Under fire for unilateral decisions

SHARE   |   Monday, 10 October 2016   |   By Keitebe Kgosikebatho
Tamasiga Tamasiga

The CEO of the recently established Botswana Trade Commission Mphoeng Tamasiga is under fire for appointing senior executive members of staff without involving and seeking the approval of the board. Tamasiga confirmed to the Parliamentary Committee on Statutory Bodies and State Enterprises on Wednesday that he had in the absence of the board appointed senior members on his own accord and that the commission was to date still running without a board. This, he said, he did despite the fact that he was fully aware that the Botswana Trade Commission Act of 2013 provides that no such decision should be done without the board’s involvement and approval. According to Tamasiga, the board which was appointed by the minister in January 2015 was dissolved in March this year; the reason being that it was being reconstituted.

He said in the absence of the board he then – with the approval of the minister – knowingly made decisions such as the appointment of the executive members of the staff to get the commission off the ground. “I had to take the risk of doing so without the board’s approval to get Botswana Trade Commission up and running,” Tamasiga said. The soft spoken CEO could hardly give a convincing answer to the questions fielded to him by members of the committee. “I consulted with the minister whenever a decision had to be taken and he told me that in terms of policy matters I should refer to the Ministry but as for day-to-day matters it was up to me to decide,” said Tamasiga.

Matter at DCEC
The committee had prior to the hearing received a document which has reportedly been also submitted to the Director General of the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC) and the Office of the Ombudsman calling for the state to institute  investigations  on corruption, maladministration and abuse of public office at the Botswana Trade Commission. The document states that the CEO who was appointed by the commission’s inaugural board had within a month of his stay in office, appointed four senior executive staff members of the Botswana Trade Commission without the involvement and approval of the board.

No job adverts or interviews for candidates
It is also alleged in the document that when the staff members were appointed, no advertisements were floated for the positions, that no interviews were conducted because the board members who ordinarily conduct such interviews were not involved. According to the document, at the time of the appointments the board had not approved the organisational structure for the commission, hence it had not sanctioned the positions and no job descriptions had been developed for any of the positions within Botswana Trade Commission. “Safe for the CEO’s remuneration package, the board had not determined any of the remuneration packages for any positions in the Botswana Trade Commission,” read the document.

The author of the document sent to DCEC insisted that there was corruption, maladministration and abuse of office, which has to be investigated. Validating the application, the author of the document pointed to the fact that Botswana Trade Commission is a public institution that is run with public funds and therefore, the appointment of staff into its employ should be done in a transparent and open manner. “The appointment of the staff members without affording other members of the public the opportunity to be considered for appointments robs Botswana Trade Commission and by extension, the nation, the benefit of being served by the most competent people available. Hence, such an act has detrimental effect on the function/operations of the Botswana Trade Commission and the economy of the country,” read the document.

P79 000 rent at Masa Centre
More skeletons tumbled out of the infant commission’s closet when Tamasiga revealed to the committee that Botswana Trade Commission was currently operating from a P79 000 a month offices situated a t the Posh Masa Centre in the CBD. According to Tamasiga, the offices were procured by the previous board before he was even appointed CEO and that Botswana Trade Commission currently cannot vacate them and look for a cheaper space because they were currently procured on a three-year contract without option to terminate. Tamasiga further revealed to the committee that they were currently operating on a P9.9 million budget with only five members of staff excluding him.

According to Tamasiga, although cabinet had recommended that the commission should have a maximum of 10 people, the board altered this and recommended that the commission should run on at least 38 people and gave him (Tamasiga) the prerogative to headhunt and identify suitable candidates of his choice and appoint them to executive positions. “If it was not for budgetary constraints, all the 38 positions would be filled by now,” he said. Despite this claim, Tamasiga conceded that by the time of appointments no concrete organisational structure was apparent and that his decisions to appoint members of staff were based on a draft structure.

These positions, he said, include crucial positions such as the Head of Human Resource, head of corporate affairs and head of tariff investigations which is held by the previous Managing Director of Botswana Development Corporations Marea Nthebolang. The eight member board, according to the CEO, included Ketane Sithole as the chairperson, Thapelo Pabalinga, Peter Tladinyana, Kelebonye Tsheboeng, and Boikanyo Mathipa. The Chairperson of the Committee on Statutory bodies and State Enterprises ruled that Tamasiga deliver to the committee a written submission at a later date. “May I please request that we release him before he publicly incriminates himself further,” said Moyo Guma to other committee members. The Botswana Trade Commission was established through the Botswana Trade Commission Act of 2013. It is a parastatal under the Ministry of Investment, Trade and Industry.  The Botswana Trade Commission was set up in 2014. Based on a recommendation by the Board, the Minister appointed the CEO who commenced work in March 2016.