Former Acting Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Minerals, Green Technology and Energy Security, Dr. Obolokile Obakeng has told the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) how he was under pressure from former Minister Sadique Kebonang to approve a request by DIS director, Isaac Kgosi’s to change the purpose for which the spy unit had taken P230 million from the National Petroleum Fund (NPF).
The PAC heard that the variation to buy military hardware instead of building fuel storage tanks across the country was at the request of Kgosi.
The DIS which had been allowed to access P250 million from the National Petroleum Fund to build fuel storage tanks for security essential services changed its mind after laying its hands on the money saying it wanted to use it to buy military hardware from Israel to be used in anti-poaching operations.
“The honourable minister had called saying this was an urgent matter. The country was at risk. I was under pressure from the then Minister Sadique Kebonang who told me that the country was at risk,” said Obakeng.
Asked by Acting PAC Chairman Dithapelo Keorapetse if this was discussed in Kebonang’s office, Obakeng said it “was via a phone call. He called me on my mobile phone.”
Obakeng stated that the variation was drafted by Kebonang’s secretary at the request of the then minister and she brought it to his (Obakeng) office to sign.
“You mean the then Minister was on the other end of the line and he was instructing you sign the draft,” asked Keorapetse to which Obakeng answered in the affirmative.
PAC member Ignatius Moswaane sought to know what sort of risks the country was facing as allegedly alluded to by Kebonang.
“I think that is a matter that the (former) Honourable Minister will explain later. But some of them were issues like human trafficking,” said Obakeng.
He added that the then Minister had already drafted the letter and it was brought by his secretary to accede to the variation. I’m not the original author of the letter. I was asked to sign.
“I was reading the document and the minister was on the line.”
Moswaane sought to know if it was procedural for directors (Isaac Kgosi and former Department of Energy Director Kenneth Kerekang) of different government departments to request funds from one another to which Obakeng said it was un-procedural.
“The matter should have followed a normal procurement process. Initially I was not aware of a company called Khulaco. I was under the impression that the money had gone to DIS,” said Obakeng.
Khulaco Pty (Ltd) managed the P230 million disbursed by the NPF to the DIS. According to Obakeng he attempted to find out from Kerekang how the company became involved in the transaction but he said Kerekang was evasive.
“I was trying to look for answers to fully understand how this happened; how it happened without my involvement. I wrote an email to the former director, he responded but did not address my specific question. He never appeared to me in person,” said Obakeng.
According to Obakeng, “The Director (Kerekang) when I summoned him to my office did not appear. When I called him, he switched off his phone.”
Keorapetse, Moswaane and another PAC member Samson Moyo Guma asked Obakeng why he had written to DIS requesting that the spy unit reimburse the Ministry the 230 million.
“…because i realised that it went to Khulaco. From the bank statements it was 230 million and not P250 million. My understanding was also that P230 had gone to Khulaco which DIS Director had instructed that the money be disbursed to,” he said.
Moswaane asked if Kebonang was aware of the request by DIS, but Obakeng added that “the Minister was more knowledgeable than I was. He knew what was happening. He was the one who brought to my attention that there was this request.”
Keorapetse and Moyo Guma sought to know “who caused the money to leave the NPF account” to which Obakeng said “we haven’t yet established who caused P250 million to leave NPF account.”