Botswana Power Corporation is currently operating without three most senior executive managers on a full time basis thereby exposing the state owned power utility to possible lapses with respect to timely and efficient decision making process.
The current scenario is the least wanted especially given that BPC has been bleeding millions of Pula annually at the expense of the taxpayer who has had to bail it out so as to keep the lights on. As things stand, the power company does not have a substantive Chief Executive Officer after the controversial resignation of former Chief Executive, Stefan Schwartzfischer about a year ago. Cross Kgosidiile, is currently the acting Chief Executive Officer, but holds the position of Chief Finance Officer. This effectively means Kgosidiile spends most time at the CEO’s office on an interim basis, leaving the CFO position almost neglected.
It is not known who has now been appointed acting CFO. Interestingly, it has since been reported that Kgosidiile is joining a government-owned company, although it has not been officially confirmed. In addition BPC is also operating without a Chief Operations Officer (COO) following the sacking of Jonathan Housseini last year. The latter has since successfully challenged the matter in a court of law, in the process stopping BPC from appointing a replacement for the same position. In the meantime, Botswana Guardian understands that, the former BPC top executive has since joined Botswana Post, another government parastatal on the same position. At press time Housseini had scored a decisive victory against the state owned power utility which is currently carrying out massive infrastructure and maintenance for projects such as North West power transmission, which costs P2, 4billion and the maintenance of Morupule A power station.
Its troubled Morupule B is currently under remedial work after defects were found in the plant which was constructed by a Chinese company. As a strategic parastatal, responsible for the country’s generation, transmission and distribution of electricity, can BPC afford to operate without three substantive top officials? BPC Marketing and Communications Manager Dineo Seleke declined to respond to detailed questions regarding the company’s leadership vacuum. She told Botswana Guardian last week that the Corporation is constrained to comment on any leadership changes since nothing has been announced.
She was trying to respond to a question relating to the reported exit of Kgosidiile to join another parastatal. The BPC spokesperson said they are currently concentrating efforts in executing the Masa 2020 strategy. Masa 2020 envisages the BPC as a profitable entity free from reliance on government, operating efficiently and serving its customers. The strategy became necessary as the BPC continued bleeding billions of Pula in annual losses, while operational inefficiencies piled up and services standards plummeted. The Permanent Secretary in the ministry of minerals, energy and green technology Mmetla Masire told this publication he cannot ‘talk’ because he was out of the country on Wednesday while his political boss, minister Lefoko Moagi’s cellphone rang unanswered, as he also appeared to be outside the country.
The Botswana Guardian wanted to know if the ministry is not concerned about the leadership vacuum at BPC. In recent years BPC has been bailed by government while at the same time posting losses on the backdrop of the troubled Morupule B power station which has never produced power totaling 600mw which is the capacity of the P11 billion power plant. According to the BPC annual report total revenue increased by 9 percent to P3.010 billion in 2018, compared to P2.769 billion as at March 2017. The increase in revenue was mainly attributable to the average 12 percent tariff adjustment awarded for the year under review.
Other Operating Income, which incorporates mainly profit on sale of material to Distribution Works Contractors, Consumer Financed Projects recoveries and export of electricity through Southern African Power Pool (SAPP) stood at P157.826 million registering an increase of 14 percent from P138.604 million in the prior year. Last week, Moody’s Investors Service (Moody’s) assigned a Baa2 long-term issuer rating to BPC. This was the first time Moody’s has assigned a rating to BPC. The ratings agency said BPC’s Baa2 issuer rating is underpinned by the expectation that the Government of Botswana will continue to provide timely financial support to the company, as necessary, given the critical role of BPC to the country and its mission to ensure that Botswana has access to electricity, and (2) an assumption that substantially all of BPC’s commercial borrowings will continue to be covered by government guarantees.
Meanwhile, Moody’s said a downgrade of Botswana’s sovereign rating could lead to a downgrade of BPC’s issuer rating. “A downward rating pressure could also occur if there was any uncertainty about the government continuing to provide timely financial support to BPC; the company’s financial profile were to deteriorate; there was a material change in the company’s capital structure (for example, if BPC were to raise unguaranteed debt); or Moody’s assessment of very high support for the company were revised downwards. In addition, severe delays or uncertainty around the remediation programme of Morupule B plant could also put downward pressure on the rating,” said Moody’s.
