Tuesday, January 18, 2022

Minister defends selective awarding of beef export permits

The Ministry of Agriculture and the Botswana Meat Commission followed rules and regulations to the letter in awarding two selective companies exporting permission over the on-going saga within the beef industry.

It emerged in parliament that the Ministry of Agriculture and the BMC leadership consulted each other on bestowing two Botswana companies the rights to export beef to the outside world and, in particular, to the European Union.

The revelations come amid speculation and suspicion, among a series of strings of anomalies engulfing BMC, that the Ministry of Agriculture arm twisted the institution to award exclusive tenders to the companies.

“BMC leadership has the monopoly over its mandate, duties and procedures. Anyone willing to venture into the business is given the exporting permission provided he or she qualifies and passes the set recommendations,” said the Assistant Minister of Agriculture, Oreeditse Molebatsi.

“Two companies were awarded the tender with the full consultations between my ministry and BMC leadership,” Molebatsi further revealed, although he could not remember the names of the companies.
He pleaded with parliament to bear with him during the minister’s question time on Friday as he had not expected such a request, and urged fellow parliamentarians to pardon him, promising to provide the details in the next meeting.

The statement did not go down well with the legislators who questioned his responsibility and seriousness as a minister over such a sensitive matter as the BMC crisis.

“I left the documents at the office and promise to update the House at the next meeting,” Molebatsi further said, adding that “the BMC Act was fully complied with, having approached the BMC leadership which agreed to their proposal”.

“It is traditional that anyone or companies could be selected for the job provided there is nothing suspicious and unbecoming of the application,” he said, saying there was nothing sinister in the application and had, therefore, found it proper to endorse it.

Molebatsi quashed insinuations that the former BMC chief executive officer, Dr David Falepau, was ousted under improper motives, adding that the acting CEO, Ian Thompson, was not a favourite purely because of his amicable connections with the leadership.

“He is a volunteer and an expert using his own resources,” he told parliament, adding that Thompson does not receive any remuneration over his current role as the acting BMC CEO.

The Botswana Congress Party president, Dumelang Saleshando, posed the question during minister’s question time, concerned about allegations of corruption, nepotism and maladministration besieging the beef industry.

Currently, BMC operations are closed, threatening the livelihood of both the farmers and the country that is dependent on the beef industry for revenue.

The Beef industry contributes significantly to Botswana’s public coffers, coming third after diamonds and tourism sectors.

It is alleged that the owners of the two companies have relations with the Minister of Agriculture, Christian De Graaff, and the tender was never advertised.

Parliament is adamant the assistant minister could be hiding something because of his reluctance to divulge the names of the companies awarded the tender.


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