DCEC sniffs out corruption in P280 million train deal
The Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crimes (DCEC) could unearth a major deception by the Botswana Railways (BR) if it can confirm allegations that instead of buying 37 new state of the art passenger coaches, the parastatal repainted the old ones and in some instances fitted second hand bogie components.
Several employees have already been interrogated over the matter at BR Headquarters in Mahalapye, The Botswana Gazette can confirm. Questions raised to employees, BR sources say, concerned issues about the acquisition of 37 passenger train coaches from a South African company, Transnet, and the questionable promotion of an employee who is said to be enjoying favour and protection from top executives at the organization.
While the Minister of Transport and Communications Tshenolo Mabeo is on record assuring the nation that BR has procured brand new state-of-the art coaches for the passenger train scheduled to be re-introduced next month, this publication has gathered that only a few of the coaches are brand new, while the rest have just been refurbished.
Addressing the media recently, Mabeo disclosed that government would spend P280 million on the re-launch of the passenger train, with the bulk of the money planned to be spent on the procurement of state of the art coaches. The passenger train, popularly known as Blue Train, was supposed to have been launched last December but Mabeo attributed the three months delay to “failure of finding suitable suppliers in time”. The Minister had also explained that after the open tender system failed to identify a supplier who could deliver satisfactorily, they then decided to go the selective tendering route. “That is when we managed to get a company suited for the job”, Mabeo said referring to Transnet Engineering. DCEC is understood to have taken interest in the matter after reports of corruption were made to it following allegations that some hands may have been greased during procurement. DCEC, The Botswana Gazette understands, is lurking around the BR Head Office to sniff out any possible corrupt transactions. Reports indicate that the DCEC has confiscated cellphones and laptops belonging to the Chief Executive Officer, Project Manager and Procurement Manager. Their bank accounts are also said to have been checked by the corruption busting agency.
A QUESTIONABLE PROMOTION
Another issue said to be at the centre of DCEC investigations is the unprecedented acceleration of one female employee (NAME WITHELD) who joined the organization as a cook and climbed up the organization’s hierarchy to become a Training Centre Administrator without requisite experience and qualifications. Insiders purport that, so protected is this lady that all employees who have questioned her promotion have either been reprimanded, or summoned for disciplinary hearing.
The Botswana Gazette investigations have established that the woman joined Botswana Railways in 2007 as a Cook. She was later redeployed as Station Attendant in Francistown during the organization’s restructuring in 2014. In January 2015, she was transferred back to Head Office in Mahalapye to act as Registry Clerk, and this was despite the fact that this position was phased out during the 2014 restructuring exercise. The Botswana Railways Workers Union (BRAWU) is said to have raised concern with the Human Resource department during their meetings, questioning why the woman was being paid acting allowance for a position that did not exist in the organization’s structures.
Management’s explanation was that she had been requested to come and assist in the Records Management unit as she was two (2) semesters away from attaining her B.Com Degree. The lady is said to be in her seventh year pursuing this course on part time basis at University of Botswana, and has been failing and repeating it. While she initially sponsored herself for the degree, BR is said to be giving her an advance payment to help her attain the degree.
No explanation was given to the Union as to why preference was given to someone who was still pursuing her studies when the organization already had qualified employees. The woman is said to have continued to enjoy salary grade 8 acting allowance, when the true salary grade for her substantive position, Station Attendant, is 11. Further to that, she was promoted to the position of Training Centre Administrator in absentia when she was on maternity leave mid- September last year.
Excited by the news of her promotion, the woman is said to have sent messages to colleagues saying she had been informed by the Human Capacity Director that she had been promoted. This was even before the Human Resource Department had gotten an official alert on the development.
On learning that the organization’s conditions of service do not permit promotion to an officer who is not on duty, she reportedly cut short her maternity leave and returned to work.
Eager to get her promotion processed, she is said to have gained unauthorised entry into the office of the Organisational Development Officer who was away on sick leave, retrieving her own file and taking it to the Human Capital Manager to expedite her promotion.
This publication can confirm that the position she had been promoted to was never advertised. She also did not provide a medical fitness certificate as is procedure for employees returning from maternity leave. The Botswana Gazette established that the profile for the position of Training Centre
Administrator requires a minimum of a degree in Social Sciences or a related course and three (3) years’ experience in the Human Resources field, all requirements she did not meet when she was appointed
An Industrial Relations officer, one Gloria Moseki, who raised alarm on the matter, has since been slapped with a letter calling her for a disciplinary hearing.
The Botswana Gazette is in possession of a charge sheet from BR, dated February 23, 2016, in which the Human Capital Manager Kgomotso Mahupela is accusing Moseki of “undermining my authority and demonstrating unacceptable conduct by deliberately halting my instructions to process one of the officer’s promotion”.
The charge continues, “You carried out unauthorized investigation behind my back, disregarding my accountability and supervisory role”. Mahupela also accuses Moseki of using unpalatable language towards him. “On the 23rd December you demonstrated unacceptable conduct as you came into my office and using unpalatable, demeaning and derogatory words such as “You are corrupt” and threatened to report me to external higher offices”, reads the charge sheet.
This publication is also in possession of a letter in which Mahupela had also taken to task one Leungo Watson-Ben, Human Capital officer, for delaying the promotion of the woman in question. Another letter the publication has, Mahupela wrote to Watson-Ben demanding to know why she had delayed the woman’s promotion.
The letter reads in part, “Please note that I wish to raise concern that on the morning of the December 23, 2015 you approached myself raising dissatisfaction with regard to the appointment of Mrs…. to the position of Training Centre Administrator and your delay in actioning the appointment. The manner and your approach on the matter was rather surprising and combative”.
The Botswana Gazette also managed to source a letter that was written by Mahupela to the woman in question assuring her that he is investigating some officers “with regard to the manner they have behaved with regard to you being appointed to the position of Training Centre Administrator and your qualifications”. In the letter, Mahupela implores her to furnish him with any information relating to the matter which his office can use to make an informed decision. The lady in question confirmed to this publication on Monday that her promotion is being questioned by some employees but said she was not willing to discuss any further as the matter is being handled by the management.
Reached for comment, Botswana Railways Public Relations and Communications Manager Kebabonye Morewagae could only confirm the DCEC’s ongoing investigations but could not be drawn to shed more light on their terms of reference.
“As custodians of national assets, Botswana Railways expects to be held accountable from time to time, and as such the DCEC investigations should not cause any alarm”, he said.
Morewagae says they are prepared to cooperate with DCEC investigators to clear all allegations levelled against the organization. He also promised that the Blue Train will be launched in March as scheduled.
Efforts to reach DCEC spokespersons were futile as their Public Relations Manager was said to be on an official trip and his mobile phone was off, while the office line went unanswered for two consecutive days.
A questionnaire was also sent to Transnet Engineering’s Media Liaison officer Viwe Tlaleane who The Botswana Gazette understands forwarded it to Botswana Railways. The publication wanted to establish how Transnet Engineering was able to manufacture 37 brand new coaches in a space of 6 months, given that they entered into an agreement with BR only in September 11 last year.