This week’s edition of the Botswana Gazette newspaper dated Wednesday 08-14 May 2019 carried a front-page headline entitled “SHOCKING! P22 BILLION MISSING AT BANK OF BOTSWANA.” The article is attributed to the report of the Auditor General on the accounts of Government for the financial year ended 31 March 2018. In the text, on page 3, the story in the article, unguided and with intent to mislead and cause unnecessary alarm and panic states that”… Bank of Botswana (BOB) is struggling to account for a blood-curdling sum of P22 billion, cash which was spent on unexplained payments issued from the main Government Bank Account, the Remittances Account during the financial year ending 31 March 2018.” The article goes on to report that “the Governor at Bank of Botswana and his team are still clueless (our emphasis) as to where the money went, and has not provided AG (presumably, reference is to Auditor General) with receipts to verify transactions over P19 billion.” The implication here is that the Governor and his officers are aware of the missing funds and have been trying to trace these payments and are still clueless about them. Have Bank of Botswana confirmed this?
From the very onset, let it be stated very clearly and categorically that any reference to the Auditor General seeking explanations on the activities or operations of Bank of Botswana in the exercise of her functions under the Constitution is a complete red herring: the Auditor General does not audit the accounts of Bank of Botswana nor, unlike other parastatals, is she provided with audited accounts for review purpose for inclusion of the review results in her report to the National Assembly. She is therefore not in a position to give any commentary on the activities of the Bank.
With reference to the newspaper article, the likely paragraph in the Report of the Auditor General which has given rise to the story is on page 24 of the report, reads as follows: -
“(d) The Remittances Account, the main Government bank account at Bank of Botswana had a balance of P787 137 598 at 31 March 2018. The perennial reconciliation problems of this account had persisted in the year under review. In his submission to the Public Accounts Committee on the accounts of the previous year, the Accounting Officer had informed the Committee that efforts to resolve the reconciliation issues of that year were in progress and had hoped to complete by October 2018, which is, 19 months after the year to which they relate. In my view, unreconciled items in the reconciliation statement should be examined and resolved as soon as possible after discovery.
In the year under review, the unreconciled payments totaled P2 274 266 757 while unreconciled receipts totalled P19 660 376 833, which should be cleared.”
As is clear from the reading of the above paragraph, which needs no interpretation, there is no mention or suggestion that any money is missing at the Bank of Botswana nor inference of impropriety on the part of the management of the Bank. The comment on the paragraph relates to the audit verification of the year-end balances under the bank accounts maintained by the Accountant General in which the Auditor General has stressed the importance of maintaining the bank accounts in as an up-to-date position as possible. There always will be reconciliation issues in the bank accounts management of any organization, this is routine, albeit very important.
It is therefore disappointing that the newspaper article has reported on such a serious matter without seeking clarifications and confirmations from the relevant authorities, if there were any difficulties in understanding or appreciating the reporting. It is a cardinal audit requirement that if, in the course of the audit, any impropriety or criminality is detected it should be reported appropriately for necessary action by the relevant authorities.
Finally, the nation is informed and assured that there is no report of any missing fund at Bank of Botswana in the report of Auditor General, and that any such suggestion is a fabrication which emanated from and confine to offices of the Gazette newspaper.
Public Relations Officer