Sunday, March 26, 2023

Secret document links Khama to shady deals

Sunday Standard has intercepted a financial transaction between President Lt Gen Ian Khama and Seleka Springs a company owned by his twin brothers, Tshekedi and Anthony ÔÇô suggesting that the president may be having a direct financial interest in the company.

Sunday Standard investigations have also turned up a “confidential” Botswana Defence Force (BDF) document authored by former commander Lt Gen Louis Fisher questioning the award of hundreds of millions of Pula worth of contracts to Seleka Springs for the supply of military equipment while President Khama was still army commander.

Bid pricing fraud

The confidential document which was presented to the then Chairman of the Defence Council Lt Gen Mompati Merafhe also suggests that the then office of the Vice President, headed by Lt Gen Ian Khama may have leaked confidential tender pricing information to Seleka Springs in a bid to help them win a multi-million Pula tender to supply BDF with combat fighting vehicles in 2001. It emerges in the report that Mowag represented by Mr. Mbaakany, Steyr represented by Mr. Tshekedi Khama of Seleka springs and Cadillac Gage represented by Mr. N Brunton all submitted their quotations by 13 March 2001.

“In order to obtain approval for the purchase of the selected vehicle” the BDF command “made a presentation to the committee chaired by His Honour the Vice President”, then Lt Gen Ian Khama. Curiously, “immediately following the presentation to this same committee, Steyr (represented by Seleka Springs) revised their pricing substantially.”

“Steyr on its own re-submitted a revised and reduced offer dated 12th and 17th April 2001. This offer on the Base line Vehicle was 12% cheaper than its earlier offer. Even though this was a highly irregular procedure adopted by Steyr, none the less, this revised offer was accepted for evaluation and comparison.” The tender was awarded to Mowag.

This was around the time when Khama, then Vice President allegedly interfered with investigations by the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC) involving Seleka Springs. Wiki Leaks quoted the then DCEC Director, Tymon Katlholo confiding in a colleague that Lt Gen Khama had personally questioned him about an investigation into the (notoriously shady) business dealings of” of Seleka Springs.

Curious cheques

At the time, it was generally accepted that Seleka Springs was owned by Khama’s twin brothers and that he did not have a direct financial interest in the company.

Sunday Standard has however intercepted a P75 000 cheque from Seleka Springs written out to Seretse K.I Khama dated 24th March 2011. Two other cheques of the same about were made out to Tshekedi S. Khama and Anthony P.G Khama on the same date (24th March 2011).

The Sunday Standard could not establish what the payment was for. Presidential spokesperson could not shed light on the payment and said he did not know if the president had any financial interest in Seleka Springs. He said he could not establish all the facts because relevant officials who could shed light on the issue had already left for the Independence holiday.

This raises doubts on whether hundreds of millions of Pula business deals between the Seleka Springs and BDF under the command of Lt Gen Khama were arms length transactions.

In fact, in his report to the Chairman of the Defence Council, former BDF commander Lt Gen Fisher questions the propriety of a number of business deals between Seleka Springs and BDF while under the command of Lt Gen Khama most of which form part of the DCEC investigations against Seleka Springs.

Fisher versus Khama

Among the many tenders he questioned was the BDF procurement of Scorpion tanks and their Bedford carriers through Seleka Springs in 1996.

A four-man delegation from the BDF procurement unit allegedly comprising Major Albert Matlapeng, Major George Tlhalerwa, Colonel Moloi and Colonel Matshwa went to the United Kingdom to inspect Scorpion tanks supplied by Alvis Company. Though the delegation later decided against making such purchase after finding that Alvis had stopped producing the tanks and would be unable to provide maintenance and service, Seleka Springs, procured the tanks for the BDF. A whistleblower filed a report with the DCEC and corruption investigations were initiated against Khama and Seleka Springs.

In his report, Lt Gen Fisher was responding to anonymous reports alleging corruption in the award of tenders he made after Khama left the army in 2008. The response suggests that he believed that his anonymous accusers were linked to President Khama. He charged that, “in the pursuit of truth and justice, it is important both the accusers and the accused be bound by the same set of ground rules. In other words if the accuser is concerned for example, about transparency and objectivity, then the first adherent to this principle must be the accusers themselves in order to enhance credibility in the entire process.

“Clearly it is important for the accusers to explain and reconcile the following: – (I) In selecting contracts and tenders, what where the criteria followed both in terms of scope and period. Is there any particular reason why this scrutiny is only linked to those contracts and tenders done after the year 2008 (when Khama left the army) or by the current command? It looks like there is a common denominator in the selection ÔÇô i.e. a particular business group that did not prevail in all these tenders in mention”, this is an apparent reference to Seleka Springs.

Seleka Springs milks BDF

Lt Gen Fisher argued that, “the preceding question would lay the foundation to the next question. If all these accusers are so concerned with such lofty principles such as transparency, fiscal prudence and value for money how come such projects such as the SK 105 tank and the F5 projects whose problems are so well documented escape their scrutiny?” Sunday Standard has been able to establish that both projects were awarded to Seleka Springs.

Lt Gen Fisher also made reference to a number of Seleka Springs’ procurement for BDF whose costs turned out to be out of proportion with their usefulness. He stated: “how is it possible that they do not shed light on problems associated with the following: The IVECO tank carriers and their status today? The 100mm anti-aircraft guns bought from their China and their status today? Sunday Standard investigations turned up information that these procurements by Seleka Springs were consigned to the scrap heap as soon as they were delivered. Lt Gen Fisher also questioned the Seleka Springs’ “acquisition value of Strike Masters vis-├ñ-vis the disposal value and the entire life cycle costing of these aircrafts. He also asked his accusers to shed light on “ammunition batches procured from a neighboring country?” Sunday Standard investigations turned up information that Seleka Springs procured ammunition batches from Zimbabwe at a cost of millions of Pula which turned out to be duds and never worked. Seleka Springs was however paid for the procurement. He further challenged his accusers to clarify the procurement of BDF Chevrolet vehicles and their status today? The Scorpion tanks and their Bedford carriers? The list could go on and on; however, it is up to these champions of what is good and bad for the BDF to explain on the selection criteria that was followed. Their list raises more questions than answers.”


Read this week's paper