Thursday, July 7, 2022

Storm over illegal diversion of funds to DIS

A query raised by the Auditor General on how the DIS (Directorate of Intelligence and Security Services) was allowed to draw money from the National Disaster Relief Fund is expected to cause a storm in parliament next week when the Public Accounts Committee report is tabled and debated by Members of Parliament.

Sunday Standard can confirm that by the time it was established, DIS was not budgeted for.
Because they had no money with which to start the project those who were tasked with setting up the directorate turned to the National Disaster Relief Fund from where they drew at least P16 million.
This has not gone down well with the Auditor General and the Public Accounts Committee.

The money was drawn in two tranches; P13 million to buy equipment, houses and for training purposes.
Shortly after the P13 million was exhausted a second tranch of P3 million was drawn in the hope that, “God forbid”, no disaster befalls us.

Government internal communications that Sunday Standard is in possession of indicate that under pressure to have DIS running by April 1, 2008 just as Ian Khama was becoming State President, the then Minister of Defence and Justice in the office of the President, Phandu Skelemani, personally authorized the diversion of funds.

Under the law, only the President and the Minister of Finance are authorized to action such a diversion of funds.

Skelemani was responding to a request by Isaac Kgosi who was then Senior Private Secretary to then Vice President Ian Khama at the time.

Kgosi, who would later become the founding Director General of DIS, was tasked with all the ground preparatory work of the directorate.

Questions arise as to how a Private Secretary was able to solicit and access so much money when he had not yet become an accounting officer.

The diversion of money happened after other departments in the Presidency, like the BDF, Botswana Police and National Aids Coordinating Agency, had made it clear that they did not have extra money to divert towards the creation of DIS.

The discrepancies and the roughshod manner with which the laid out procedures were flouted and circumvented have not escaped the Auditor General.

“I have not been able to appreciate why these expenditures, involving substantial amounts of money as they did, were met from the Fund [National Disaster Relief Fund] under which funds had not been provided, instead of from the appropriate expenditure votes in the Estimates of Expenditure for the year 2008/09,” says the Auditor General in his report.

Official legal opinion from Attorney General’s Chambers has also made it clear that under law only the President and the Minister of Finance have the powers to do what Minister Skelemani authorized in a hand written script.

The Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Finance has also dispatched an official correspondence corroborating the opinion from the Attorney General that procedures had not been followed.
But in his letter to the Public Accounts Committee, Minister Skelemani says he “concurred” to diverting the funds as a way of meeting the April 1, 2008 deadline.

Investigations by Sunday Standard have revealed that the then State President Festus Mogae had turned down requests to treat the establishment of DIS as an emergency, saying the directorate could wait and be properly budgeted for by parliament in the following financial year, by which time he would have left. But it would seem like the incoming administration had long made its mind that DIS had to be operational on the first day of Khama’s life as substantive Head of State.

Further information turned up by Sunday Standard indicates that DIS is still to fully account for the P16 million drawn from the Relief Fund as well as money from other Government sources that lent a helping hand when the spy agency needed cash for its many clandestine operations.

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