Rot at BITC

SHARE   |   Thursday, 23 July 2020   |   By Phillimon Mmeso
BITC CEO Keletsositse Olebile BITC CEO Keletsositse Olebile

When government through Ministry of Investment, Trade and Industry decided to set up a one stop shop in order facilitate and accelerate foreign direct investments by reducing  lengthy bureaucratic procedures and providing investors with a single point of contact for all dealings, little did they know they were opening floodgates for fraud and widespread corruption.

Some employees at Botswana Investment and Trade Centre (BITC) saw the one stop shop as a stepping stone to fraudulently obtain funds from would-be investors who desperately need trading licences, work and residence permits.

Investigations by this publication has unearthed information on how some employees charged with responsibility to ease setting up of business in Botswana used the opportunity to swindle millions of Pulas from would be investors. In one instance an employee who was heading the one stop shop was recently suspended from work on suspicion of fraud.

It is suspected that over P10 million could have been swindled from would-be investors by some of the employees of BITC.

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The employees are said to have found a niche market among the Chinese community where s/he charged them a minimum P50 000 to process their applications for permits. While investigations are continuing to audit the employee's lifestyle, the officer was recently transferred to the northern office after s/he was caught red handed in a sting operation by the Directorate of Intelligence Service (DIS) operatives, trying to manipulate the BITC system to fast track his clients’ applications.

There are allegations that the officer might have been working in cahoots with some within the investment company and will sing like a canary when s/he appears before the courts of law.

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BITC’s Director, Corporate Affairs Kutlo Moagi confirmed that indeed one of their employees was recently suspended on fraud allegations. “The officer was subsequently taken through a disciplinary hearing which resulted in dismissal. The matter was reported to Botswana Police Service for further investigation,” she said, but could not confirm if this was the first case to be registered at BITC.

Sources have revealed that the Directorate on Corruption Economic Crime (DCEC) is currently investigating BITC over allegations that some officers might be involved in fraudulent activities. “Some of the officers when sent on external missions to lure investors here recommend their relatives or close associates to partner with such investors. That’s clear abuse of office,” confided one source.

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Contacted for comment DCEC Spokesperson Lentswe Motshaganetsi declined to comment on the issue, saying it borders on operational issues. “Kindly note that the question you have raised borders on operational issues of the DCEC hence I am prohibited by the Corruption and Economic Act from sharing information on such allegations,” he responded.

This is not the first time that BITC, which is the face of Botswana before foreign investors, is embroiled in some scandals that threaten to tarnish the image of the country to the outside world. Early this year Member of Parliament for Gaborone Bonnington South Christian  Greeff asked a question in parliament that recruitment policies at Botswana Investment and Trade Centre (BITC) are flouted willingly as a daughter to one of the board members in one of the parastatals was offered an attachment at BITC under dubious circumstances.

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Greeff revealed in Parliament that the said fresh graduate is engaged and compensated at the level of a BITC officer or business analyst despite being on attachment as an intern, which is against all established norms and procedures.

Assistant Minister in the Ministry of Investment, Trade and Industry Karabo Gare in answering the question said that he is not aware of any fragrant flouting of Botswana Investment and Trade Centre (BITC) recruitment policies and called on the MP to forward information to him.

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Greeff promised to bring evidence in the next session of Parliament.

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