Thursday, October 28, 2021

Skeletons rattle louder in Khama’s closet

The Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC) is sitting on an investigation docket detailing how President Ian Khama failed to declare his interest and went on to chair a committee meeting that had access to critical information which could give his family business unfair advantage in a multi-million pula arms procurement bid.

Sunday Standard is in possession of a “confidential” Botswana Defence Force (BDF) document authored by former commander Lieutenant General Louis Fisher which formed part of the evidence against Seleka Springs, a company owned by the Khama family.

The confidential document which was first presented to the then Chairman of the Defence Council, the late Lieutenant General Mompati Merafhe, suggests that the office of the Vice President, headed by 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 a Mr. Mbaakanyi, Steyr represented by Tshekedi Khama of Seleka Springs and Cadillac Gage represented by an N Brunton all submitted their quotations by March 13, 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 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 April 12 and 17, 2001. This offer on the Base line Vehicle was 12 percent cheaper than its earlier offer. Even though this was a highly irregular procedure adopted by Steyr, nonetheless, this revised offer was accepted for evaluation and comparison.” The tender was awarded to Mowag.

Khama allegedly intervened to stop the DCEC investigation against Seleka springs. WikiLeaks quoted the then DCEC Director, Tymon Katlholo, confiding in a colleague that Khama had personally questioned him about an investigation into the (notoriously shady) “business dealings of Seleka Springs”.

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 made out to Seretse K.I Khama on March 24, 2011. Two other cheques of the same amount were made out to Tshekedi S. Khama and Anthony P.G Khama on the same date (March 24, 2011).

Sunday Standard could not establish what the payment was for. A 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.

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

Fisher versus Khama

Among the many tender questioned by Fisher 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, still 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, 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 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

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.

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 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. 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 neighbouring 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.

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