Francistown Industrial Court Judge, Galesite Baruti on Monday ordered Botswana Power Corporation (BPC) not to hire or engage anybody for the position of Chief Operations Officer (COO) pending trial completion.
Jonathan Raheem Hosseini who was expelled from the position under controversial circumstances appealed to court citing the Corporation and its outgoing Chief Executive Officer, (CE0) Dr Stefan Peter Schwartzfischer as first and second respondents respectively.
On Monday Hosseini’s efforts paid the first dividends as he successfully registered a victory in his first open court appearance in the matter in which he is challenging as unlawful, the manner in which outgoing CEO - Schwartzfischer and others pushed him out of the Corporation.
The Industrial Court issued an order against both the BPC and Schwartzfischer interdicting and restraining BPC and Schwarzfischer from taking any action that advances or attempts in any manner whatsoever to hire, employ, engage and, or fill up the position of Chief Operations Officer.
The position has been advertised in both Mmegi newspaper edition of 8th March 2019 and in the Sunday Standard Newspaper dated 10th to 16th March 2019. The court interdicted the corporation from advertising the post or any other subsequent recruitment method in whatever form, pending the outcome of the applicant’s case filed at the Industrial Court of Botswana at Francistown under case number ICF 232/18.
The case has been set for hearing on 16 May 2019. If Hosseini is successful, the court could order that, he be reinstated as COO of BPC. Speaking to Botswana Guardian Hosseini said Monday’s court order shows that there can be no effort by anyone in BPC to pre-empt the court’s eventual ruling.
“As you know, an independent disciplinary panel appointed by the BPC Board itself found me not guilty of the charges that were thrown at me. BPC’s subsequent action was misguided and unlawful, and I am confident that the court will confirm this fact and correct the injustice. I look forward to returning to BPC and completing what I started.”
In the matter, Justice Baruti appeared together with C. T Morapedi a nominated member of the Union and P Kelailwe a nominated member of Business Botswana. Hosseini was represented by Attorney Mere, while attorney Tango Rubadiri appeared for BPC.
Finally, the Botswana Power Corporation (BPC) has released a statement confirming that its CEO Dr. Stefan Schwarzfischer resigned from his role at the corporation and will depart in March, a matter that the management team vehemently denied for some time.
Botswana Guardian, having reliable information wrote in its February 22nd edition that Schwarzfischer has resigned, but the revelation attracted a series of denials that included paid advertisement denying that the German national had called it quits. However, the BPC board chairman, Bonny Thebenyane has ended the arguments through an official press release, confirming Schwarzfischer's departure and that the Chief Financial Officer, Cross Kgosietsile will hold the fort in acting capacity.
“The board wishes to announce that Schwartzfischer will part ways with the corporation at the end of its 2018/19 financial year to pursue other opportunities. Further, that Dr. Schwartzfischer has partnered the Corporation with local communities across Botswana on various initiatives that gave mileage to the BPC brand, including a number of corporate social responsibility projects that he took to heart.”
Schwarzfischer becomes the second member of the executive management to leave the company following the alleged forced resignation of General Manager for Human Resources, Kamogelo Chiusiwa. Schwarzfischer’s management will be remembered for the roadmap it set for itself to transform BPC into a profitable and leading power utility in the region by 2020 under the strategy known as Masa 2020. To achieve this the management started with an internal restructuring exercise in 2015 to improve efficiency and productivity.
Last year Schwarzfischer announced that BPC made its first profit in ten years, highlighting that they have performed above expectation. BPC’s financial report indicated that the corporation’s operating income grew by 34 percent which stood at P138 604 million in the 2018 financial year against P103 544 million recorded in 2017.
Schwarzfischer leaves at a time when BPC is still to resolve the issue of Jonathan Raheem Hosseini, the Chief Operations Officer (COO) who was tipped to be the next chief executive, but was dismissed controversially on 28th August 2018. It appeared there was more than meets the eye in the way Hosseini was fired as he was originally cleared from all the six charges he faced. The procedure was conducted by an independent Disciplinary Panel composed of professionals and constituted by the BPC Board.
The matter between the two has been dragging since early 2018. At some stage BPC suspended Hosseini pending investigation and hired Deloitte to do a forensic audit. Deloitte completed its assignment and handed over its findings to the Board.
Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Botswana Power Corporation Dr. Stefan Schwarzfischer has offered to resign from his role at the corporation; Botswana Guardian has been reliably informed.
