Drama unfolded on Wednesday morning when former Botswana Meat Commission (BMC) Financial Advisor Siva Ponange Prasad was escorted by police officers because the Mephato Reatile Special Select Committee of Parliament declared him a hostile witness.
Prasad, who milked well over P1 million from the parastatal for the three months he spent as Chief Financial Advisor, appeared before the committee but proved from the onset that he was going to be a difficult witness. He said he would prefer the enquiry to be held in camera. “I am not comfortable holding this in public,” he said, adding that professionals like him do not like publicity and that the whole BMC fiasco has been blown out of proportion by the media. But Reatile would have none of it, telling Prasad that it was the committee that had summoned him. Prasad agreed to be interrogated by the committee but as members asked questions it became clear that the Indian born who at one point was BMC (UK) Limited Director until 14 November 2011was not answering questions satisfactorily. He came before the committee without any documents to present. The bone of contention was his employment as Financial Advisor.
Prasad claimed that his company-Consulting Unlimited-was the one appointed by the BMC and not him personally. However the committee had documentary proof pointing to the contrary. “I was working through my company,” he said. But Reatile produced a letter addressed to Prasad appointing him as Financial Advisor. Prasad maintained his position saying that was a mistake. This prompted Reatile to remark, “I think we have to declare you a hostile witness.” Another committee member Prince Maele also found Prasad to be hostile and pleaded with the chairperson to invoke his powers and imprison him. “We cannot work with someone like this,” said Maele. However Reatile was more lenient and ordered police officers to escort Prasad to his house to collect documentary proof. As the committee sat later in the afternoon, details of Prasad’s earnings while at the BMC were revealed. He was paid P1500 per hour and P8.50 as mileage everyday from Gaborone to Lobatse. In total he earned about P16500 a week and close to half a million Pula a month. His last claim at BMC is recorded as P174 888. Interestingly, Prasad worked without a contract at BMC, save for an offer letter, which arrived late when he had long started work.
He even submitted his first invoice before the employment offer letter arrived. He told the committee that his initial proposal was to be paid P3000 per hour but this was declined. Asked by Reatile why he would work without a contract Prasad responded, “I was asked to work, it was the CEO, (Ian Thompson) who appointed me.” This claim stirred up another interesting debate, on who really appointed Prasad. In his deliberations Prasad would note that the BMC Board, Minister Christiaan De Graaff and also the CEO appointed him. Prasad also claimed P1500 for the two hours he spent on the road driving to and from Lobatse. But this was not stated in the offer letter. Asked why he claimed for something which is not in the offer letter he said the CEO should have corrected the invoice if it was not correct. “The two hours I spent driving to Lobatse was my time which I spent on BMC business,” he defended. Prasad, who has been in Botswana for the last 32 years, said he has the country at heart. “I have not taken millions, I have not charged exorbitant amounts. You cannot give anything for free,” he said. His last claim was that the ailing parastatal could have been saved millions of Pula if he had been kept at BMC.