Thursday, October 28, 2021

Parliament rejects Gaolathe’s motion to probe petroleum fund

Parliament on Friday voted to turn down a motion by Alliance for Progressives leader Ndaba Gaolathe which called on President Ian Khama to appoint a judicial commission of inquiry to probe the alleged abuse of funds at the National Petroleum Fund (NPF).

In an unprecedented move, leader of the opposition Duma Boko said while he believes it was important to have a thorough investigation into the operations of the NPF to establish whether the Directorate of Security Services (DIS) has a mandate in relation to the Fund, he was apprehensive about the motion.

On Friday 14 MPs voted for the motion while 37 voted against it. Boko said he was not worried about the substance of the motion but since President Khama and Vice President Mokgweetsi Masisi were alleged to have benefited from the proceeds of the stolen money, Khama cannot be asked to investigate himself.

According to Boko, should Khama accede to institute a judicial commission of inquiry he can choreograph the inquiry and absolve himself. He said Khama can chose whether the committee’s proceedings are held in camera and also not make the report public because he is the one who would outline the terms of reference of inquiry.

Boko was of the view that the Public Accounts Committee should be able to carry out the assignment. If not, a special select Parliament Committee could be set up.

Tati East legislator Samson Moyo Guma said he did not support the motion because the Public Accounts Committee was seized with the matter.

Nkaigwa interjected and asked Guma to state what the PAC has achieved. Guama insisted that the PAC has powers and it is assisted by the Auditor General.

“My biggest worry is that we appointed a committee to deal with the matter, myself and the honourable member are part of that committee. The PAC can recommend a forensic audit which can go deeper into the matter. Can we complete our assignment as agreed?” he said.

Guma said “If there are shortcomings, lets us capacitate the PAC. We cannot abdicate our responsibility as Parliament. Just imagine three institutions looking into this matter, the PAC, DCEC and a commission of inquiry. You are asking the President to institute a commission of inquiry where he is also allegedly conflicted.” 

Presidential Affairs Minister Eric Molale accused Gaolathe of what he called political grandstanding. Gaborone Central MP, Phenyo Butale interjected and accused Molale of imputing anterior motives on Gaolathe.

“My reservation about the motion is that this is a political campaigning tool. No one is above the law in this country so let the courts do their job. We are all subservient to the law,” said Molale.

He added that “It is in this house that accountability is made. I want to make it clear that the President has not stolen money.”

According to Molale “Ordinarily, no one can refuse this motion. However, I suspect the mover is doing what we call political grand standing and is on a popularity campaign. Again I am saying this is truancy because the President you want to appoint the commission is also listed in those alleged to have benefitted from the NPF.”

Molale said should the motion be passed, it would be President Khama who would do the terms of reference and should the outcome not favour those who want the motion passed they would say the report has been doctored.

“Gaolathe is using information he has seen as member of the PAC to do grandstanding. That is insider trading,” said Molale.

Gaolathe asked Molale to withdraw what he called falls information about him and Molale withdrew his statement. 

“As an elder that I respect, Molale can accuse me as much as he can for grandstanding but he should not pass false information by implying that I am using inside information from PAC here. There had been no information or whatsoever that we have received that can be considered privileged,” said Gaolathe.

At this stage, Member of Parliament for Jwaneng/Mabutsane, Shawn Nthaile interjected and sought to know why Ministers who are implicated in the NPF saga have not surrendered their passports to the police.

“Those ministers should not only surrender their passports but should also be locked up,” he charged.

Sefhare-Ramokgonami Dorcas Makgato said the motion was an attempt aimed at undermining the country’s institutions.

She said last December, Parliament passed a motion by Specially Elected MP, Mephato Reatile to have the Public Accounts Committee meet urgently to review the National Petroleum Fund. According to Makgatho, opposition MPs overwhelmingly supported Reatile’s motion.

Butale said he was disappointed with MPs who did not have the interest of Batswana at heart.

“I’m fuming inside because I feel some of us here should have a feel for Batswana’s heartbeats. I’m disappointed people do not have trust that the President can do what he took oath for. This is

When debating his motion, Gaolathe explained that what was before the PAC was different from his motion.

“The PAC will review the National Petroleum Fund, whilst this motion is calling for investigation into abuse and the quantum of that abuse. A judicial Commission of Enquiry is the ideal approach for this as the Auditor General is an Executive-branch agency which has no capacity even for performance audits or value for money audits,” argued Gaolathe.

He argued that since President Khama was implicated in the saga, he could delegate the Chief Justice to select judges who can sit in the committee.

The Public Accounts Committee comprises politicians who are not professionals with experience on matters of finance and investigations.

“We believe the Judicial Services Commission could also help recommend commissioners,” said Gaolathe.

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