the executive management of Minerals Development Company Botswana (MDCB) including that of Frears were made public for the first time last year after a tussle by the Parliamentary Committee.

According to Frears, MDCB’s headcount is currently at 25 with a bulk of the money paid to the executives.

The company’s pay structure shows that Frears himself is paid a salary package of P364, 418. His basic salary is P200,000. He gets P119, 175 in bundled allowances, P43,000 in currency insulation plus P2000 cell phone allowance.

Second on the list is the finance director who earns pay around P178, 223 being basic salary of P128, 750 plus P18,750 as housing allowance, P22, 500 for car allowance, P3750 for entertainment allowance, P800 for international allowance, P1330 for cell phone allowance and P2365 for medical aid). The total cost to the company of the Finance Director including gratuity comes has been estimated at around P216, 814 per month.

Other than high salaries, the Parliamentary Committee raised concerns about multi billions funds that were spent on the BCL liquidation adding up to P1.2 billion to date. There was also a concern on the unclear acquisition and transfers of government shares processes in mining companies.

In his response last year, Frears said under the provision of Botswana’s legislation, the responsibilities of a shareholder for an entity that is in liquidation are limited as the affairs of the estate fall under the liquidator who reports to the Master of the High court.

He said that following the 5th April 2017 instruction to halt asset transfers, the MDCB was subsequently requested in September 2017 to propose redefined mandate and operating model.

He said the MDCB was informed that concerns had arisen that government’s influence and oversight of investments could be limited by transferring government’s mineral investment to MDCB, that there would be a disruption of strategic divided flows to government and that MDCB was becoming too involved in the operations of investees.

“The mandate remains under review to address the concerns raised and the company has not commenced work to fully develop the company’s strategic plan, operating model and structure,” Frears said then.

He further stated that MDCB had commenced setting out scopes of work to define operational baselines of certain existing government mineral assets to be used in assessing investment performance against set benchmarks and investment objectives.

Quizzed on the return of assets, Frears said on account of the proposed redefined mandate potentially resulting in MDCB continuing to hold in the interest of MCM and with BCL in liquidation, only work relating to the transfer of the interest in De Beers Group has progressed. He revealed that MDCB envisages concluding the transfer back of the de Beers interest to the government by the end of the current financial year.

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