Friday, January 22, 2021

Messy boardroom brawl rocks BERA

Botswana Energy Regulatory Authority (BERA) operations have been paralyzed by a boardroom brawl as “corrupt” board members allegedly pursue vendetta against executive management for reporting them to the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC) for corruption.

Bad blood is boiling amid claims of corruption and maladministration at the parastatal which started work in June last year and has been operating without regulations.

In a telling sign of strife, BERA Chief of Operations of Officer Duncan Morotsi recently told off a Commission of Enquiry chaired by board member Jonathan Moseki saying that he does not recognise its decision to suspend him.

The BERA command has split into two warring camps. In one faction is the Chief Executive Officer Rose Seretse and Morotsi who have the backing of Board Secretary Yamikani Patson and Chairman Bernard Ndove while on the other camp is Executive Director Kenneth Kerekang(Petroleum), another Executive Director, Matsapa Motswetla, and (Monitoring and Inspection) who have the backing of part time Board member Jonathan Moseki.

Matsapa, Moswetla and Kerekang are currently being investigated by the DCEC after Morotsi, a lawyer by training reported them to the crime buster for alleged corruption.

In an apparent attempt to get back at Morotsi, the trio has now engineered his suspension alleging maladministration relating to the manner in which he engaged a Tanzanian consultant to draft BERA regulations.

There are fears that BERA which has gone for a whole year without regulations may continue to operate rudderless because the board is divided over how the regulations were drafted and may not adopt them.

The BERA Chief Executive Officer, Rose Seretse is also defying the decision by the Commission of inquiry to suspend Morotsi.

In one of the correspondences between Seretse and the Chairperson of the Commission of Inquiry Jonathan Moseki, the BERA Chief Executive Officer refused an instruction to sign two letters drafted by the Chairperson of the Commission of Inquiry suspending Morotsi.

Seretse insists that procedures were not followed as the issues relating to a decision to suspend Morotsi was a matter of law.

The first letter was a media statement to be signed by Seretse and sent to media houses announcing Morotsi’s suspension and the other one was for her to serve on Morotsi informing him about his suspension.

According to the documents passed to the Sunday Standard, following Seretse’s refusal to sign the letters, Moseki accused her of undermining the authority of the Board.

Seretse then sought legal advice from Board Secretary Yamikani Patson who informed her that the decision to suspend Morotsi was unprocedural and illegal.

Responding to Sunday Standard queries Seretse said “the purported suspension is by the Commission of inquiry constituted by its Chairman Mr Jonathan Moseki, and two of its members namely Messrs Kenneth Kerekang and Matsapa Motswetla.”

She said “the (Tanzanian) consultant was engaged to help management develop regulations for the Energy sector being Electricity, Petroleum, Gas and License templates. The regulations are done and waiting to be taken to the Board and stakeholders for comments and contributions.”

According to the documents that led to Morotsi’s suspension, preliminary investigations conducted by Kerekang and Motswetla, the Tanzanian consultant Edwin Kidiffu was engaged at the instance of Morotsi without the necessary authority from the Board.

 “There were no terms of Reference for the project and there was absolutely no tendering process that was followed. Simply put there was no clear process that was followed. Our findings are also that there was no budget set aside for neither the project nor authority from the Board to implement the project in the absence of the approved budget,” states the document signed by Kerekang and Motswetla.

It further states that “There was no Management Tender Committee (MTC) meeting to subject the project to the necessary due process as no documents were provided to us i.e. the minutes of the meeting and the agenda items. In this respect the CEO submission that the project was discussed during the MTC was misleading.”

Kerekang and Motswetla recommended that “based on the corporate governance breaches it is our recommendation that the Chief Operations Officer be suspended pending a full investigation. The suspension is necessary to ensure that the investigations are not hindered or compromised.”

“We also recommend that the CEO should be taken to task on the breach of the process and procedures and deliberately misleading the board.”

