Sunday, March 26, 2023

Raborokgwe defends ‘BMC gravy train’

Former Botswana Meat Commission (BMC) Chief Executive Officer, Motshodi Raborokgwe, who pocketed at least half a million Pula a year in board sitting allowances has defended reports that directors fleeced cattle farmers of millions of pula through expenses claims.

Responding to Sunday Standard queries this week, Raborokgwe said as is standard and usual procedure, board fees or allowances are paid to Board members and staff of a company when attending and travelling on company business outside their duty areas.

“In Government, it is called per diem allowance.┬á These fees are declared and published in the annual accounts for the BMC Subsidiary Companies and the BMC and ratified by the main board,” he said.

With an estimated 13 subsidiaries all over the world, Raborokgwe and his board, comprising Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Agriculture, Dr Marcus Chimbombi, were literally living in their suitcases and making a lot of money in directors’ fees and travel allowances, which were paid in Pounds.??According to documents passed to the Sunday Standard, Raborokgwe cost the commission GB ┬ú32, 458, 00 (about P400 000) to attend four UK Holdings meetings between March and November. From the P400 000, more than P 200 000 went into his pocket as fees and allowances for attending the four board meetings in London. In the same year he is also believed to have pocketed more than P220 000 in fees and allowances for attending six BMC importers (Guernsey) board meetings between March and December also held in the UK. ??Some of the dates for the BMC importers board meetings coincided with those of the UK holdings meetings. Documents passed to the Sunday Standard revealed that fees and allowances were paid separately for the meetings held on the same day, apparently at the same venue. The Sunday Standard was, however, not able to ascertain that the former BMC Chief Executive Officer double dipped because the accounts from BMC Importers in Guernsey do not detail names to which the allowances were paid as the company is not public and Guernsey is a tax haven with strict confidentiality laws.??The Sunday Standard was also able to establish that the former BMC Chief Executive Officer pocketed more than P50 000 for a meeting of another BMC subsidiary, Ami Insurance, at Caymans Islands in February of the same year. The former Chief Executive Officer made about P500 000 (half a million Pula) in one year from fees and allowances of attending board meetings of three BMC subsidiaries. The amount is believed to be much higher, the Sunday Standard, however, could not get figures of fees and allowances paid to attend board meetings of 10 other BMC subsidiaries.

Raborokgwe added that the BMC (UK) Holdings Board thus met once every three months just before the main board meeting and the London visits were for those meetings.

“Even though the fees might seem high to someone in Botswana, the Board fees and allowances paid were at the low end of what companies in that jurisdiction paid their Directors which were again in line with the cost of living in that country. The air-fares of course were set by the airlines and we had no choice over it,” Raborokgwe explained.┬á

 Board fees paid to Main Board members in Botswana, Raborokgwe further explained, are set by Government while the subsidiary board fees are in line with fees and standard practice in the country in which the subsidiary operates, are approved by the main board and ratified by the Minister. 

“This has been normal practice in BMC since its formation in 1966 which I also followed when I assumed the CEO post,” he said. The Sunday Standard can however reveal that the expensive system was discontinued by dismissed BMC Chief Executive Officer David Falepau when he took over.

Raborokgwe said the BMC regular Main board sat four times a year in March, June, September and December and before the main board meetings, subsidiary boards would meet in order to approve and prepare reports for the main board meeting.

He said the BMC Meat Importers (Guernsey) Ltd meetings were not held in Guernsey but always followed the BMC (UK) meetings in London and there were no additional fees and allowances paid for these meetings.

“Every time there was a BMC (UK) Holdings meeting, there will also be a BMC Meat Importers meeting, and this was quarterly.┬á┬á I have never been to the Island of Guernsey as all BMC Meat Importers work was done by the London staff and its meetings held in London,” he said.

Asked if the allowances and fees were not excessive, Raborokgwe said, “No, I do not think that the number of days spent in Europe in a year for the CEO of a company with more than 70 percent of its sales and 90 percent of its revenue earned in Europe was excessive.”┬á

┬áIf anything, he said, it was not enough. “Please remember that travelling to and from Europe from Botswana alone takes four days and these days should be subtracted from the overall days to get a true picture of the meeting days. We normally had four board meetings per year in London and if there were any customers I needed to see in Europe, I would use that opportunity in order to reduce the costs of flights,” argued Raborokgwe.

He said the Re-Union meetings were held every six months and they rotated between Namibia, Swaziland, Botswana and Re-Union.

“The three African countries exported and sold beef to Re-Union, a French territory and BMC (UK) co-ordinated these beef exports and sales. The twice a year meetings were to discuss the quantities from the three countries and I would attend with GM (Marketing) from Botswana and the MD of Table Bay Cold Storage, a BMC subsidiary in Cape Town, which co-ordinated the shipping to Re-Union of the beef from the three countries,” he said.

According to Raborokgwe, the MD of BMC (UK) and GM (Marketing) from BMC (UK) would also attend representing all three exporters. These meetings normally took a week and we would leave on a Sunday, have the meetings Monday to Wednesday, visit the customer factory on the Thursday and fly back on the Friday.

“At that time, BMC was selling Botswana beef in Europe and we were, so to speak, in charge of our own destiny. It was important for us to interact with our current and potential customers and this we did through those visits. I had justified to and sought permission from the Hon. Minister of Agriculture who had given approval for each and every one of the visits undertaken,” he said.

Chimbombi, who was part of the BMC gravy train, has since maintained that the fees and allowances paid to directors were not excessive. “How they were paid is not an issue. You are paid because there is work to do.”??He further said, “There were companies there and they were trading each year.

So the directors had to meet to see to it that the operations were done properly. I was not party to every meeting but they had to meet every year. How would it be if we were to skip a year without monitoring the operations of these subsidiaries; they cannot run for a year without approval,” he said.

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