Tuesday, August 11, 2020

Parliament investigates BDC

Parliament has resolved to appoint a special committee to investigate allegations of corruption and mismanagement at the Botswana Development Corporation (BDC).

The team of legislators, comprising Members of Parliament from across the political divide, will probe the controversial Palapye Fengyue glass project.

This follows an urgent motion tabled Friday by South East South MP Odirile Motlhala calling for an urgent investigation into goings on at the BDC’s glass project and proposing that the project be halted until the inquiry is complete.

Presenting his motion, Motlhale argued that parliament should not look the other way when there are reports of corruption and impropriety at BDC.

“As the legislature and the voice of the people, we have to be concerned, especially in light of the fact that even the BDC board found it fitting to call for a forensic audit of the same project. There are even some reports that some actors close to the project have personally accumulated obscene amounts of money under very questionable if not dubious circumstances,” said Motlhale.
Through his own investigations, Motlhala said that he established that the Fengyue Glass Project was conceptualized in 2007 when BEDIA went to China to woo investors.

He told parliament that the project was initially valued at P409 million as a joint venture between BDC and SFG China. Before the signing of the agreement, he said SFG China pulled out of the venture without informing the BDC board. He said that BDC then went with a new company SFG British Isles which had neither track record of manufacturing glass nor any record in marketing. He said the company had similar shareholder as SFG China, the company that had pulled out, adding that the board was never briefed on a number of crucial developments.

Motlhale also complained that Shanghai Fengyue failed to pay a performance bond. He said Minister Ken Matambo had misled parliament on why the board members were fired.

Initially, the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) MPs, such as ministers Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi and Gloria Somolekae, expressed reservations about the commissioning of a probe at BDC. However when minister Ponatshego Kedikilwe broke ranks and supported Motlhale’s suggestion, almost all BDP MPs endorsed the call for an inquiry at BDC.

Kedikilwe said that it is important to establish if there is anything amiss at BDC. He said that the issues were very complex hence an inquiry.

Kedikilwe said that this did not mean that, in future, parliament would rush to appoint a committee of MPs to probe but pointed out the issues were complex and an investigation could be of assistance.

One speaker after another expressed the need for investigations at BDC.

“A respectable parliament will not turn a blind eye. There should be an investigation,” said MP Moeng Pheto.
Added Venson-Moitoi, “For the sake of transparency I support the motion.”

Stated Maxwell Motowane, “The issue is about our integrity as a country. It’s important that we show that we have zero tolerance for corruption.”

Criticizing the BDC for being desperate for partnering with a company without a profile, Charles Tibone said, “If what is in the newspapers has some semblance of truth, then clearly it is demonstrative of desperation.”
Other MPs also urged the parliamentary committee to look at the suspension of executives and subsequent firing of a company executive who had ordered a forensic audit.

“This investigations must be speedy and must cover suspension of management,” said MP Prince Maele, to which Kanye North’s MP, Kentse Rammidi, added: “The issue is not about who leaked information, rather it is what the information says…reputation and integrity will not be protected through secrecy.”

Mp Master Goya said: “We are not lucky as Batswana. Ever since we started dealing with the Chinese there have always been issues.”
Also supporting the motion was Assistant Minister of Finance and Development Planning, Gloria Somolekae. She told parliament that the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC) had already started investigating BDC, adding that the investigations were at an advanced stage.

She said that the newly constituted board was also looking at the forensic audit.

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Sunday Standard August 9 – 15

Digital copy of Sunday Standard issue of August 9 - 15, 2020.