Serame fumbles as she faces questions over Mohohlo’s role
The Specially Elected MP Bogolo Kenewendo was on her element last week Wednesday when she grilled Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Investment Trade and Industry Peggy Serame during the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) hearing. Kenewendo was on cross examination mode as she demanded explanation from the Ministry of Investment, Trade and Industry about the creation of SPEDU Revitalisation Unit which is headed by former Bank of Botswana Governor Linah Mohohlo. She wanted to know what the ministry was doing to try and revitalise the economy of Selibe-Phikwe, which is currently on sick bed. Kenewendo gave her no reprieve, firing the first shot – “Why do we have two offices doing the same mandate?” As she sat still in the opposite chair, hands clasped, Serame said they needed to accelerate the diversification, hence the creation of a new office. She soon freed her hands explaining that the SPEDU Revitalisation Office connects with other stakeholders like Councillors and chiefs to ensure that what government promised to the former BCL Mine workers is delivered.
But Kenewendo was relentless, orchestrating this abrasive exchange:
Kenewendo: Didn’t she need to be part of SPEDU? Is she paid through SPEDU and who does she report to?
Serame: She is not paid by SPEDU and she reports directly to the Minister and is on the level of Permanent Secretary.
Kenewendo: So she doesn’t report to you as the accounting officer?
Serame: batho Nthusang hooo (Guys help me out) as she looked to her officers. Sometimes she briefs me.
It was becoming clear that the PS was feeling the heat as Kenewendo who was on her element asked if the appointment of the Coordinator is not a sign that they are saying SPEDU is a just a toothless dog. Sweating to provide a justification, Serame said the contract for the SPEDU is for three years but MP Samson Guma interjected asking if she thought it was the right thing to create another office with the same mandate as SPEDU. Serame, whose voice was beginning to desert her, prompting chairperson of PAC to ask her to raise it, said SPEDU is doing well in executing its mandate but Kenewendo asked her why then did they create another office if what she is saying is to be believed. Silence descended the room as Serame struggled to answer the question but Kenewendo descended on her like some hot bricks. “Did you recommend the opening of the Revitalisation Office or was it a political decision?” she hit out. Instead of answering Serame appealed to her officers again in vernacular, “Potso e ya mpalela nthusang (this question is difficult; help me). After some few seconds she fumbled the answer, saying that it was a political decision as they did not recommend her appointment. “When the issue of fast racking the revitalisation of Phikwe was mooted after the closure of BCL Mine, I headed the task force and cabinet in their wisdom felt that it needed someone to head the task force,” she said. Serame revealed that Mohohlo’s contract is for three years and she will be paid P1.6 million excluding other benefits like allowances.