In tracking where the P4 billion missing from Government coffers could have disappeared to The Patriot on Sunday quizzed Bank of Botswana officials who flatly denied involvement and pointed to the Ministry of Finance. Responsible minister Kenneth Matambo this week could not offer much but declared that the missing money could be part of the money looted from the National Petroleum Fund (NPF), saying the full truth shall emerge as the case unfolds in court. Fresh allegations have emerged that DISS was drawing P5m a month from some BoB account on grounds that it was to be used ‘for operations’.
Botswana government is running helter-skelter to recover billions of Pula which have allegedly been syphoned from Bank of Botswana held Government accounts. The Auditor General had in the 2016/17 annual report discovered that “debits of P4 933 156 857 in its remittances account which is the main government account at the Bank of Botswana” could not be accounted for.
The Auditor General has since instructed Government to investigate where the missing money has gone to; rendering a qualified audit opinion of the account. This was primarily because “verifications of cash and bank balances as at March 2017 had shown weaknesses and shortcomings in the reconciliations and monitoring of the accounts making up the year-end totals.”
However Bank of Botswana has flatly denied that any money has left the Pula Fund without following set procedures and that the Fund has now been depleted.
BoB denies involvement
Responding to questions from The Patriot on Sunday, the bank’s Communications Manager Mareledi Selabe denied that there was money missing from the Pula Wealth Fund.
“There is no money missing in any of the Bank of Botswana accounts. Therefore, your statement is baseless and it is not true. The Pula Fund is held on the asset side of the Bank of Botswana statement of financial position as part of the foreign exchange reserves and is subject to rigorous accounting and auditing standards,” she said in her response.
Selabe vehemently denied that DISS has withdrawn some money directly from the fund.
“The Bank wishes to advise that any payment instructions out of Government accounts held at the Bank of Botswana, for and on behalf of any Government Department or agency are issued by the Office of Accountant General in the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development,” she responded, passing the buck to the parent ministry.
This partly explains why the Botswana Congress Party (BCP) leader, Dumelang Saleshando recently called for Finance Minister Kenneth Matambo’s arrest over the missing billions. It has been claimed that as much as P4 billion is missing from Government accounts.
In response to the alleged missing money, Minister of Finance and Economic Development Kenneth Matambo said that he was aware of the missing money from government coffers.
“The money is in relation to the National Petroleum Fund and the matter is before the courts of law and hopefully the truth will come out,” he said.
Matambo, who was economical with the information, said investigations are continuing and everything is before the law enforcers. He refused to state whether the paper trail pointed to the DISS.
A highly authoritative source has intimated that some of the money trail has led to the Directorate of Intelligence and Security Services (DISS).
From 2016 to 2018 DISS is alleged to have withdrawn P5 million every month from the fund. The only reason raised for the transfer of the funds was ‘for operations’. The money transferred to the DISS accounts are said to be nowhere to be found and are not accounted for, making it difficult for the current regime to trace it.
“One thing that is making it difficult to trace the money and what it could have been used to procure is that there has never been inventory done at DISS,” revealed the source.
In 2017, the Natural Resource Governance Institute (NRGI) raised a concern on how Botswana government is managing Pula Fund.
NRGI raised concern that although the Pula Fund through its investments and financials are audited and reviewed by Parliament, its deposit and withdrawal rules and practices were worrisome.
NRGI observed that recently money withdrawn from the fund was shrouded in secrecy with no information given for its purpose.
Appearing before the Public Accounts Committee last year, the head of DISS Peter Magosi revealed that he has nothing to fall on as a new leader of the agency in terms on the inventory as there were no records. Since its establishment, DISS has never been audited, making it difficult for them to do inventory.
“Our main challenge is that surveillance equipment and weapons of war procured outside the country are missing and we don’t know how many were bought. The only solution is to go to the companies where these were procured and ask how many were procured from them,” he revealed.
Part of the recent raid by security agents led by DISS at the various residential properties and farms of former spy chief Isaac Kgosi was allegedly to find documents that could lead them to where the money or equipment procured using the funds were.
In an interview with the media recently Magosi said they were satisfied with the raids and had found some of the things they wanted.
It is not the first time that DISS has been accused of using money that has not been allocated to it. Office of the President accounting officers are often at pains when they appear before the PAC to account to why DISS has often used money allocated to the Disaster Management Fund. This often renders the Disaster Management Department helpless when they have to raise resources to deal with new disasters.
Since the issue of the National Petroleum Fund (NPF) looting and money laundering case, fund managers engaged by Botswana Public Officers Pensions Fund (BPOPF) are allegedly finding it difficult to place such funds off shore because international investors are uncomfortable with money from Botswana as it has been classified as a high risk country, which is also labeled as a ‘tax haven’. Minister Matambo has admitted this and said they hope to be removed from the list as they have now put legal framework.
“We have been doing some reforms on loopholes on financial landscape and yes it is true we have been assessed and found to have weaknesses in laws preventing terrorism and money laundering,” confirmed Matambo. He said there are some who feel that though Botswana has come up with law reforms, the effect of the law is not felt.