The offer must now be considered by the Minister of Mineral Resources, Green Technology and Energy Security, Eric Molale; the appointing authority. It is alleged that Schwarzfischer will leave around March which is the financial year so that he can assist with the audit as the accounting officer. Reports reaching this publication indicate that the hunt for Schwarzfischer’s replacement has already started to enable a smooth transition.The German national Schwarzfischer’s contract runs until October 2021. It is not yet known why the CEO is terminating his lucrative contract.
Sources say he allegedly approached the Board sometimes in January and proposed to part ways with the BPC, a state-owned company for electrical power generation, transmission and distribution. Board chairman Bonny Thebenyane declined to comment on the matter but Botswana Guardian understands that the board has already passed Schwarzfischer’s request to minister Molale to make the final determination. Minister Molale claimed ignorance of the matter. He told this publication, “I have not been briefed. I am not aware.” “If there is something of that sort the board still has to brief me about it if indeed it is true,” Molale said Wednesday evening.
Schwarzfischer becomes the second member of the executive management to leave the company folowing the alleged forced resignation a fortnight ago of general manager for Human Resources, Kamogelo Chiusiwa. Schwarzfischer’s management will be remembered for the roadmap it set for itself to transform BPC into a profitable and leading power utility in the region by 2020 under the strategy known as Masa 2020. To achieve this management started with an internal restructuring exercise in 2015 to improve efficiency and productivity.
Last year Schwarzfischer announced that BPC has made its first profit in ten years highlighting that they have performed above expectation. BPC’s financial report indicated that the corporation’s operating income grew by 34 percent which stood at P138 604 million in the 2018 financial year against P103 544 million recorded in 2017.
Jonathan Raheem Hosseini, the Chief Operations Officer (COO) of Botswana Power Corporation (BPC) who was tipped to be the next chief executive, has been fired Botswana Guardian can reveal. Hosseini was dismissed controversially on 28th August 2018. However, it appears there is more than meets the eye in the way Hosseini has been fired as he was originally cleared from all the six charges he faced by an independent Disciplinary Panel composed of professionals and constituted by the BPC Board.
Indications are that the matter may be settled in a court of law to determine whether the way the Board wants to separate with Hosseini is legal. The matter between the two has been dragging since early 2018. At some stage BPC suspended Hosseini pending investigation and hired Deloitte to do a forensic audit. Deloitte completed its assignment and handed over its findings to the Board.
Based on the Deloitte findings, the Board allegedly started another procedure under which sources and HR experts say the board allegedly colluded with the CEO Dr. Stefan Schwarzfischer and acted outside the bounds of BPC Policy, Procedure and Botswana law to unlawfully and unfairly dismiss Hosseini.
It all started on 4th July 2018 when a disciplinary hearing under Section G of the BPC Human Resource Policy and Procedure commenced against Hosseini. It is said the complainant was CEO Schwarzfischer. It is alleged that based on the seniority of the persons involved, BPC empanelled a body independent of its structures to preside over the disciplinary proceedings, and this resulted in the formation of a disciplinary hearing panel of highly respected legal, human resource, and business professionals.
The disciplinary hearing panel was chaired by a highly respected attorney (name withheld) selected by BPC. It is said that the Panel conducted the hearing explicitly in terms of BPC Disciplinary Policy and Procedure at every step of the proceedings, with the disciplinary hearing taking place between 4th - 20th July 2018. Close sources say the final written submissions from both Schwarzfischer as the complainant and Hosseini as the defendant were submitted on 30th July 2018.
Botswana Guardian investigation shows that on 2nd August 2018, the disciplinary hearing was concluded and closed, in terms of BPC Disciplinary Policy and Procedure Section G Clause 4, specifically Clause 4.6.15 and Clause 4.6.16. The disciplinary hearing panel found Hosseini not guilty on all sic (6) charges levelled against him.
The panel stated that no mitigation was required since Hosseini was not guilty. Sources say the BPC Management and, or Board misdirected themselves or deliberately failed to adhere to BPC Policy and Procedure and Botswana law during the period between 2nd August – 29th August 2018.Sources say in so doing the CEO completely failed to comply with his obligations under clause 4.6.19 of the Disciplinary Procedure and failed to respect clause 7.1.1 of the Disciplinary Policy.
