Fired for ‘denying’ guma’s company millions?

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  • Employee accuses Guma’s partner of threatening her
  • ‘‘I know nothing about the threats’’- Guma
  • ‘‘You are going to be the fall girl’’- sms sent to employee
  • Employee says Guma’s company didn’t meet loan requirements
  • Ministry officials keeping the issue away from Minister Kenewendo

SONNY SERITE

An employee in the Structured Finance Department at Citizen Entrepreneurial Development Agency (CEDA) has been expelled from work for ‘‘misconduct on duty likely to bring discredit upon CEDA’’, this after she allegedly frustrated the approval of a loan submitted by United Refineries Botswana (URB) Pty Ltd, a company owned by Member of Parliament Samson Guma Moyo, Mmoloki Tibe, Tiedze Chapi, Nimesh Shamani and CEDA as part of shareholders.
The Botswana Gazette is in possession of documents and a trail of email and SMS communication detailing how the Portfolio Executive at CEDA ended up being the ‘fall girl’ in a loan application that unlike others had the CEDA management tripping over each other to ensure was attended to in less than the set turnaround time, without all the required paperwork. In the dismissal letter dated 26th February 2018 and signed by CEDA Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Thabo Thamane, the employee is informed that ‘‘CEDA has decided to terminate your contract of employment immediately with one (1) month’s salary in lieu of notice.’’
Interestingly, a month before she was dismissed from work, the employee had written to her supervisor, Head of Structured Finance James Moribame on 10th January 2018, complaining of intimidation and threats made by one of URB Directors Mmoloki Tibe. ‘‘It is with great discomfort and unease that I approach your esteemed office to register the abovementioned complaint. However, I find myself in the unfortunate position that I have since experienced disturbing occurrences that force me to come to the fore and formally lodge this complaint,’’ the dismissed female employee wrote in the letter to her boss.
She indicated that following the submission of an application for further funding of P7.5 million by United Refineries Botswana (URB) she had received a series of short message service (SMS) communication from Tibe pertaining to his dissatisfaction with the treatment of their application.
One of the alleged messages from Tibe reads, ‘‘All of you in structured finance were sleeping on this transaction to be honest. I sent an email to the 3 of you on the 14th November. all of you received my mail because I tracked it…! No one can claim having not received that mail. It’s chaotic and Thabo needs to sort this…!’’
Another SMS purported to be from Tibe reads, ‘‘If Thabo get (sic) embarrassed tomorrow because of all this mess…you are going to be a ‘fall girl’. You may not care… but you need reference for your future.’’
The message continues, ‘‘Finally reflect on what I have said carefully and don’t say I didn’t warn you…I know how people think. In my book you dropped the ball and you are going to pay for it.’’
The messages show that the employee responded to Tibe as follows, ‘‘Tibe get your facts right. I am not a small girl to be intimidated by anyone. Please if you will if you have any complaints you know where to take them.’’
According to information contained in a 13-page letter of appeal against her dismissal and addressed to the CEDA Board Chairman Dr Alfred Tsheboeng, the employee raises concerns about how her disciplinary hearing was handled.  She indicates that she was given only one working day within which to prepare for the hearing, contrary to CEDA’s Conditions of Service, section [19.4.1. (b)] which reads, “An employee facing a Disciplinary Hearing shall be given 5 days’ notice of the time and place the employer intends holding a disciplinary enquiry.” She said at the commencement of her hearing, she had requested to be allowed to audio-record the proceedings and while the Employee Relations Advisor noted that CEDA’s conditions of service are silent in the matter of recording devices during hearings, the panel refused to grant her the permission to record the proceedings.
She revealed that she received, via email, a submission on the 14th November 2017 around close of business, from URB, and that during her preliminary discussion with her supervisor (Moribame) the next day- pertaining to the URB loan application, had highlighted a number of issues that required guidance following her initial checklist of the application ‘‘especially given the fact that there is no clear investment strategy that has been formally communicated.