Asked to comment on reports that she misled the Board, Seretse said that “The CEO has not misled the Board on anything and anything the CEO said on this matter is information known to the entire management who were at the meeting and agreed that we should go ahead and come up with the regulations.

Mr Morotsi’s request to the management is recorded.”

According to Seretse “The CEO informed the Commission that the request by Mr Morotsi for BERA to engage a Tanzanian senior lawyer who is working for the Energy Regulator in Tanzania Mr Kiduffu, to assist in developing the regulations was tabled in the Management meeting of the 19th March 2018. Mr Morotsi’s concern was that the executive Board members who were supposed to develop the regulations had not developed them and that the industry was complaining on the lack of regulations.”

In his letter addressed to Morotsi, Moseki states that “following a preliminary report by the Commission of inquiry team constituted by the BERA Board which has determined that there might have been impropriety in the engagement of Mr. Edwin Kidiffu it has become necessary to suspend you forthwith until further notice to enable a proper investigation to be carried.”

He added that “be advised that during the period of your suspension you are not to interfere with the investigations, further you will not be allowed into BERA premises nor are you to engage in BERA official businesses nor are you to conduct yourself as the Chief Operations Officer.”

Replying, Morotsi informed Moseki that the decision to suspend him “is malicious and not backed by any legal instrument. Your Commission of Inquiry is not recognised by any organisational structure nor has it produced any findings backed by concrete evidence.”

He stated that the only person who can suspend him is the “Chief Executive Officer after informing me of the nature of the offence and instructed by the Board Chairman. As the Chairman of the Human Resource Committee you have acted ultra vires your powers and I do not recognise the suspension.”

“Is your commission conducting a criminal enquiry or corruption allegations? If it is corruption there you have to go and report it to DCEC. I can only be suspended if there are criminal investigations pending against me and not a contrived enquiry which consists of members who have a vendetta against me that I reported them to the DCEC),” said Morotsi.

He added that “what I did was a management decision which unless if you can say that you are questioning the CEO’s decision. The procurement of the services of Mr Kidffu are above board and if I am suspended the CEO” and other officials.

The letter also states that “I’m surprised that I’m being investigated by Kenneth Kerekang who himself is facing serious criminal charges and yet he is still a member of the BERA board and you are comfortable with it. Why are you not calling for his suspension if you believe that if someone is being investigated they must be suspended? What is stopping you from advising the Permanent Secretary to act in accordance with Section 12 of the BERA Act?”

Morotsi also stated that “I’m further surprised that the two executive directors (full time Board members) being Matsapa Motswetla and Kenneth Kerekang who are also being investigated by DCEC for corruption allegations (in contravention of section 18 of the BERA Act) are not suspended and you are busy with them clutching at straws and conducting inquisition with them…”

Morotsi informed Moseki that “Please be informed that your inquisition is trying to derail Management from achieving a strategic objective of BERA that of coming up with the regulations of BERA. As a senior officer responsible for all operations, I could not sit back and watch the Authority go on for seven months without the regulations. Two of the full time Board members are in a committee which has failed to produce regulations. We have waited for so long and I led a team that produced the regulations.”

Sunday Standard has learned that the BERA Act which allows the authority to have Executive Directors who also double as full time Board members has led to the power struggle within the authority.  Seretse who is CEO and board member does not have control or authority over full time Board members such as Kerekang and Motswetla because they hold two titles (Executive Directors and full time board members). This has created a structural problem within the organisation because the CEO is the head of the organisation and under her is Chief Operations Officer, Morotsi and four Executive Directors among them Motswetla and Kerekang. Information unearthed by this publication show that the Executive Directors at some stage questioned the wisdom of reporting to Morotsi insisting that they were full time board members and also that they did not want to report to the top management but Chairman of the board.

It is understood that the issue was so serious that the then Minister of Minerals Sadique Kebonang was roped in and in an attempt to resolve the standoff he directed that the full time board members should report to the Chairman.

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