Wednesday, October 20, 2021

P600 million e-Gov money goes missing

A Cabinet Minister and senior government officials have been implicated in the suspected misappropriation of P600 million that was allocated by Parliament for the e-government project.

Cabinet was a few weeks ago notified by officials that all the money that has been allocated to the e-Government project cannot be accounted for, Sunday Standard has been informed.

Suspicions over the misappropriation of the e-government money first emerged on the eve of the 2014 general elections following a whistle-blower’s report that was made to the Public Procurement and Asset Disposal Board (PPADB). The Whistle ÔÇô blower’s report alerted the PPADB that the money earmarked for the e-government project was being frittered away by government big-shots.

There were also concerns in government corridors after the Directorate of Intelligence and Security Services (DISS) under former Director General Isaac Kgosi demanded that P300 million allocated by Parliament to the Department of Home Affairs under the e-government project should be surrendered to the DISS. The Department of Home Affairs is responsible for producing O Mang national identity cards and registering births and deaths.

It is understood that the PPADB referred the case to the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC) for further investigations. Sources close to the investigations told Sunday Standard that a Minister who was part of former President Ian Khama’s inner circle was implicated in the suspected fraud. The case was however put out to pasture and records placed under lock and key where they have been gathering dust.

Parliament had approved and allocated the money after Government took a decision to digitalize its systems from current manual one. It was part of a strategy at the time to modernize government and make it more efficient.

At the heart of the strategy was an understanding that “through the integration of digital data, citizens shall be able to access most Government services at any locality, as well as online through mobile phones as well as PCs,” argued a briefing note from Government. It further that e-Gov would end the “absurdity of citizens having to travel vast distances, or shuffle between different Ministries and Departments, to access basic services.”

Almost half a decade later the money has vanished into thin air and there is nothing to show for it. Reports of the missing e-government money add P600 million to billions that were earlier this year reported to be missing.  In April this year The Auditor General issued a qualified audit opinion on government’s main bank accounts with the Bank of Botswana because transactions running into billions of pula could not be accounted for. The Auditor General further called for an investigation into the account. Government cannot account for debits of P 4 933 156 857 in its remittances account which is the main government account at the Bank of Botswana, it emerged in the 2016/2017 Auditor General’s report. The billions that cannot be accounted for makes the P250 million squandered from the Botswana National Petroleum Fund pale to pocket change. There are fears in Government  that the missing money has gone into slush funds that are now being used to finance underground political battles to undermine the current administration.

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