Wednesday, September 30, 2020

Tati Nickel suspends managers over alleged multi-million pula corruption scandal

Investigations into corrupt practices at mining giant Tati Nickel are said to have reached fever pitch, with two managers already on suspension while more are set to be shown the door as investigations continue.

The Sunday Standard is informed that the two managers, who recently spent two nights languishing in prison on suspicion of embezzling millions from the mining company, have been suspended from duty lest they interfere with investigations. It has also been established that the TNMC management, led by General Manager Sebetlela Sebetlela, has instituted internal investigations to establish the extent of the cancer. At the same time, the DCEC has also been roped in to investigate the corruption scam.
TNMC General Manager Seb Sebetlela said on Friday that the company is investigating allegations which, if true, will result in appropriate charges being laid against the officers, but refused to shed light on the matter.

“Company policy does not permit discussion of matters relating to internal company issues, particularly employer/employee issues, without the consent of all affected parties. TNMC is not in a position to comment on any investigations that the police or DCEC may be pursuing and we advise that the Police be approached directly for such comment,” he said.

DCEC spokesperson, Lentswe Motshoganetsi, was also non committal, only saying that the anti corruption watchdog will comment after investigations are complete.

“We do not want to comment on the issue at this time because it might compromise investigations,” he said.
TNMC insiders have, however, revealed that there are those within the company’s operations who feel that the matter should be handled internally, especially as the mining company has instituted internal investigations. The DCEC is not empowered by law to investigate private companies, unless at the behest or invitation of such companies.

“The investigations are likely to uncover glaring corruption at the company, going as far back as 2003. It is also suspected that more heads will roll as a number of senior managers at the mine are also said to have been in on the scam,” said the TNMC insiders.
They also allege that millions of Pulas were found in the personal and business accounts of the said managers, who are said to be extremely wealthy, with personal helicopters and ranches in the wildlife infested Chobe area. Multi million Pula deals are said to have been sealed at the said ranches, where business men were invited for all expenses paid game hunting excursions and handed lucrative tenders.

A top Francistown business man who is said to be a key TNMC supplier and part of the mining giant’s lucrative real estate project is also alleged to be part of the corruption scam. Those involved in the scam are said to have stolen millions from TNMC by altering invoices and inflating prices. The culprits are also said to have cashed in on the company’s expansion project, which involves the Dense Media Separation technology, which was recently hailed as a trendsetter that has enabled the mine to optimize operations and mine low grade ore at a profit. The managers are also said to have awarded sub-contracting tenders to companies in which they had vested interests.

The Botswana Mine Workers Union (BMWU) has in the past raised complaints that all is not well at the mining giant, dismissing the company’s corporate social responsibility program as a farce and a window dressing exercise that is meant to divert attention from the glaring corruption and mismanagement that is inherent in the company’s operations. When submitting a strongly worded petition to the Tati Nickel management and the Ministry of Minerals, Energy and Water Resources, BMWU accused TNMC of using its CSR program to present a rosy impression of itself as an impeccably managed operation, while in fact the opposite is the case.

“It would appear that TNMC uses its CSR program to blindfold the nation and divert the government’s attention from its internal mismanagement and unethical behavior. CSR programs are meant to give genuine assistance to those in need, not to cover dirty tricks,” read the damning petition.

The company also came under fierce criticism from legislators and the local business community a few years back when it presented its purchasing policy. Members of the Francistown business community, together with Members of Parliament, Tshelang Masisi and Khumo Maoto accused the mining company of not empowering local businesses.

But Sebetlela remains steadfast that they have a very good track record of supporting Botswana based companies and, in particular, citizen owned enterprises.

“We also have an outstanding record of building Batswana owned, small scale enterprises as part of our CSI program. Some of the particular initiatives in this regard are unparalleled anywhere in the mining industry,” he said.

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