Thursday, October 28, 2021

NPF saga exposes more dirt

More millions than initially reported have been siphoned from The National Petroleum Fund (NPF), the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) heard on Monday.

The PAC heard that apart from the controversial P250 million that is already at the centre of investigation by law enforcement agencies, a further P91 million was also siphoned from the NPF account.

The ministry’s former Acting Permanent Secretary, Dr Obolokile Obakeng told the PAC that former Energy Affairs director, Kenneth Kerekang had allegedly opened an account at Bank Gaborone without being authorised by his superiors and deposited a sum of  P60 million.

Obakeng was responding to PAC member Ndaba Gaolathe who had wanted to know if there were some funds that are suspected to have been misappropriated apart from the P250 million.

The PAC heard that if such an account (held with Bank Gaborone) was legitimate, it should have been sanctioned by the committee that supervises the activities of the NPF. The Chairman of the Committee is the Permanent Secretary in the same ministry.

“We found that there was an account opened back in 2016 at Bank Gaborone under Kerekang’s direction and it was supposed to deal with the buying of strategic fuel stocks, but from our records, we did not see how he had the authority to open that account and put money there. We don’t know what happened and it is a matter that is under investigation,” said Obakeng.

Obakeng explained that the missing P60 million is not related to the P230 million.

According to Obakeng, the money was supposed to have been used to build strategic fuel stocks.

Obakeng also informed PAC that Kgori Capital, a company in which businessmen Bakang Seretse was founder and managing director, had been paid P31 million by the ministry for an online system to track payments by oil companies towards the NPF.

 He said due process was not followed to engage Kgori for the procurement describing it as anomalous even though the service provided helped the Ministry track down defaulting oil companies.

Kerekang and asset managers, Bakang Seretse and Botho Leburu have been charged in connection with the missing P230 million.

Obakeng said that after his suspicion that there were some irregularities in the way the funds from NPF were used, he instructed an internal auditor who indeed confirmed his fears that there were ‘abnormalities.’

“The internal auditor also discovered irregularities in the procurement of the online system,” he said.

The Directorate on Public Prosecution (DPP) has since charged Seretse, Kerekang with money laundering  after Kgosi had requested P230 million to be transferred from the NPF last August to a company called Khulaco and later transferred into international bank accounts. Initially the money requested by Kgosi was to be used for the spy agency’s fuel storage facilities but he later requested that the purpose for which he had taken the funds be changed to purchase national security equipment to fight anti-poaching and human trafficking. Asked by Gaolathe if there are investment guidelines for the NPF, Obakeng answered in the negative.

“If there were investment guidelines you wouldn’t have been in a pressure that you were in,” said Gaolathe in reference to Obakeng’s earlier statement that he was informed to accede to DIS request to disburse P230 million from NPF account by former Minister Sadique Kebonang because the country was facing risks.

RELATED STORIES

Read this week's paper