The final blow
BG News has it in good authority that on 28th August 2018 Hosseini was asked to appear before the BPC main Board within a two hour notice. The Board allegedly informed him that they disagreed with the decision of the disciplinary hearing panel and without any further hearing, the Board told him that they choose to find him guilty, and now having been found guilty he was being asked to present mitigation.
It is alleged in that meeting Hosseini and his representative told the Board that they were operating outside of BPC Policy, Procedure and the laws of Botswana and that accepting to present a mitigation to their unlawful pronouncement of guilt would begin to validate their unlawful action, and further that in law mitigation is not presented to those who have not heard a matter themselves. It is said that Board went ahead allowing Schwarzfischer to present before it.
Subsequently the Board ruled contrary to BPC Disciplinary Policy, Procedure and the Laws of Botswana that having been found guilty by them of four charges Hosseini was dismissed with immediate effect. Botswana Guardian investigation found that the letter of “Termination of Contract of Employment” dated 29th August 2018 makes reference to termination “following the disciplinary panel’s findings”.
This according to the sources is dishonest and disingenuous as the disciplinary hearing panel appointed by the Board, after a month long hearing process, explicitly in a signed written judgement found Hosseini not guilty of all six charges and “fully exonerated” him.
Hosseini confirmed that he has been fired and reluctantly said, “as the process takes its course, I will be vindicated and, remain loyal and dedicated to BPC and the government and its objectives and most importantly to the nation that I dedicated my life to serving and look forward to get back to work at BPC soon in order to complete the work that I started.” At the time of going to press, both BPC spokesperson, Dineo Seleke and CEO, Schwarzfischer were not available for comment as their mobile lines rang unattended.
Chinese companies that were in Botswana on Monday courtesy of Botswana Investment and Trade Centre (BITC) and the China Council for Promotion of International Trade (CCPIT) have been made aware of the 16 identified projects that present investment opportunities.
PPP Coordinator, Orono Otweyo told the business delegation comprising of representatives from a range of industries that there is more drive to do PPPs in development projects and therefore Chinese companies looking for investment opportunities need to take note.
He pointed them to projects that include; Zambezi Integrated Agro-Commercial Development Project that entails the provision of irrigation infrastructure, water supply to 45 000 Ha, commercial farming, agro-processing and related infrastructure in the Pandamatenga area. He said so far, seven crops and fruit trees have been identified as suitable, and water for irrigation is to be abstracted from Chobe/Zambezi River.
Another opportunity is the reclamation and treatment of the Gaborone wastewater. According to Otweyo, the project entails wastewater recycling for portable use with a target of providing Gaborone city with up to 20 percent of its water supply needs. “The project involves design, finance, construction, operation and maintenance of a wastewater reclamation plant as well as an upgrade of the current WasteWater Treatment plant,” Otweyo said.
Chinese investors were also briefed about land servicing opportunities, which entail the provision of integrated infrastructure services to land in Kasane, Francistown, Ramotswa and Mochudi to facilitate the development of plots. According to Otweyo, the services will include; roads, storm water drainage, water sewerage, telecommunications, power reticulations and street lighting. The other investment opportunity is the establishment of a rehabilitation centre in Lobatse.
This project needs investment in design, finance, construction and maintenance of the Offender Rehabilitation Centre with capacity of between 600 and 800 inmates offering physiological, educational and vocational programmes.
Another is the secondary schools staff housing. The project entails design, finance, construction and maintenance of 4 000 high-density staff houses for secondary school teachers throughout the country. Other projects that Otweyo elaborated on include; Sepopa Prison Farm, Prison Headquarters Building, Three Dikgosi Monument, Gaborone Tourism Precinct and Serowe Magistrate Court. Although the conclusion of agreements will depend entirely on negotiations between individual companies from China and Botswana, CCPIT Chairman, Jiang Zengwei said the proof of good China-Africa relations have been the documented major projects that have been fully implemented in Africa.
“China and Botswana economies are highly complementary and we are impressed by Botswana’s open market and capital management,” Zengwei said. Minister of International Affairs and Cooperation, Dr Unity Dow is also hopeful that as a result of the visit of the Chinese investors, new Chinese businesses and sectors will set up in Botswana. “We should be able to see positive results 12 months down the line, as to whether this meeting was meaningful,” Dr Dow said.
Ministry of Transport and Communications, Ministry of Infrastructure and Housing Development and Botswana Power Corporation also briefed the Chinese business community about investment opportunities in their specific areas of expertise.
Botswana Power Corporation has signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) for the Seronga Village with Cronimet which will establish a MW Solar power plant in that area.
