Thursday, October 29, 2020

The bloom is off the Rose as BERA unravels

BY EDGAR TSIMANE

Rose Seretse is failing the smell test hardly two years after she was plucked from the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC) and appointed Botswana Energy Regulatory Authority (BERA), Chief Executive Officer.

The BERA boss lady does not exactly come out smelling like roses from an independent investigation appointed by Minister Eric Molale and headed by Tendekani Malebeswa who was appointed by Minister Eric to investigate the embattled oversight body.

Seretse who was not the flower of the flock was appointed to the plum post under dubious circumstances over a better qualified candidate.

It has emerged that she personally approved the purchase of a Volvo XC T RDesign AWD 235 Kw/480 Nm luxury vehicle on 28 March 2018 for herself to the tune of P685 000 00 a transaction which was approved and paid to Barloworld motor despite protest from the BERA board.  This is above her procurement expenditure limit which has a P350 000 ceiling.

Seretse would not comment on the issue referring all questions to her employer. “Speak to the Board chairman. I did not draw the contract of employment by myself.  Speak to Mr. Ndove the Board chairperson” Seretse said.

Ndove said he “wondered” why Seretse was referring The Sunday Standard to him since he has left the organisation. “I’m no longer a board member. I have since resigned from the board. I wonder why she is referring you to me” Ndove said.

When the board questioned the financial recklessness, it was purged by Minister Eric Molale under whose portfolio BERA falls.

“Hold on” said Molale.  “This is an administrative issue. The contents of the report you are referring to are with the Permanent Secretary. I’m not in office.”

The Sunday Standard can reveal that the investigation headed by Malebeswa stated in a report dated 7th March 2019 that the appointment of Seretse as the chief executive officer (CEO)   was irregular as she does not possess the necessary skills, expertise and was not appointed through a competitive process.

It has emerged that the interview process had found that Dr. Tebogo T.K. Matome was the most competent candidate for the position due to his past experience as CEO and experience in founding institutions. However, in a surprising turn of events the Chairperson Mr Bernard Ndove without any authority of the board offered Dr. Tebogo T.K. Matome the position of Deputy CEO which at that time did not exist in the structure. The CEO position was given to Ms Rose Seretse who was then the Director General of the Directorate of Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC) and had not even applied for the job. Dr Matome declined the offer to deputise the CEO on the 25th July 2017.

When the CEO was engaged in September 2017 her contract erroneously awarded her a car allowance and at the same time gave her a personal vehicle in the form of a Range Rover for her personal use. The Board picked the anomaly in November 2017 and raised it with the then Honourable Minister of MMGE, Advocate Sadique Kebonang. While the issue was yet to be resolved, the board Chairman Bernard Ndove decided to unilaterally convert the car allowance to something called “Special duty allowance” which the Board had an issue with.

The issue was again brought to the Board in March 2018 where it was discussed at length during which a resolution, fiercely opposed by the Chairman Ndove, was taken by the board for the CEO to relinquish the vehicle.

Molale was made aware of the issue, he however decided not to acknowledge or take action. The CEO later offered to relinquish the vehicle in a letter written to one Mr Jonathan Moseki, the Chairperson of the HR committee. However, she continues to use the vehicle whilst enjoying a car allowance and also has the sole use of ford Everest as the board has been suspended and cannot take her to task.

The inquiry also found that the position of the chief operations officer, which is currently occupied by Duncan Morotsi, did not exist in the structure of the authority and that the incumbent Morotsi was appointed without a competitive process. Furthermore, it is alleged Morotsi was illegally appointed by the Chairman Ndove without authority of the board. This caused acrimony within the board.

Morotsi has been involved in another debacle. The Board during its sitting, The Sunday Standard can reveal, of the 5th June 2018 noted prima facie evidence improper award of contract to Mr Edwin Kiddiffu as a consultant to provide secondary regulations for BERA. Kiddiffu is a Tanzanian national. His appointment was spearheaded Morotsi without the Board’s authority, tender or approved budget.

During the Board sitting the BERA Board took a resolution to conduct an Inquiry on the process leading to the engagement of Kiddiffu. Morotsi was subsequently suspended and eventually dismissed, but was reinstated by the courts through a technicality, as the board members put it, on the basis that his suspension had been too long.

Mboki Chilisa who had been appointed by the board as an independent arbitrator had found that there was a prima facie evidence of wrong-doing by the COO and the CEO. The board was suspended after it asked the Minister to take action against Seretse related to the issue. The galling issue was that both Seretse and Morotsi paid the consultant in cash at Grand Palm Hotel in Gaborone in the middle of the night from monies that were taken from the BERA Barclays account by a driver sent at their instruction.

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