Tuesday, August 11, 2020

Sleaze rocks Botswana foreign missions

A Botswana envoy in Brussels siphoned millions of Pula from the embassy bank account to his personal and business accounts. The Botswana Embassy in China is believed to have paid tuition fees for ghost students and P5 million in the bank account of the Botswana High Commission in London does not appear on the mission’s books of accounts – these are some of the revelations made by investigations into the goings on at Botswana foreign missions.

The investigations by the Parliament Accounts Committee turned up information that the Botswana Embassy in Brussels flouted the Ministry of Foreign Affairs procedures and employed a local to a post reserved for Batswana. The local, employed as an Executive Officer responsible for administration and accounts, transferred millions of Pula from the embassy bank account to her personal account and embezzled staff social benefit contributions.

According to the PAC report, this first surfaced after an internal audit carried out at the Brussels embassy in 2007, which revealed embezzlement of staff social benefits contributions, transfers of money from the embassy bank accounts to her personal, business and family bank accounts. The officer is reported to have misappropriated P3, 7 million. As at May 2012 the Ministry had started acting on the recommendations of the report produced by a legal expert engaged in 2011 to study the internal audit report and establish if indeed the officer had defrauded government.

The PAC also queried the P5 million in the bank account of the Botswana High Commission in London which did not reflect in the mission books of accounts.
Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Caesar Lekowa, briefed the PAC that an investigation was conducted after the mission discovered that the money was kept for two years in the mission bank account while it was not reflecting in their books of accounts.

The committee was informed by the PS that the money was kept in the bank account while the mission claimed that they had overspent their budget when presenting their accounts to the ministry.

He admitted it was odd that the mission had so much money that was not captured in their books.
The PAC also concluded that the Botswana Embassy in Beijing may have paid tuition fees for ghost students at Multimedia University in Malaysia. PAC Chairman, Nehemiah Modubule, hinted that there is a possibility that there were some duplications when the mission in Beijing was paying tuition fees at the university.

Modubule was worried that during the audit of the accounts and records of the Botswana diplomatic mission in Beijing, the auditor General noted that the tuition fees for Botswana students studying at Multimedia University had gone for some years without payment.

When delivering the PAC report last week, the PAC chairman stated that the University was only paid in March 2011 with invoices amounting to P3 714 588 covering the period from 2005/2006 to February 2010.

He said that it was disappointing that the students’ tuition fees were not paid resulting in the university authorities threatening to bar Batswana students from writing examinations.
Modubule explained that part of the P3 714 588 was paid through reconciliation exercise, which was done with the assistance of the University staff using copy invoices.

“Under this circumstance, it was possible that fees could have been paid for periods when some of the students had already left the University and possibility of duplicate payments cannot be ruled out,” he said.

RELATED STORIES

Read this week's paper

Sunday Standard August 9 – 15

Digital copy of Sunday Standard issue of August 9 - 15, 2020.