This development is part of fulfilling expectations of the Paris Agreement, which Botswana has signed to increase green energy mix by 25percent within the next seven years. Consequently Government has implored its first steps into a greener environment through the employment of solar power plant projects in rural areas, Seronga being the first. As per the agreement, Botswana has pledged to establish 250MW on solar capacities by 2025 as a way of reducing carbon dioxide emission to zero by the year 2036.Botswana Power Corporation’s chief executive officer Dr Stefan Schwarzfischer said, “As the corporation, we have taken the bold step to ensure that government attains its aim as we are currently embarking on building solar power plants to electrify more rural areas.”The project includes the construction of a 100MW Solar Power Plant next year as well as the electrification of more rural areas, which are distant from any of the corporation’s grid by building 1MW Solar Power Plants and the distribution network in 20 rural villages.In receiving the project, Assistant Minister of Health and Wellness and Member of Parliament for Shoshong; Phillip Makgalemele expressed gratitude for having the project first to be rolled out in his constituency, saying the community will immensely benefit from it.“The sun is free and inexhaustible. Solar technology converts the sun’s radiation directly into electricity with no pollution or damage to the environment. The panels can generate enough power to run stoves, pump water, light clinics and power televisions. Botswana has one of the best climates for this type of energy,” Makgalemele told this publication. The Minister said the development has motivated the enhancement of specific sectors to include agriculture, mining, agronomy, energy, waste management through the economic diversification drive (EDD). “The use of cheaper and more sustainable solar power will activate progress in these different sectors and in turn be beneficial to the country at large,” he added.The corporation would also establish solar Grid Tide Power Plants of the size of 1 to 3MW in 12 dedicated villages with an overall capacity of 60MW. Apart from 1.3MW power station in Phakalane, Botswana’s power supply is currently met from coal resources. As part of the deal, the power plant would provide power to Tobela village during the day whilst BPC would provide power during the night.
Dr Schwarzfischer said in the coming months, the corporation would increase its distribution network in the Tobela area to cover and connect the whole village that would connect more people in rural areas.“Additional solar capacities are at planning stage and would be executed once the three projects have been concluded. The corporation and other independent power producers would finance some of these projects,” he said.
Earlier the Ministry of Mineral Resources, Green Technology and Energy Security said about 145,000 out of the 242,000 households can be reached by the end of 2021 if the off-grid solar was implemented this year. This equates to 60% of total off -grid market or an installed capacity of approximately 30MW.
Over 166 companies have applied or expressed interest for the multibillion Pula joint ventures with Botswana Power Corporation (BPC) for both a 100 MW industrial scale solar plant and the setting up of hybrid networks in 20 rural areas.
The process to start awarding the tender will start in a month’s time. BPC issued documents reference 2157/17 calling for Expression of Interest (EOI) for joint ventures on 22nd May 2017 with the closing date set for 14th June 2017. BG News has it in good authority that over 160 companies, among them European, South African and Chinese entities have accordingly responded and are waiting to be shortlisted and be invited to submit bids at the Request for Proposal (RfP) stage.
In a bid to address the power supply challenges and to meet the future electricity demand, the Botswana Power Corporation (BPC) in conjunction with the Ministry Of Minerals, Green Technology and Energy Security (MMGE) have embarked on a comprehensive electrical power system development strategy which includes among others, the development of a 100MW solar power plant two years from appointment of the preferred Independent Power Producer (IPP) joint venture partner.
The additional power generated will be from a new solar power plant constructed, commissioned, owned and operated, by the IPP joint venture company. This initiative is in line with National Energy Policy goal of providing affordable, reliable and adequate supply of energy for sustainable development, as well as improving access to and efficient use of energy resources.
BPC would therefore like to engage companies or firms into a Joint Venture for the development, implementation and operation of a 100 MW Solar Power Plant with suitable storage capacity. The plant will be located in Botswana, and the newly formed Joint Venture will sell its power to BPC through a Power Purchasing Agreement (PPA). Therefore, Expression of Interest is invited from power generation companies /Independent Power Producers (IPPs) /power plant developers / Captive Power Producers for developing a solar power plant in a joint venture with BPC.
Chief Executive Officer of BPC, Dr Stefan Peter Schwartzfischer and Edward Rugoyi- the officer in charge of the process confirmed that both EOIs have received a good response, an indication that Botswana is an attractive destination for energy investors. Speaking to BG News Schwartzfischer confirmed that offers will be made in the next four weeks.
