Saturday, September 26, 2020

Tumelo ÔÇô The man on the bully pulpit

The Ministry of Finance and Development Planning has become a bully pulpit and the man in charge, Serwalo Tumelo, never has to worry about running out of enemies.

First there is the famous “never disobey and defy the Vice President again” warning letter in his top drawer. Then there is the instruction from Vice President Ian Khama that PEEPA Chief Executive Officer, Joshua Galeforolwe, should be reappointed.
There is also a Cabinet decision supporting the Vice President’s instruction.

This pretty much sums up the gauntlet PEEPA board chairman, Serwalo Tumelo, had to run in a bid to oust Galeforolwe from the PEEPA top post.

Unnerved, Tumelo in his signature mannerism, ordered Galeforolwe out of the PEEPA boardroom saying “this man must leave this room. He cannot sit in our meeting because he is no longer employed by this organization. Rra please leave this room now.”

This was vintage Tumelo: Wherever there is a smell of gun powder, you can be sure he is not far off.
Although Tumelo has managed to stay off the newspaper profile pages, enough fragments have emerged to create the picture of a complex character, part control freak, part war monger.

He first made newspaper headlines five years ago when he fought the then Botswana Stock Exchange (BSE) Chief Executive Officer, Tebogo Matome, on the front page of the Botswana Guardian.

The Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning has a sharp tongue and he thinks nothing of using it in public.

Challenged by Matome to explain why the BSE was sidelined in the secret sale of Botswana government shares in Anglo American, Tumelo responded with a vitriolic letter, saying things like “who are you to be consulted before we sell our shares in Anglo American?”

While taking on the BSE boss, Tumelo was also engaged in a running battle with the chairman of Public Procurement and Asset Disposal Board (PPADB), Armando Lionjanga, over the controversial sale of Botswana shares in Anglo American.

In a letter to the Ministry of Finance, Lionjanga accused the ministry of subverting some provisions of the PPADB Act through the sale of Botswana government shares in Anglo American and the sale of Public Service Debt Fund (PSDF) loan book to the open market without involving his office. PPADB complained that they were not consulted before the sale was made.

Tumelo responded by return mail, saying “the board might have misdirected itself.” In the five years since then, Tumelo never let up on his war-likeness, fighting the Botswana Building Society Chief Executive Officer, Pius Molefhe, Mmadinare Member of Parliament, Ponatshego Kedikilwe, PEEPA Chief Executive Officer, Joshua Galeforolwe, Botswana Defence Force Commander (BDF), Matshwenyego Fisher, PPADB executive directors and the Business and Economic Advisory Council (BEAC).

The Ministry of Finance is something of a bully pulpit and consultation is not their strongest suit. It is not surprising that Tumelo moves from one battle field to the other.

He fought with Kedikilwe on Radio Botswana after the Public Accounts Committee, chaired by Kedikilwe, revealed that the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning had been playing fast and loose with figures, padding the numbers on the revenue column of its budget, inflating the amount of money it has in its coffers and exaggerating the performance of the economy.

If you looked below the surface of the fight, a more complex picture emerges: a public service unhappy with the ministry of finance’s bully tactics and parliament irritate by endlessly being taken for granted by a planning ministry that does not care about its sacred oversight role, other permanent secretaries being armtwisted into giving false figures on their cost recovery plans and initiatives.

During the 2003 Budget estimates, the Ministry of Finance Budget Division padded the economy by well over P300 million. The budget division added P150 million on the credit side of the budget estimates saying that it was money that would be collected from the ministry of education. This was done without consulting authorities in the ministry.

The budget Division also inflated the budget estimates by an additional P50 million saying it was the money that would be raised from the Ministry of Local Government cost recovery exercise.

The figures were also added to the budget estimates without consulting the Ministry of Local government. The budget Division added another P50 million on the plus side of the budget, saying the money would come from the Ministry of Transport cost recovery exercise. This, again, was done without consulting the Ministry of Transport.

As it turned out, the budgeted money was never recovered from these ministries’ cost recovery exercises. This past week a question in parliament by hon. samson Moyo revealed that not all is well with the national budget after he found that the Ministry of Educatin is behind by up to ten years in its budgetary planning.

It has also emerged that the ministry is given to throwing out the national budget passed by parliament and putting together their own alternative budget which they push down the throats of other government ministries. With all these problems at the ministry of finance it will be intersting to see if te man at the top, Serwalo Tumelo will opnce again win the day.

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