BERA rots from the head

Nicholas Mokwena BG reporter
Monday, 29 October 2018
Rose Seretse Rose Seretse

Many questions still remain unanswered regarding corporate governance at Botswana Energy Regulatory Authority (BERA).It was revealed during examination of books of accounts by the Parliamentary Committee on Statutory Bodies and State Enterprises that a waiver for a petrol filling station was controversially awarded by the regulator after the board rejected the request by the board chairman.

BERA is responsible for providing an efficient energy regulatory framework for Electricity, Gas, Coal, Petroleum products, Solar and all forms of renewable energy. It was established through the Botswana Energy Regulatory Act 2016 and started its operations on the 1st of September, 2017.

BERA has eight Board members of whom four are permanent. BERA Chairperson Bernard Ndove told the committee that indeed he once got a call from “someone in high authority” that there is a complaint from someone who has put up infrastructure for a petrol filling station but BERA was delaying to issue the licence. According to the chairman a waiver was issued because the complainant indicated that he is already losing financially while he is ready to operate.

 This was also confirmed by Chief Executive Officer Rose Seretse. Seretse however highlighted that the waiver was not issued to just that particular complainant. “We looked at all the applications that we had that we have delayed to act on. We then proceeded to issue a waiver for all those applicants whom we had delayed to give them licenses,” she told the committee.

In a twist of events Board Member Sidney Mogapi who is responsible for electricity revealed that no waiver was issued. Mogapi who is a full-time member of the board said, “The chairperson wrote to all of us board members regarding the request for the waiver.
“As board members we advised the chairperson that he could not do that. The waiver never occurred. We vehemently rejected the request as board members.

I think the CEO’s recollection is foggy.” This was denied by Seretse who posited that her recollection is not foggy and insisted that the waiver was issued and ratified by the board.She said the waiver was for several applicants whose applications were not attended to in time. She pointed out that the board delayed to meet and look at the licence applications.

Mogapi stood his ground that the issuance of the waiver was in contravention of the BERA Act. “The licenses were issued illegally. It was a miscarriage of duty because it was not supposed to happen,” said Mogapi.Another controversial issue that cropped up was the appointment of CEO, Chief Operations Officer, Finance Director and Human Resources Director.

Seretse, Ndove and Human Resources Director Nnosang Mhutsiwa could not state for a fact if the posts were advertised or Ndove headhunted and handpicked officers occupying those positions. This was after the committee Chairman Samson Guma sought clarity on whether the posts were advertised or not.

Guma would later put it to them that the posts were not advertised and if he is wrong they should provide proof to the contrary. He also asked the board chairman if he would resign if it is discovered that indeed he headhunted the officials and not advertised the posts. Mhutsiwa promised to go and look for such information and present it to the committee.

In June this year BERA Board suspended the chief operations officer (COO) Duncan Morotsi over the alleged improper appointment of a consultant from Tanzania to the Authority. According to the letter dated June 11, 2018, the suspension follows a preliminary report by a commission of inquiry team constituted by the BERA Board.

It discovered that there might have been impropriety in the engagement of Edwin Kiddiffu. Morotsi was suspended to allow for investigations. Guma also questioned why the investigations were being carried by BERA internally. He wondered how BERA could investigate itself. However, Seretse revealed that Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC) is also engaged in the investigations.

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