Friday, September 25, 2020

Sleaze rocks Botswana’s foreign mission in Geneva

Botswana has lost millions of Pula in government assets and unaccounted for finances because of lack of expenditure controls and disregard of financial rules and regulations at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation.

At the helm of the list of the affected missions is the Geneva-based Permanent Mission to the United Nations, where Botswana is represented by former Kweneng Member of Parliament, Boometswe Mokgothu.

Concern has been raised that in spite of the observation and a series of previous warnings, officials at the missions continue to indulge lavishly in ‘suspect’ lifestyles at taxpayers’ expense and in breach of best international standards practices.

This follows information unearthed this week by Sunday Standard investigations, revealing disparities between recorded account of financial transactions and purchased stores on the one hand, and available stores, equipment and finances on the other hand, at the Geneva Mission.
A letter dated 27th April, 2009 Referenced Gen. 36/1 1 (17) addressed to the Permanent Secretary in the MFAIC, copied to the Botswana Permanent Mission to the United Nations (UN) and the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning (MFDP) laid bare, the futility of advise over the years by the Auditor General to the MFAIC regarding the importance of accountability.

The letter highlights some of the important observations made during the course of an Audit inspection carried out in March this year. Some of which, it was stated had been discussed with the Geneva Based Ambassador.

On examining the supplies records maintained by the mission, it was found that there was a complete breakdown in the systems of accounting for stores.

“It was regrettably noted that the mission has discontinued the use of the stores ledger card (form Gen. 109) which is the principal record for Government properties,” stated the Auditor General, adding that there had been a lot of purchases for either, new or replaced items, but had not been recorded in the ledger cards.

This is despite the fact that the regulations and procedures are categorical regarding supplies.

They state thus: “Items of supplies received from whatever source, should on receipt, be classified and recorded, those which are permanent on a Supplies ledger Card form Gen. 109, and in case of consumable supplies in a Consumable Material Control Ledger form Gen 189.”

It is further stipulated that furniture and equipment which will have been issued to officers, the entry on the supplies ledger card, must be supported by a combined issue and receipt voucher (form Gen 12).

One would have thought that since this is common practice in all Government Departments, Foreign Affairs Officials would find cause to follow suit.

Expenses on Hospitality to an extent give a smart example of how much less officials at the Geneva mission regarded the importance of accounting.

An examination of the Hospitality account revealed instances where the Ambassador would make substantial purchases of beverages and other stuff for official receptions at his residence without entering any records of the purchased items, despite supplies regulations and procedures requiring so.

“This is a worrying development considering the huge expenditure under this account,” lamented the Auditor General in his letter.

The total amount deciphered by the auditors equaled P68 845.00 “although this was not for the whole year, P54 277.00 was used to purchase supplies for official reception, P9 546.75 paid for cleaning detergents whereas, purchase of mineral water amounted to P 5 022.00.

The Auditor further expressed fear that since the relevant ledgers have been set aside, there is a likelihood of the account being abused.

In that context, he recommended that the mission should establish responsibilities in terms of the maintenance of the stock ledger documentation of receipts and issues of all beverages and subsequent recording in appropriate records, as well as maintenance of subsidiary records for all beverages that are kept at the Ambassador’s residence.

As if that was not enough, the audit inspection unraveled a practice where officials have opened irregular accounts with one financial institution deposited moneys intended for payment of rentals for properties leased for Botswana diplomats.

The Auditor General also said, “It was noted that those deposits earn interest which had been accumulating to Government and had not been accounted for in Government accounts.”

He added that, although the mission had long been allocated the below the line account to record these rental deposits, officials claim ignorance of the said account, resulting in all rental deposits for newly acquired residential houses not accounted for under he below the line accounts.

It also emerged from the auditors that maintenance of log books for the mission vehicles, were far from satisfactory, and that all details in respect of repairs and maintenance as well as fuels and lubricants issued, were never recorded so as to reflect the history of the vehicles.

This is despite the fact that the May 2005 audit inspection report on the same Mission had raised the similar concerns, upon which they promised to employ corrective measures.

According to the Auditor General, the maintenance of records that indicate the life of vehicles is an important control mechanism in the management of government fleet. He put to the PS that “It was of great concern that it has taken you over three years to take corrective measures on non- compliance with government requirements.”

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