The rivalry between the opposition Alliance for Progressives (AP) and Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) came to life on the floor of Parliament on Friday when UDC President, Duma Boko, led a crusade to quash a motion from Ndaba Gaolathe. Gaolathe had tabled a motion calling on President Ian Khama to set up a commission of Inquiry into the National Petroleum Fund (NPF), following widespread allegations of embezzlement of funds that implicates senior Government officials including the Vice President. The Directorate on Corruption and Economic crimes has already charged businessman Bakang Seretse, the former Managing Director of asset management firm Kgori Capital and two others with the offence of money laundering in relation to NPF. First to take the floor to respond to the motion was Boko, who is the leader of opposition in Parliament and an advocate. He said although he does not have a gripe with the substance and intent of the proposal, he has problem with the inquiry as suggested. Rejecting the motion Boko, who has proposed a comprehensive investigation into the NPF and the involvement of the Director of Intelligence and Security Services (DISS) Isaac Kgosi, said Gaolathe's approach is not the right way. "We hear that the President and his VP are implicated and now we are asking the suspect to investigate himself. The President will determine who will sit in the commission of inquiry and has full control of the terms of reference. He can decide whether they sit in camera or in Parliament. Mind you, he has the authority not to share the findings of the report. You are effectively asking the President to investigate and absolve himself," Boko cautioned. Observing that the motion even expressed misgivings about the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) process, Boko said the solution to such challenges is for Parliament to broaden and empower the scope of that process. Alternatively Boko suggested that a select committee of Parliament could be appointed to look at the issue and provide some oversight. Quick to support Boko was MP for Serowe North Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi who reiterated that Parliament cannot allow the Executive to investigate itself. "Let us allow the PAC to do it for transparency sake," she said briefly.
Other Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) legislators jumped on the bandwagon and crushed Gaolathe's motion, with MP for Tati East Samson Guma, arguing that although the motion is good the challenge is that the matter is already before the Public Accounts Committee which has the power to conduct a forensic investigation. "Why should we abdicate our power and responsibility as Parliament and give it to the executive," he asked rhetorically. The Minister of Presidential Affairs Eric Molale was more brutal and unforgiving on Gaolathe. He dismissed the motion as just political grandstanding by Gaolathe using privileged information that has come into his possession by virtue of him being a member of the PAC. "How can the President appoint a commission to investigate him as you allege that he is implicated? Next time you will be saying the report has been doctored to exonerate the President. Under no circumstances is the President obliged to release the findings but with PAC the report it will be presented here," he lashed out, adding that the matter is already before the courts and PAC. Defending the motion Gaolathe said in any investigation about the issue there is a level of executive direction and a level of supervision. He said the Parliamentary approach is more executive than judicial. According to Gaolathe, although the Auditor General is an executive branch and charged with the responsibility to do the analysis, they lack the capacity and are already failing to do basic analysis. "They cannot be assigned to do analysis on a matter of this magnitude. We have already indicated that it is in the interest of the President to delegate if he is conflicted. The matter at hand requires multiple processes not just PAC and DCEC," argued Gaolathe against a cacophony of dissenting voices.
Noting that the leader of opposition is very clear that he opposes his motion, Gaolathe said Boko has the right to do so. He, however, explained that the PAC review talks to general protocols but what he is seeking to have investigated is the abuse. The only support Gaolathe enjoyed was from the few AP legislators in the house, whose voices were swallowed by a united front of the UDC and BDP on the day. It was therefore not surprising that their contributions were reduced to castigating Boko for opposing the motion presented by their President. Gaborone Central MP Dr Phenyo Butale said the PAC has been given its responsibility but has failed. "I am disappointed with the stance taken by the Leader of Opposition. I am disappointed in you. There is hypocrisy here; some people go around calling on cabinet ministers to resign now today they come here and say no don't investigate NPF through PAC," fumed Butale. “I am surprised that members from the other aisle are passing a motion of no confidence on the president that he cannot appoint a judicial commission on merit. We want to believe that the president has the interest of the public,” he insisted. MPs for Gaborone North and Francistown South, Haskins Nkaigwa and Wynter Mmolotsi also supported Gaolathe, saying they are aware that Boko tried to advise the Speaker to reject the motion. "I am not surprised that the BDP are opposing the motion but what shocked us is the leader of opposition leading the attack on the motion," lamented Nkaigwa, resigning himself to defeat.