The employee indicated that she was being victimized for questioning the loan application from URB despite the fact that she had provided reasons for her apprehension of the loan application. She noted that the application did not include a Board Resolution requesting further funding. ‘‘This is a standard requirement for all applications to CEDA and according to its checklist guidelines.’’ She indicated that in their application, URB had made representations that it had effectively diluted CEDA from a 40 percent equity stake to 18 percent and as such she had indicated to her supervisor, Moribame, that they would require a board resolution and accompanying proof of payments of their contributions and usage of funds, valuation documentation and assurance from the URB’s Company Secretary that the dilution is in alignment and adherence with the prescribed clauses of dilution in the Subscription and Shareholders Agreement between CEDA and URB as well as CEDA’s formal forfeiture of its right of refusal of its shares to Samson Guma Moyo.
The sacked employee had also raised issue with the non-availability and submission of signed board minutes of URB since its inaugural board meeting in 2012 as required by the Shareholders Agreement between CEDA and URB.  In the appeal papers, the sacked employee raises her concerns on the technical insolvency position of URB. ‘‘The company as evidenced by communication from Botswana Development Company (BDC) instructing its lawyers to recall its financial interest in the company as well as its inability to date of making any payment to CEDA notwithstanding our exposure of over BWP40 million is a good candidate for insolvency as defined in the Botswana Company’s Act. The act goes on to dictate that the directors of the company must file for liquidation once they become knowledgeable of the insolvency [that is, when its liabilities exceed its assets, and/or, when the company is unable to meet its financial obligation as and when they become due]’’, the sacked Portfolio Executive wrote in her appeal.
Further, she noted that the company has, since its inception in 2012, not submitted any audited financials despite the fact that CEDA has a total financial interest in the company at present exceeding BWP40 million. ‘‘I noted to Mr Moribame that the financials that had been submitted [March 2015/2016] as audited were only signed off by the Directors, namely Mr Mmoloki Tibe and Mr Thabo Thamane, whilst the responsible auditing firms, Mazars, had not signed the financials off,’’ the employee further notes.
The employee mentions how she was put under pressure to work on URB loan application to the extent she had to hastily make arrangements for her two-year old daughter and use her own transport to travel to Francistown to meet the Director of URB regarding the loan application.  ‘‘However, my visit was made in good faith of attempting to expedite the commencement and appraisal of the project. Kindly also let me put it on record that according to my understanding an application given to us in Structured Finance has a turnaround of three weeks,’’ she appealed.
Responding through CEDA Head of Marketing and Communications Anno Tshipa, Board Chairman Dr Tsheboeng said he was notified by the District Labour Office that the concerned employee has lodged a dispute with the District Labour Office. He said CEDA will accordingly appear at the District Labour Office on 21st May 2018 for a mediation hearing as the process supersedes any internal process that the employee may have initiated for recourse.
Guma Moyo said in an interview on Monday that he cannot comment on issues involving CEDA employees as he is not part of the organisation’s management. He however raised concern with latest media reports revealing financial information about his company and said they have since engaged their lawyers to look into the matter because it violates their confidentiality as CEDA clients. ‘‘The painful part is that the published information is incorrect and defamatory,’’ he said. He said he was constraint to delve much into the issue as it was now being handled by company lawyers.
For his part, Tibe denied ever sending threats to the concerned employee. ‘‘I’m just a nobody and even if I had threatened her the threats would be inconsequential because I have no authority over CEDA management and I cannot influence how they deal with their employees,’’ Tibe said, further revealing that in any case the loan they were applying for was never approved.  He admitted that while he has exchanged messages with the said employee in the past, it was only on professional basis and no threats were ever made. ‘‘If I wielded such powers over CEDA management, I would have simply bulldozed them to avail the funds without going the tedious route of submitting an application,’’ the Managing Director of URB said in a telephone interview on Monday.
Information gathered by this publication shows that after her appeal was not responded to by the Board Chairman, the disgruntled employee escalated the matter to Minister of Trade and Industry Bogolo Kenewendo’s office. Meanwhile, Kenewendo, whose portfolio covers CEDA, told this publication that she has not been made aware of the issue and asked to be furnished with the documents, which this publication duly submitted for her perusal.

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