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Kebonang exposes BERA Dirty Secrets

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  • Points to breach in disclosure of confidential ministerial/DCEC declarations
  • BERA chief exec Seretse suspends entire BERA financial unit,
  • Officers hit back with allegations of high tax evation
  • Masisi asked to intervene
  • Ministry commences BERA Commission of Enquiry

TEFO PHEAGE

President Mokgweetsi Masisi has been roped into the unraveling mess at Botswana Energy Regulatory Authority (BERA) through a hard-hitting letter penned by former Minister of Minerals and Energy, Sadique Kebonang, in which he accuses the CEO of BERA, Rose Seretse, of using privilege and secret ministerial declarations to settle personal scores with her staff.
Kebonang made certain declarations to President Masisi as a minister but they have since become a topic of discussion at BERA.

Kebonang’s letter, which has been copied to Masisi for action, was prompted by a thrill-a-minute tussle between BERA leadership and four of the entity’s employees in the financial department who are at loggerheads with Seretse and BERA’s Chief Operations Officer (COO) Duncan Morotsi. The four have been suspended pending disciplinary hearings but have since launched a brutal war against the leadership in which they ascribe their suspensions to their refusal to accede to corrupt and outrageous demands by their two leaders.

On 3 February 2020, the finance department officers wrote a letter to the ministry’s Permanent Secretary, Mmetla Masire, detailing alleged corrupt activities and abuse of office by the CEO and the COO. They allege that Seretse does not pay tax on benefits in kind, has two day and night security guards, alarm monitoring and spends time excessively outside the provisions of her contract.

“The CEO is entitled to benefits in kind such as home furnishing amounting to P600,000 as well as car, P1.4 million, school fees allowance, security and petrol. In her first tax year of employment-2017/18 the CEO has refused to pay tax on these and when the issue was brought to her attention she threatened to dismiss (us). BERA had to pay P99 000 to cover these tax shortfalls. This constitutes additional income to her. The CEO has not reimbursed the organization for these payments,” reads the four suspended officers’ letters filed before the courts.

They further accuse Seretse of double and unlawful benefits. “The CEO is paid not only a car allowance but has been provided with a car which is valued at (P1, 423,000.00),” they allege, adding that it was styled “special duty allowance” to hide the dishonesty.

Regarding Seretse’s home security, the four say although she “is entitled to home security and alarm monitoring she insists and has had 2 day guard and 2 night guards, when this is not provided for in her contract of employment and has not been approved by the minister or the board”.

The four allege further that their “CEO flouts all processes when it comes to things that benefit her directly”, adding that “she caused her computer to be fixed at a cost in excess of P10,000 without following any procurement process”.

They continue: “The CEO has insisted that she must have additional orange flybox Internet, a back-up at a cost of about P4,000 per annum when she already had one that was paid by the authority. Another classic case of double benefit.”

They allege in their letters that there is a plot to relocate BERA from Lobatse to Gaborone in an effort to “conceal and avoid accounting for the P12.2 million that was used for office refurbishment and resultant losses to BERA”. The new board, they say, has requested a report on this refurbishment and the CEO has instructed them to respond to the internal assessment comments in a manner that exonerates her. They say they have rejected this instruction, hence their suspension.

The four further allege that the former DCEC director general, Seretse, was once investigated by DCEC in relation to BERA irregularities but meddled with the investigations. They say she directed them to forward all their responses to her before submitting them to DCEC because she wanted to vet their answers and remove anything that might implicate her.

About the Chief Operations Officer, Morotsi, the suspended employees allege in March 2018, the COO, with Seretse’s approval, personally procured and purchased a Demo Volvo worth P685,000 for himself notwithstanding payment of a car allowance to him. This procurement was done without the board’s approval.

Meanwhile, lawyers acting for the four, Gaaboi Attorneys have informed the Permanent Secretary Masire that Seretse and Morotsi have boasted to their clients that they enjoy his and the minister’s protection and are therefore untouchable.

“It may be necessary to subpoena you in the course of the proceedings before the industrial court to hear your position relating to the ongoings and financial mismanagement at BERA and the steps the ministry have taken to address them,” Plato Gaaboi of Gaaboi Attorneys warned the PS by letter.

Masire has confirmed receiving the notice and said the matter was before the board. Seretse said she is aware of the issues but would not comment. Her camp, however, tasked this publication to establish why the four only decided to “spill the beans” at the time of their disciplinary hearings. “Where has this information been all along?” they asked.

Kebonang takes on Rose Seretse
On 27 January 2020, Kebonang wrote a letter titled “Ministerial Declarations to the President” to Seretse excoriating her for her conduct for disclosing the information for personal gain. “A purported declaration made by me whilst Minister some time in 2017, copied to you in your capacity as DCEC director has been brought to my attention,” Kebonang wrote. “The purported declaration is being used by you in some disciplinary proceedings against one Chawada Machacha. You should know from your previous position as DCEC director that ministerial declarations to the President unless authorized by the President or through a court order cannot be disclosed under any circumstances. These are confidential state documents.”

Kebonang further says he has made declarations in respect of Rose Seretse, his uncle Duncan Morotsi and his sister-in-law Chawada Machacha who is also close to Kebonang. “The declarations remain confidential government information between a minister and the President. Anything short of this is a violation of the oath of secrecy as it pertains to government documents and communications, an oath we both took in our previous positions in government,” he said.

Documents seen by this publication indicate that the matter is now before the courts as the four employees are seeking to interdict the hearing process.

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