Outgoing assistant Minister of Finance and Development Planning, Guma Moyo, is to appear before the Village Magistrate Court in Gaborone early next year on charges of corruption.
The corruption charges, which have already been formulated by the Department of Public Prosecutions, will see Moyo being charged with counts of fraud and conflict of interest.
Is alleged that Moyo, through his company, Interest Research Bureau, which was contracted by the Ministry of Lands to collect debts, inflated charges against plot owners indebted to the ministry.
The Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC) started investigating the allegations following an investigative story carried exclusively in the Sunday Standard four years ago under the headline “Government in fresh land row.”
The story detailed government’s behind the scenes out of court settlement with an aggrieved plot owner who had lodged a complaint that he had been overcharged by Interest Research Bureau.
The settlement deal struck between government and Sebego & Sharma Attorneys was to be kept a secret, but details started leaking threatening to open the flood gates for a multi-million Pula group action law suit involving thousands of plot owners in Gaborone and Francistown.
Documents passed to the Sunday Standard revealed that by October 2003, four months after the company was contracted by the Ministry of Lands, Interest Research Bureau, owned by Moyo, then a Botswana Democratic Party parliamentary candidate for the North East constituency, had collected more than P22 million from 3018 residential plot owners, 195 commercial plot owners and 210 industrial plot owners in Gaborone alone.
In Francistown, the figure stood at 464 residential plot owners, 28 commercial plot owners and 15 industrial plot owners.
Interest Research Bureau reported at the time that “generally there is a satisfactory increase in the number of files updated and the number of files updated now stands at a daily average of 120 for Gaborone and 80 for Francistown. It is understood that when the company submitted its last report in early 2004, it had already collected more than P70 million. Following the out of court settlement with Sebego & Sharma Attorneys, the Ministry of Lands then moved swiftly and terminated the contract of Interest Research Bureau in August 2004. The decision however came too late. Estates agents had already started approaching land owners who had allegedly been overcharged offering to recalculate their charges so that they could claim back their money from government.
Property Information Bureau, a private company, had already started writing letters to land owners who had allegedly been overcharged, stating, “recently we observed that a consultancy company contracted by Government, Namely Interest Research Bureau has been charging interest inappropriately, unlawfully and not according to the terms and conditions of the offer contract issued to some plots allocated for some people by Government. We do hereby make a proposal for you to engage us to claim the interest that was unlawfully charged against you, like we have done successfully for many who were in a similar situation to yours.
Another company, Mogotsi Enterprises, had already written to the Attorney General’s Chambers complaining that “according to the attached accounts summery, we were justifiably charged the debt interest of 8% as per the sale agreement. Arrears interest and sundry charges were also levied but were, however, not part of the agreement.”
In another charge of conflict of interest, Moyo is alleged to have bought a stake in a company which was being pursued by his company, Interest Research Bureau, for a piece of land in Kasane which had accumulated interest.
It is further alleged that Moyo then misled the company into selling the piece of land for P 1million, claiming that the Office of the President had issued a directive that all plots which were in arrears should be repossessed.