Says his former Acting PS, Dr. Obakeng is “not honest”
I was never involved in the fund (NPF) because it was run by the PS
Billions of Pula might have been illegally siphoned out of National Petroleum Fund (NPF) given the way things are done, says former minister at Mineral Resources, Green Technology and Energy Security, Advocate Sadique Kebonang.
Advocate Kebonang made the revelations this week during Parliamentary Public Accounts Committee (PAC) probe on the NPF. The former minister stated that the history of the NPF Fund Order shows that it has never been properly followed. Advocate Kebonang stated that funds from the NPF could have been lost even before he joined the ministry in October 2016.
The Lobatse Member of Parliament took a swipe at former Acting Permanent Secretary in the Ministry Dr. Obolokile Obakeng for failing the ministry. He indicated that Dr Obakeng has failed the NPF, as he did not hold any meetings as the chairman of the NPF Management Committee.
He said the PS did not ensure that as per the Fund Order the management was constituted by the right people. He was answering a question from PAC member Ndaba Gaolathe who is also MP for Gaborone Bonnington South. The MP wanted to know if “billions or let us say P1 billion or P2 billion could have been leaked out of the Fund because the Fund has been porous”.
Gaolathe also wanted to know how this could have been the case if Advocate Kebonang was a hands-on minister as he had earlier claimed to have been. It was also revealed at the hearing that there are no guidelines on how funds should be disbursed from the NPF.
“The problem with Government is that when you ask questions and start sniffing around as minister, people start saying you are corrupt. They would say you want to give confidential information to a third party. That is the problem with our public service. The NPF Management Committee has been dysfunctional.
“I never met the committee which at the time of my arrival at the ministry I suppose was there because I was never asked to appoint the committee. I think things got out of hand because the committee failed to advise the fund managers. I have never been involved in the NPF management, people are shifting blame,” said Advocate Kebonang.
The former minister dismissed evidence by Dr Obakeng that he (minister) put him under pressure to agree to the variation of the P230 million given to Directorate of Intelligence and Security Services (DIS). Dr Obakeng told the committee that he acceded to the request by DIS because the minister put him under pressure and was afraid of losing his job and concerned about the security threat of the country as stated in the letter from DIS.
“When the letter from DIS asking for variation arrived, I was out of office. My secretary called me and informed me that I have a letter from DIS and is very urgent. I asked her to open it and read it to me. I told her to take it to the PS. I asked the PS about his thoughts on the request, he agreed that there is nothing wrong and said he would get on it. I only learnt later that even such a letter was addressed to the PS and not me.
“I had no reason to second guess the request by DIS because DIS is another government department which deals with security matters and what they do with the money is up to them. Whether they followed proper procurement process or not is for them to answer. I also did not find it wrong to agree to the variation of the funds because at that time the funds were already with the DIS,” he said adding the statement by Dr. Obakeng is unfortunately false.
He said he was never involved in the fund because it was run by the PS who was responsible for appointing the fund managers Basis Point in October 2015 a time which he (Kebonang) was still at Ministry of Trade and Industry.
To support his arguments against his former PS Advocate Kebonang produced letters and minutes which he said the PS failed to produce to the PAC because he is not honest. “People come here, say they are under duress and hide information from you. Some of the things that were said here are outrageous.
“According to minutes of the committee they last met on 8th November 2016 and was mainly constituted by officials from Energy Affairs Department. The Fund Order indicates that the committee should have officials from my ministry, ministry of finance and a bank Managing Director.
“One other thing I have to highlight is that according to the minutes of the committee of March 9th 2016 it was agreed that the fund managers in terms of investment should target Choppies Store, Wilderness Safaris, insurance companies and properties. I do not know if any investment has been made in that regard. If you do not have the right person to be in charge of the fund money would be lost. I was never briefed on the investment.”
The MP stated that according to the Fund Order the PS has to manage the NPF but says nothing about qualifications. He said this position might need someone with the necessary skills and knowledge. He further explained that Dr. Obakeng was involved in many boards of parastatals and at most instances during briefing of (minister) he would be briefed by directors because the PS would not be available.
He said in various correspondences between them there is no mention of the minister but just between the PS, DIS Director General Isaac Kgosi and Khulacho Pty Ltd Managing Director Bakang Seretse. He said Dr Obakeng, Seretse and Kenneth Kerekang went on benchmarking trip but as the minister he was never told the details because half the time he was never briefed.
He said DIS has indicated that it is in consultation with Finance Ministry to reimburse the funds transferred to DIS through Khulacho following a directive by Cabinet that the P230 million be returned as per the resolution of the meeting of February 7th 2018. DIS boss Isaac Kgosi is expected to appear before the PAC next week.