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Did Kebonang approve unlawful NPF transactions

Publishing Date : 10 April, 2018

Author : UTLWANANG GASENNELWE

The controversial National Petroleum Fund which is currently at the centre of dispute at the courts in the ongoing biggest financial scandal in the country has not been audited for two years.


The shocking revelation by the Ministry of Mineral Resources, Green Technology and Energy Security came to the fore at a Public Accounts Committee (PAC) special meeting this week. The PAC is meeting with the sole purpose of reviewing the Funds, with key interest on the fund order and the financial years under review are 2016/2017 and part of 2018. Acting Permanent Secretary and Accounting Officer in the Ministry Dr. Obolokile Obakeng was summoned to give evidence before the committee.


When he started during examination he apologized for the non submission of the said audited financial statements for the two years. “I would like to tender my apologies for the late submission of financial statements for the same years for inclusion in the Auditors Report,” he highlighted. This is, he said was “due to the findings from the audit that leads to a number of issues that the former Manager could not address adequately; and more importantly, the issue of a figure of 2 027 279 (two million, twenty seven thousand, two hundred and seventy nine) that was not properly accounted for”.


He added: “we would like to tell this committee that we have since recovered the funds.” After he highlighted, PAC committee member Guma Moyo interjected to ask the accounting officer what he meant that the money had been ‘recovered.’ “The 2 million was not stolen; it just meant that they could not account for it adequately. It was not appropriately accounted for. It was missing. So in the end they had to pay that amount of money. The 2 million is interest due to government.”  


Another committee member Dithapelo Keorapetse also asked if an audit query on the 2 million on the previous financial statements is reason enough to stop financial statements for 2 full years, adding that he thought it was a flimsy reason. “Yes, with explanation,” the Acting Permanent Secretary responded, amidst murmurs from the shocked PAC committee members.


Keorapetse then turned to the Auditor General who was present at the meeting for assistance. “They could have at least produced something,” the Auditor general advised in few words. “The non submission is in violation of the law in particular the NPF order and the Public Finance Management Fund,” the Auditor General stressed to the committee.


According to Keorapetse, who in cognizant of the advice from the Auditor general, stated to the Accounting Officer: “the reasons you are giving this committee on your delay are inadequate. When dealing with government ministries, the Auditor General always has some issues she raises, but this does not allow them to withhold financial statements. It is unreasonable and unacceptable. You can’t sit for 2 years without financial statements.”   


The fuming Keorapetse attracted Moyo who chipped in to tell Dr. Obakeng the reason he was giving the committee should have not stopped the preparation of the accounts, adding that the accounts should have reflected that there was 2 million due to government.
On his part the Attorney General in the meeting also made an emphasis that submission of the audited financial statements is a “requirement of the law”.


Dr. Obakeng said as at 7 November 2017, the NPF had only two NPF accounts with Stanbic Bank, which are a call account, and a current account. At a later time he said there was also a corporate account which was opened for grant money that was coming from “somewhere” but it never was credited any funds since it was opened.


The Acting Permanent Secretary further said there was also a call account opened at Stanbic Bank to assist with the purchase of fuel from Mozambique which has since been closed as well. Essentially, all accounts which were held with Stanbic have since been closed, he pointed out to the PAC committee. However the accounting officer stated that he was not in a position to reveal the exact funds in other accounts when they closed adding that he may assist the committed with them at a later stage.


“But all the funds were since moved to First National Bank in 2017. The funds were somewhere in the region of 700 million pula when they were transferred.” In terms of the current account at FNB, he said it is essentially a transactional account and carries a zero balance, and that the call account is an interest earning account, with the balance at 4 million. He also said there is a merchant bank account which is sitting at 1 million pula.


“There is another below the line account opened at Bank of Botswana; funds were transferred there to deal with the issues currently before courts so as to protect the public funds. Currently, as at 26 March 2018, the account balance is 97 million pula,” he said.

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