Tuesday, October 26, 2021

Three more judges unduly received housing allowances

Unnamed three judges of the Industrial Court were unduly paid housing allowances; one for a period of one month; the second for a period of 12 months and the third for a period of 15 months. 

Members of Parliament on Monday asked the Minister of Labour and Home Affairs Edwin Batshu why the unnamed three judges were not reported to the police as it was the case with the High Court Judges who are currently on suspension.

What surprised Members of Parliament most was the fact that a proper arrangement was made to allow the three unnamed judges to reimburse government.

Parliament heard that the judge who was unduly paid housing allowance for one month refunded the allowance in cash.

A payment voucher was accordingly completed.

With respect to the judge who was unduly paid housing allowance for a period of 12 months, the money was recovered through monthly deductions over a period of seven months.

As for the judge who was unduly paid housing allowance for a period of 15 months, the money was refunded through a paying voucher as a once off cash payment.

Selibe Phikwe West legislator Dithapelo Keorapetse asked Minister Batshu how the overpayments occurred.

 “Is it a normal mishap that normally happens in government? Please re-assure this house that none of the three judges were reported to the police,” said Keorapetse.

Minister Batshu said none of the three judges were reported to the police. “What happens in the government enclave is that for you to be paid something there must be causality returns submitted to Accountant General Office to effect that payment and for that payment to be stopped another causality returns must be prepared. In this case as it is there was delay in submitting causality returns that was to stop the payment,” said Batshu. 

Francistown South Member of Parliament Wynter Mmolotsi asked why these particular judges were not reported to the police as it was the case with the other High Court judges.

“Why is it that the scenario is the same but the treatment of judges is different?” asked Mmolotsi.

In his response, Minister Batshu said matters reported to the police are deemed criminal and for the scenario of the three Industrial Court judges he saw nothing criminal.

Batshu further said under his jurisdiction, he is only “the superintendent of the Industrial Court judges.” 

Meanwhile plans are moving apace at the Directorate of Public Prosecutions (DPP) to charge the four suspended judges of the High Court with criminal offences, The Telegraph has learnt.

This comes after the Botswana Police Service completed investigations following a formal complaint by Chief Justice that the four; Key Dingake, Modiri Letsididi, Mercy Garekwe and Ranier Busang had received housing allowances that were not due to them.

If the four face criminal charges, as it now looks more likely, it will put paid to ongoing parallel efforts that have been going on behind the scenes to bring a settlement.

The four judges are in a separate matter expected to appear before a tribunal that is expected to determine if the quartet are fit to hold office following a fallout with the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) as represented by Chief Justice Maruping Dibotlelo.

It was after that fallout that President Ian Khama suspended the four judges and appointed a tribunal.

But the sitting of the Tribunal has not happened as there are still legal disputes that are before the courts, questioning its legality.

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