Sorry then, not now…

SHARE   |   Monday, 07 March 2016   |   By Phillimon Mmeso
Sorry then, not now…

The narrative has changed. Government won’t cave in for any blame – choosing to go even against the concessions it made in the past. And the problem – opposition MPs keep on asking the same questions over and over again. Francistown South MP Wynter Mmolotsi did just last week when he brought back to the floor of Parliament the question he had asked in 2011 about the funding of Directorate of Intelligence and Security Services (DIS). While previously the then Minister of Presidential Affairs and Public Administration, Mokgweetsi Masisi conceded to some mistake in transferring funds from the National Disaster Relief Fund (NDRF) to DISS the Assistant Minister of Presidential Affairs and Public Administration Phillip Makgalemele found nothing wrong with that.

The MP for Francistown South Wynter Mmolotsi wanted to know whether the money that was transferred from the Disaster Fund to DIS has ever been returned, and if so when and how was this done. In his answer Makgalemele denied that funds were ever transferred to DIS from the Disaster Fund.  “However money from the Disaster Fund was used to assist in the setting up of the Directorate of Intelligence and Security as it was a new organisation which needed urgent funding,” said Makgalemele. Makgalemele’s answer is contrary to the answer given by Masisi in 2011 when he apologised for unlawfully transferring P16 million from the Disaster Management Fund for the establishment of the DIS in the 2007/08 financial year.

Masisi, who is now Vice President, said then that it was wrong for his ministry to have diverted the money from Disaster Fund to fund the establishment of DIS as they didn’t have the authority to do that except the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning. “This was an omission on our part given that the authority to spend from this fund should have been given by the latter minister. This omission was due to the then understanding of the word "minister" referred to under section 8 of the 1996 National Disaster Management Fund Order to mean the Minister in the Office of the President. Let me seriously apologise for this omission and assure you honourable members that this type of error will not occur in the future," he said responding to the question by Mmolotsi who wanted to know how the money was transferred, whether the transfer was done according to the procedures laid down by government; who authorised the transfer, and whether the person was the right officer to authorise the transaction.

Efforts by Mmolotsi to draw the attention of Makgalemele to Masisi’s previous answer hit a snag as the assistant Minister stuck to his guns and stated that there was nothing wrong with diverting money from one department another as they are all government departments. “Normally this would not entail any further adjustments to return the funds,” said Makgalemele, who added that since 2009/10 his ministry has budgeted P5m annually for purposes of replenishing the National Disaster Relief Fund (NDRF). In 2010 Public Accounts Committee (PAC), which was chaired by the MP for Tati West Samson Moyo Guma recommended an investigation into how P26 million, which was transferred from the National Disaster Relief Fund to the DIS was used, saying it has come to the conclusion that “there must have been some element of abuse of funds”.

In 2007 Isaac Kgosi who was appointed the Director of DIS wrote to the then Minister of Defence, Justice and Security Phandu Skelemani asking for money to set up the intelligence unit and as motivation to the request he informed him that the Director, Ministry of Finance, had advised that P13 million could be drawn from the National Disaster Relief Fund. Skelemani recommended the diversion of the funds from Disaster Relief Fund to DIS but the spy unit gobbled the money within three months and asked for further P3m funding in 2008 which was also granted. Shockingly in 2010 during the cross examination by the PAC, a Director, and the Ministry of Finance denied ever advising Kgosi that funds as requested for DIS could be availed from the National Disaster Relief Fund.

In 2009 DIS draw the attention of the Auditor General after they drew P10 967 531 from the National Disaster Relief Fund though they had been given their full budget (both recurrent and development). Auditor General stated that then, “I have not been able to appreciate why those expenditures, involving substantial amounts of money as they did, were met from the Fund under which no funds had been provided, instead of from the appropriate expenditure vote for the year 2008/2009.” In their hard hitting report PAC which had Nehemiah Modubule, Isaac Mabiletsa, Gilson Saleshando, Mephato Reatile, Moiseraele Goya, Edwin Batshu and Robert Masitara as members stated, “While wrong authority was used to spend the funds from the National Disaster Relief Fund for unauthorised purposes in 2007/2008, the committee is at a loss to understand how the Department continued to use the funds in 2008/09.

It is not at all clear what circumstances led to the use of the funds, under what authority and for what purpose. The situation is exacerbated by the failure of the Accounting Officer to account for these funds and this leaves the committee with no option but to conclude that there must have been some element of abuse of funds.” They recommended the engagement of law enforcement agencies to probe the usage of the funds from the National Disaster Relief Fund. The report was then rejected by Members of Parliament from the ruling party after it was presented to parliament.