Sunday, July 3, 2022

Parliament stops shady deal in its tracks

A top minister in President Ian Khama’s cabinet has been fingered in a multi million transaction in Namibia in which the government of Botswana is buying a company called Etale properties (Pty) Ltd which is based in Walvis Bay in Namibia. The company is situated along the seashore with docking facilities (quay and jetty) ships for direct access to the sea.

According to a close source, the minister and an ambassador (name withheld) has negotiated with the company to convince Botswana to buy its properties or its shares at a commission or fee.  Government has since decided to buy 100 percent shares of the company at a cost of is P140 million.

Etale Properties was initially identified by the Ministry of Minerals, Energy and Water Resources (MEWR) in their quest to identify suitable sites for petroleum facilities of products destined Botswana at the coastal ports. However the site did not fit the purpose for which the plot was required and was abandoned. The Ministry of Trade and Industry then showed interest in the company and proceeded with the negotiations.

Things emerged on Friday, when the assistant minister of finance and development planning, Vincent Seretse hurriedly presented supplementary estimates for 2013/2014 financial year before parliament to the surprise of many MPs who wanted time to debate and scrutinise the transactions that government requested money for.

This was after parliament finance and estimates committee chaired by MP for Ngwaketse West, Mephato Reatile had raised concerns with the transaction. Reatile in his report before parliament had said that his committee was not pleased with the explanations given by the Accounting Officer as it was not clearly explained how the port is going to be operated.

┬á“It appears the proposed purchase of the property is being done in a rush to ensure that Botswana does not lose it even though we are not sure of how the port is going to function. It also appears that the Ministry has not carried out thorough investigations on the status and integrity of ETALE Properties (PTY) Ltd as yet, given that the necessary due diligence process is only being carried out now when it should have preceded the decision to buy the property or company,” he said.

Reatile said the whole transaction began with a presidential directive that mandated the Ministry of Trade and Industry to acquire Etale immovable properties in the form of land and developments in Walvis Bay on behalf of Government.

┬á“A negotiating team led by Ministry of Trade was sent to Walvis Bay on the 14th October 2013 to advance the negotiations on acquisition of the property for an amount of P 140,000,000. However, upon commencement┬á of negotiations , the team learnt that the property owners┬á were of the view┬á that the Government of Botswana┬á was buying the shares┬á of the company┬á as agreed with the previous Botswana┬á delegation led by the Ministry of Minerals, Energy and Water Resources (MEWR), a position which was contrary to the understanding of the team. However during the meeting, the team was informed that the Government of Botswana has two options that could be considered in order to secure the property; these being, acquisition of entire (100%) shareholding of Etale properties and purchase of immovable properties thereon.”

 He also said if purchased the property will need to be refurbished in order for it to be fully utilised at an estimated cost of P60 million.

Many MPs were uncomfortable with the approval of the supplementary estimates as they were, arguing that supplementary estimates which are contentious, including the Etale properties must be removed.

 Parliament had to adjourn for a general assembly but no unanimous decision was made. When parliament reconvened after adjournment, MP for Gaborone Central, Dumelang Saleshando said the purchase of the Etale Properties is not convincing particularly that the exorbitant project has to undergo a further cost of refurbishment at  a whopping P60m.

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