The Office of the President (OP) has taken full blame for the controversial purchase of a P46 000 refrigerator for the Minister of Defence, Ndelu Seretse.
The acceptance of “administrative lapses” by Office of the President effectively exonerates Seretse from any personal liability.
Already a wounded politician following separate accusations of conflict of interest, Minister Seretse would sigh with relief at OP’s readiness to accept a bullet on his behalf.
With his name frequently cropping up as a future President, a number of opposition political parties who are buoyed by a possibility of a big catch are calling for Seretse’s head, who also happens to be a first cousin to President Ian Khama.
OP conducted investigations into the procurement processes following The Sunday Standard expos├® which raised questions as to how the Minister had been allowed to purchase a single item the value of which by far surpassed all the listed kitchen items that a minister is entitled to as per the government’s Green Book.
While the OP accepts lapses, there are a few questions that, however, still remain unanswered.
Before the purchase of the refrigerator, the Ministerial Tender Committee and OP were at loggerheads for four months as the two organs could not agree on the interpretation of Sections 18, 19 and 20m of the Green Book, which states items the minister is entitled to.
Notwithstanding the disagreements OP decided to go ahead anyway and purchase the expensive refrigerator, the price of which has left the nation in a state of shock.
“Investigations have revealed that during the process of procurement, administrative lapses occurred with respect to issues of price and authorisation of the purchase, hence the request for authority for retroactive approval to pay the supplier,” says Dr. Jeff Ramsay, Deputy Permanent Secretary for media.
Since PPADB (Public Procurement and Asset Disposal Board) has already rejected a request by OP for retroactive approval to pay the supplier, Life Style (PTY) Ltd, Ramsay does not say where funds will be sourced from, save to say that it would be “premature”.
He was emphatic that the decision to replace the refrigerator was “made and carried out entirely by OP as the responsible procuring entity and not the Minister”.