No Effort will be made to Recover Money ‘stolen’ from COVID-19 Relief Fund – PSP

Unlike the Financial Intelligence Agency and the Auditor General, the government does not think enough money was stolen to justify a recovery effort


No process to recover funds money ‘misappropriated’ from the COVID-19 Relief Fund will be instituted as no criminal activities have been established against anyone. This came to light in an interview with the Permanent Secretary to the President, Emma Peloetletse, this week.

“The Auditor General’s report was scrutinised after release and a process to implement the recommendations was underway but no decision to recover the funds unduly paid to some officers will take place because we don’t think there was any theft or glaring misappropriation as some claim,” Peloetlese told The Botswana Gazette.

A Financial Intelligence Agency (FIA) report and the Auditor General’s report have found that during the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic, some officers received money and allowances which they should not have received.


Criminal scams
According to the FIA report titled “Guidance Note for Detection of COVID-19-related Crimes” that this publication has seen, FIA was able to identify various criminal activities in which criminals engaged in scams to access the COVID-19 Relief Fund.
The report noted that the funds may have been inappropriately used to pay for items that have no benefit(s) to help stop the spread of COVID-19.

FIA said emergency procurement of PPEs (personal protection equipment) and other healthcare supplies created an opportunity for corrupt public officials to abuse their powers to circumvent laid down procurement processes for their personal gain.

The agency said some businesses took COVID-19 loans from the government but diverted the money to fund other projects outside the country. According to FIA, some companies created ghost employees to increase wage subsidy claims while directors/shareholders in private companies who are at the same time employed as government officials claimed the wage subsidy, thereby double dipping from the COVID-19 aid.


Red flags
The agency said it has identified the financial red flag indicators aimed at alerting financial institutions to potential fraud, corruption and theft related to COVID-19 relief funds.

The former Director General of FIA, Dr Abraham Sethibe, recently told The Botswana Gazette that law enforcement agencies and the Directorate of Public Prosecutions (DPP) should act on the report of the 2021 Auditor General’s (AG) Report which found that substantial amounts of money from the COVID-19 Relief Fund was embezzled.

“The law provides for recovery even without conviction,” Sethibe said. “The essence or reason for Anti-Money Laundering/Combating the Financing of Terrorism (AML/CFT) system is that no one should be allowed to benefit from proceeds of crime.”

“The Proceeds and Instrument of Crime Act empowers the law enforcement agencies together with DPP to act.”