At the heart of the fight is millions contained in the appeal’s First National Bank account number: 622798*65 which government is in the process of closing. Fuelling the controversy is recent and questionable transactions effected in recent times and last-month, Tefo Pheage investigates.
- Khama , Govt claim Presidential housing appeal ownership
- Govt closes ‘co-owned’ appeal FNB account
- Millions to be transferred to new account, Khama refuses
- Questionable account withdrawals made last-month, OP to investigate
- Dada, Tlhalerwa, Paledi tell Khama off
- P64 million spent on houses
The tussle between the Government and the former president Ian Khama over the disputed Presidential Housing Appeal project is about to turn into a messy affair.
At the heart of the fight is millions contained in the appeal’s First National Bank account number: 62279865* which government is in the process of closing. Khama is on record saying the Housing Appeal project was initiated by him and therefore belongs to him while the Office of the President argues that it’s a project like many others under government that was run using state funds and therefore belongs under its auspices. For the past few months, the duo have been in a tug of war over the ownership of the project and its funds/donations estimated to be running into multimillions. The Office of the President (OP) is concerned that under its current status, the fund is susceptible and widely open to abuse, a view also held by Khama. OP has been working around the clock to restore the fund’s “dignity and sanctity” according to the permanent secretary to the president, Carter Morupisi who says they have established a fund order to restore the public’s trust and confidence in the embattled fund. “We are in the process of completing the fund order which will be a detail of everything one needs to know about the fund. This should address a lot of issues most have been complaining of in relation to the fund. It will also make it easy for the auditor general to audit based on what has been written down,” Morupisi said in an interview with this publication. He confirmed that finalization of everything will lead to the closure of the known and disputed First National Bank account number : 62279865*. “We are still in the process of instructing FNB to close that account and all its money or remaining balance will be transferred to the new account,” he said.
When asked on the Ministry of Finance’s role in the whole saga, Morupisi said they are the ones coordinating some processes like making the fund audit-able and transparent. “It’s all about following basic principles of public finance. The plan is to re-arrange and formalize it,” he added.
When reached for comment Khama said “the government could close the account, however it would be best that if they did they return the funds to the donors.”
The move to close the account is expected to open a can of worms. Banks details suggest that there are substantial amounts of money which were withdrawn at the height of the programme dispute, the last transactions made in December 2018.
Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) treasure Satar Dada has distanced himself from the disputed transactions as former signatory to the fund’s account and says he knows that his co-signatory, Brigadier George Tlhalerwa who was Khama’s private secretary is also fighting to be removed. “I have since canceled myself out as a signitory,” Dada said.
Tlhalerwa however said he last signed cheques in December brought to him by Dada. “The money withdrawn was to clear outstanding payments to contractors,” he said. He however declined to share the amount withdrawn and account balance, “that’s information you are not supposed to know.”
Asked about his signatory status in light of the developments and disputes, Tlhalerwa said “I have decided that I am no longer signing any cheques. Those were the last I signed and I have also decided to pull out.”
Khama however says to his knowledge, Tlhalerwa and Dada are still signatories to the account, an assertion disputed by the duo.
A source at the Office of the President said they are likely to investigate withdrawals or deductions which were made in recent times after Khama declared the flagship programme as his. This is after the realization that substantial amounts of money were withdrawn even at the height of the dispute.
Morupisi declined to go into details when asked but said: “It would be unfortunate if such really happened. We are yet to request a bank statement and advise ourselves better on the way forward. We do not want to be making wild uninformed accusations,” he said, but promised that “if anything untoward has been identified action will obviously be taken.”
Khama could not provide an answer on the bank balance when asked how much was left in the bank account.
Tlhalerwa and Dada were left as signatories when the other two, Paul Paledi and Duke Masilo resigned last year. Paledi confirmed his resignation but said he did not want to discuss his resignation. “I resigned in July last year. My reasons remain personal,” he said.
In March last year Duke Masilo told a “Leaving No One Behind’ themed international conference in Gaborone in his documented presentation that “after conceptualization of the initiative HE the president Khama appointed a board of three men to manage it. The two gentlemen-Dada and Paledi are serving on a purely voluntary basis while the third one-Tlhalerwa gained membership by virtue of his employment as the Senior Private Secretary to the President then.”
Paledi was once in business with the Khamas and co-owned Monak Ventures with President Ian Khama’s younger brother Tshekedi. Monak Ventures holds a mining license surrounding the BK11 Mine area. He confirmed this and says they sold the venture last year. Paledi was also once former BDP deputy treasurer and former chairman of the fund raising committee. He is credited for among other things, successfully securing donor agencies and leading a fund raising team that arranged former president Sir Ketumile Masire’s farewell party. He was in 2013 charged with corruption by DCEC. The charges were however later dropped because “two critical witnesses were not available.”
The fourth member, Colonel Masilo appointed towards the end of 2012 once served as senior private secretary to Khama before he was redeployed to the Poverty Eradication programme in September 2012.
Tlhalerwa, Dada, Paledi tell Khama off…
Leaked information suggests during his presidency, Khama had a meeting with Paledi, Tlhalerwa and Dada where he expressed his intention to leave with the presidential housing appeal upon stepping down. The trio allegedly stood their ground and bluntly told Khama off. They told him that they will not be partaking in such a move and threatened to resign as committee members.
When approached with these facts, Dada confirmed the meeting, “it is true that we held such a meeting and we expressed our views to the then president Khama. It was our collective view that the initiative was of government and not an individual but he didn’t listen,” he said.
The Presidential Housing Appeal was established to support the National Policy on Destitute Persons (2002) and the Revised Housing Policy of 1999.The latter places an obligation on District/Town Councils to provide basic shelter for destitute persons and to budget accordingly. Those eligible were destitute persons, the vulnerable and those under extreme poverty. A house was built on average at around P80 000 and the board leaves behind a legacy of around over 800 houses. They are however worried that their legacy may be eclipsed by Khama’s attitude and irrational demands.
Asked on his way forward, Khama said his National Housing Appeal is being reformatted to separate it from the OP, “A new trust is being registered as we speak to enable the good work that was being done to help house the needy in Botswana,” he said.