He said the next stage will be to go to the selective tender process which will lead to the-short-listing of six companies. The six companies shortlisted will be asked to provide and or show that they have the knowledge of implementing, installation and maintenance of such project .That will be followed by the negotiations stage which will happen around October 2017.
Swartzfischer said there is an ongoing advert concerning the setting up of the hybrid of the electrification. This hybrid is not connected to the national grid and the invitation closes on 25th July, 2017.
He revealed that the construction of Morupule A will start at the end of the month, while Morupule B is currently operating with all its four units. “For the first time BPC is exporting power to the sub region- of the Southern African Power Pool.”
Does BPC have the capacity to evaluate the Bids?
In recent past questions have been asked about BPC’s capacity to evaluate the bids submitted. BG News has been reliably informed that early this year a delegation from the Development Bank of Southern Africa visited and attended a conference organised by the Ministry Of Minerals, Green Technology and Energy Security (MMGE), where they allegedly offered to assist to fund and build capacity to allow BPC and MMGE to effectively run the procurement of energy from independent power producers (IPPs).
This new unit will have the capacity similar to the Renewable Energy Independent Power Programme run by an IPP office under the Department of Energy in South Africa. This programme has been internationally applauded for its transparency and efficiency and has given international investors the confidence to invest in the numerous projects that have been developed to date.
BG News made several attempts to solicit a comment from the Department of Energy Affairs, to confirm their meeting with DBSA, but so far the request for a meeting and, or response has hit a snag.
The Marubeni issue
Recently a Japanese Independent Power Producer (IPP), Marubeni Corporation who was awarded tender to build the multimillion Pula Morupule B Unit 5 and 6 power plants which will produce an additional 300MW into the national grid shelved production raising concerns that BPC will not be able to purchase power from them as it is not bankable and wanted government to provide support guarantee.
However, the refusal by government to provide support guarantee on the Morupule B plant does not seem to have deterred investors. In resolving the issue of government guarantees to Independent Power Producers, according to the expression of interest, government recommends Public Private Partnerships.
This means that since BPC will be a shareholder in the project, it becomes easier for the government to issue a guarantee as it would in effect be issuing the guarantee to a company it either controls or in which it owns a significant minority.
Government turns to Public Private Partnerships In line with the significant decline in the government’s capacity to finance mega-projects, government has turned to public private partnerships. A Public-private partnership (PPP) is described as a legally constituted relationship between the state or its agencies with private sector firm(s) in which the private sector firms substitute the state in the provision of public goods and services over a specified or indefinite period, for mutual benefit.
The private sector would assist with the financing of the projects and the state would sign or guarantee the offtake contracts to make the project financeable by banks and investors. However, financial experts say the principal concern in Botswana going this route is that currently there is no PPP legislation.
Case for Solar Energy
Solar power is booming in popularity all around the world, across all sectors, from household to utility scale, and both on and off the grid. Historically solar energy has been prohibitively expensive to produce on an industrial scale. However, for the past 10 years, prices of the major component in solar plants, being the solar panels, have consistently fallen, some experts say by as much as 80%. This has resulted in this energy source becoming more affordable.
The current problem with solar energy is that at night there is limited or no energy produced. The solution has been to build CSP plants to store the solar energy for use at night. However, these technologies have proven to be prohibitively expensive.
Botswana Power Corporation (BPC) this week fired five members of the executive management as part of its bid to get the ailing organisation back in shape. The axing of the executives forms spart of the implementation of the Masa 2020- Reshaping the Organisation declaration meant to deliver a new structured BPC which will be profitable within a reasonable time. Some of the executive management and lowly-placed employees will either be axed or redeployed under the strategy.
Chief Executive Officer of BPC Dr Stefan Peter Schwartzfischer was cagey when asked about the latest development. He only confirmed that as per Masa 2020, almost all executive positions were advertised both internally and externally and that interviews were conducted to weed out those without the requisite skills.
He declined to mention by name or position, the axed executives. However, Schwartzfischer revealed that so far, they have received 400 applications for voluntary retrenchment saying they had started an evaluation process to identify who to grant relief. “We started with Exco level, every job was publicised. We had two head hunters who did the screening and shortlisted. The final four have been evaluated; they were all asked to present their qualification and went through the vigorous exercises and interviews,” he said.
