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P250 million scandal divides cabinet

Publishing Date : 16 January, 2018


The ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) kingpins yesterday prevailed in lobbying parliament to endorse Specially Elected Member of Parliament, Mephato Reatile’s motion calling for Public Accounts Committee (PAC) to meet as matter of urgency to review the National Petroleum Fund with the assistance of the Auditor General.

In what looked like a BDP affair, the opposition legislators watched with keen interest as cabinet members turned against each other in a debate relating to one of the biggest financial scandals in the history of the country. The PAC, which usually sits during winter, has a mandate to scrutinise the value for money, the economy, efficiency and effectiveness of public spending and generally holds the government and its civil servants to account for the delivery of public services.

However, as a matter of urgency owing to the recent money laundering scandal involving the Petroleum Fund , in which a total sum of P250 million is involved, Reatile said it is necessary for the PAC to arrange for a sitting specifically for the purpose examining its books. In opening stages of the motion veteran legislator and Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi tried to have the motion killed contending that it was improper for parliament to get involved in a matter that was before the courts.

Moitoi was supported by Minister of Health and Wellness Dorcas Makgato who also said it was not appropriate for parliament to get involved in the matter. Speaker of the National Assembly Gladys Kokorwe, who was also reluctant to allow the motion to proceed, had to adjourn the proceedings in order allow the legal team to study the appropriateness of forging ahead of the motion. The parliamentary Counsel however gave thumbs up to the motion as she was of the opinion that, parliament had the right to continue in spite of the matter being before the courts.

Member of Parliament for Selebi Phikwe West, Dithapelo Keorapetse also spoke in favour of having the motion debated, as he argued that previously parliament had debated and even passed bills relating to matters which where before the courts.
Keorapetse gave the examples of the Trade Dispute Bill and the recent Court of Appeal Bill which were passed by parliament while the matters were seized with courts.

With the speaker unable to have enough support to kill the motion, BDP kingpins among them Vice President Mokgweetsi Masisi spoke in favour of having the motion agreed to. Masisi said Botswana’s high governance standards dictate that the motion brought forward by Reatile be debated. “This is one of the rare occasions that we find ourselves united with the opposition, or should I say the opposition united with us,” said Masisi.

Masisi’s ally Samson Moyo Guma was vehement in his deliberation, expressing that parliament has the responsibility of ensuring that those who are responsible are held accountable. “We must do our responsibility and ensure that everyone accounts. Parliament should get used to getting everyone accountable including investigating agencies,” he said.

“We cannot allow things to go wrong and watch helplessly hoping others will correct them. What are we going to say to people who elected us? E tlare ba re  raya bare kana go nale mathata re bo re ba raya rere ‘le rona re bona one ao?’” Guma Moyo said parliament should not shy away from its responsibility and should not worry about what others are doing, as long as parliament is doing its job.

Another member who supported Reatile’s motion was acting Minister of Mineral Resources, Energy and Green Technology Prince Maele. Maele even urged Reatile to participate in the proceedings of the PAC that would result consequent to the passing of the motion.

Reatile who is a member of the PAC had offered not to participate in the proceedings to avoid possible conflict of interest as the mover of the motion. Maele was however convinced that there was no conflict of interest since it is part of his job as a legislator.
 Assistant Minister of Local Government and Rural Development Botlogile Tshireletso, and backbencher Polson Majaga also had the opportunity to speak on the floor supporting the motion.

The motion was passed unanimously without a single opposing voice from either side of the aisle. The passing of the motion means that the PAC, which is chaired by Kanye South legislator Abrahm Kesupile will convene urgently to examine the Petroleum Fund books.

Other members of the PAC include Ndaba Gaolathe (Gaborone Bonnington South), Phenyo Butale (Gaborone Central), Pius Mokgware (Gabane-Mankgodi), Moyo Guma (Tati East), Mephato Reatile (Specially Elected), Polson Majaga (Nata-Gweta) Bogolo Kenewendo (Specially Elected), Gilbert Mangole (Mochudi West) as well as Maun East MP Konstantinos Markus.



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