The Chief Executive Officer and some board members of the Copyright Society of Botswana (COSBOTS) are implicated in possible funds mismanagement.According to a document The Botswana Gazette has seen authored by COSBOTS Legal Advisor Pearl Mahlala, a series of activities conducted within the organization, like the royalties collection contract, could raise suspicions of wrongdoing and mismanagement of funds if relevant law enforcement authorities are notified.
“Previously there was an instruction given by the CEO to the Documentation & Distribution Manager to review the performance of OnQuest (Pty) Ltd and to find out if the company really adds value to COSBOTS,” states the legal opinion authored on 2nd August 2016. This is despite the company continuing to be paid P150, 000-00 a month, an amount the legal adviser calls “ridiculous” even as the company was “failing to meet its obligations under the agreement signed by the parties”. She said it also did not “make economic sense” that OnQuest (Pty) Ltd was paid 30% or more of what COSBOTS distributes its members.
She pointed out that the company was failing to provide reports that can help COSBOTS distribute money from broadcasters, and that only royalties from the Department of Broadcasting Services (DBS) were being distributed and not those from private broadcasters.Despite repeated enquiries by this newspaper to him, the CEO, Thato Mokobi has failed to respond. A questionnaire was sent to him on 17th November.
It is however alleged Mokobi, despite having seen the leaked report in question, did not share it with management, let alone act on it. Mhlala went on to challenge management to provide a copy of the ‘unclear and ambiguous’ agreement between COSBOTS and OnQuest (Pty) Ltd for proper scrutiny.
He is also criticized in the report for failing to seek the authorization of members to buy COSBOTS a building. This is despite over P3 million having been set aside for such use.
According to Mhlala, COSBOTS was also in the habit of giving the public, board and stakeholders “wrong information regarding what has been collected and distributed. Already management claims to have distributed more than what it has actually distributed. COSBOTS management must desist from this conduct and only communicate correct and relevant information to the public,” she warned.
She also said that by spending over 30% of the Admin Fees/Costs, management was not serving interests of members. This information, she pointed out, could open flood gates of litigation when copyright owners demand their royalties.
“The board has previously authorized management to purchase a vehicle for the CEO. A deposit was to be paid and the balance to be liquidated over a period of 36 months or 48 months. However, this was not done, instead the whole amount for the purchase of the CEO’s vehicle was paid,” Mhala further revealed. “It’s worth pointing out that management cannot spend more than it is distributing, the amount of P430, 000-00 for the purchase of the CEO’s vehicle was quite significant considering the fact that it was equivalent to what was being distributed at the time,” she wrote.
Contacted for comment, Mokobi said he knew the legal opinion authored by Mahlala. “I have not been in a position to give you answers on this matter because as you know am implicated as the CEO and there were investigations carried out which have since been completed and a report was made available. I am not at liberty to share the details of the report unless with the permission of the Chairman, but all I can say for now is to assure you that the matter is complete,” he said.
For his part, the Chairman Solomon Monyame explained that the issue was an internal matter and they could not share any information with the media, including the contents of the current report from the investigation team.
“It is correct that after the legal opinion there was a thorough investigation into the matter and they are complete. But by virtue of this being an internal matter we can’t share any more information on the report; It has been made available to other members of the Board and our supervisors,” he said.