BG News has learnt that the executives who have so far been relieved their jobs include the Chief Financial Officer (CFO), Director Customer Service and Supply, Executive Coordinator, Generation Manager, Strategy and Transformation Manager and Distribution and Transmission Manager. It said that the director of Generation has not lost his job but, has been redeployed.
The new structure will see BPC still being led by 9 executives, but what will be different this time around is that there are new positions and some positions have been merged to promote efficiency.
Ten former Garrick Operations employees handed a petition to the Office of the President last week, seeking its intervention on their unpaid severance benefits, leave and overtime balance that accrued from 1st January to 31st December 2014. The former employees say Garrick Operations owe them over P90 000.
Garrick Operations was subcontracted by APR Energy of USA for operations and maintenance of Matshelagabedi Power Plant, 70 Mw - an emergency power rental project to bridge the supply gap through a power purchase agreement between BPC and APR Energy. Botswana Power Corporation (BPC) would in 2014 take over the management of the power plant from APR to date. After taking over BPC hired the same companies that had been engaged by APR Energy, including Garrick Operations. Things began taking a twist when the owner of Garrick Operations, Lazarous Kujenga died mid-2014 and his wife, Norma Mukono, inherited the company.
Sources say Garrick Operations immediately sunk deep in debt. The company’s former accountant, Joyce Poane told Botswana Guardian in an interview that in fact Garrick’s financial woes began long before Kujenga died. She said the company struggled to pay mortgage with Stanbic Bank; was not in good books with Botswana Unified Revenue Services (BURS) and most importantly, the employees suffered the most.
That is when Patrick Seleka came into the picture and was introduced to the employees as the company advisor. A few months down the line, Garrick management informed workers that the company was getting into a Joint Venture with Mmantshetsa Holdings, a company owned by Seleka, to help run the tender, which was coming to an end.BPC confirmed to this publication that on the 4th of November 2014, it approved a tender award to Garrick Operations/ Mmantshetsa Holdings Joint Venture for a period of one year, commencing 1 January 2015 – 31 December 2015.
Seleka then took over operations as project Manager of the joint venture. Employees signed offer letters and employment contracts under the new company and it was business as usual at Matshelagabedi power plant.However, for Poane, the transition was a sad one as she lost her job. “Seleka told me he has his own people who will handle the company finances,” she lamented. Moreover, before Seleka came to the rescue, the employees say they brought it to his attention that Garrick owes them severance benefits and overtime balances. “He did not fight us but assured us that he will help Garrick pay us back our money in instalments, fair enough he did exactly that but pulled out halfway through the year,” they said.
Matters turned nasty when Seleka told the employees that Garrick has been liquidated, and that he could not continue paying the debts, as he was now director of Mmantshetsa Holdings. Meanwhile Mokuno was nowhere to be found; this meant the employees were terminated and left stranded with a significant balance of their hard-earned earnings. The complainants say in the petition to the OP that Seleka feigned ignorance about the whereabouts of Garrick, which assertion they deemed “disingenuous” since he had assumed the labour hire contract from Garrick Operations and inherited its former employees.
The matter was brought before the Industrial Court of Botswana in Francistown where it was ruled that the former employees had sued the wrong party, Garrick/Mmantshetsa JV. The former employees then reported to law enforcement agencies and also to Francistown West and South MPs Ignatius Moswaane and Wynter Mmolotsi in an effort to help locate Garrick but to no avail.“I am aware of the matter but the director who was in charge at that time was not willing to cooperate,” said Moswaane. Mmolotsi on the other hand says he tabled the matter in parliament sometime back. “I cannot recall vividly what the response from the minister was however I believe the complainants had issues of liabilities and unfair dismissal,” said the MP.
When reached for comment, Seleka said, “I am not in a position to discuss anything over the phone nevertheless I think I am aware of what this is about and I know exactly the people peddling it.” The former employees now want the Office of the President to help summon BPC and the management of Garrick/Mmantshetsa Joint Venture and the affected employees to resolve the issue amicably.BPC awarded Mmantshetsa Holdings the extension of contract for the provision of manpower services at Matshelagabedi 70MW power plant for two years, from Jan 2016 to Dec 2017.
BPC is currently paying P510 000 into Mmantshetsa Holdings’ coffers until the end of contract, for the provision of human resources for operation of the facility.The ten former employees’ employment contracts were not renewed when they came to an end in December 2016.