Minister of Investment Trade and Industry (MITI) Bogolo Kenewendo has vehemently denied the closure of Botswana Trade Commission (BOTC) which was established in 2016. In an interview with this publication Kenewendo said she has not heard anything regarding the winding up of the commission whose existence has been clouded in controversy.
Highly placed source at the ministry and the Office of the President have alleged that BOTC has been given three months to wind up their business and close shop. The highly guarded secrecy of the winding up of BOTC, which is said to have been motivated by its non-performance, has set tongues wagging at the Ministry of Trade as it was established through an Act of Parliament of 2013. “It has not been performing and surrounded by controversies and we believe that it will be opened again but with fresh and clear mandate,” a source revealed.
BOTC was set up as a secretariat body that will consist of units responsible for tariff investigations as well as trade remedies. The commission is also expected to regulate imports and exports to and from the Southern African Customs Union (SACU) and determine eligibility for infant industry protection. Since its establishment BOTC has attracted negative publicity and in 2016 was investigated by the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC) for maladministration and abuse of public office.
BOTC is currently housed at Masa centre and occupies one of the floors paying a rental of P79 000 per month. It is currently operating with staff of 10 people including its Chief Executive Officer Mphoeng Tamasiga. It was expected to be moved to the ministry of investment trade and industry as a unit. Tamasiga appeared before the Parliamentary Committee on Statutory Bodies and State Enterprises in 2016 where he confirmed that he appointed senior executives without the approval of the Board of Directors, which he said was nonexistent after it was dissolved by the then minister. When it was established BOTC was allocated a budget of P9.9 million with only five staff members something that irked the Parliamentary Committee on Statutory Bodies and State Enterprises.
Two new units
According to MITI development budget technical assessment, which this publication has seen, the ministry is planning to establish a Competition and Consumer Tribunal, and a Consumer Protection Unit. The Competition and Consumer Tribunal has been budgeted for P8 million for 2018/19 and according to the assessment report, cabinet memorandum is being finalized to be submitted to cabinet. “It is anticipated that the Bill will be presented at the July sitting of Parliament,” reads the report.
Regarding the Consumer Protection Unit, the ministry has budgeted P23 million and a cabinet memorandum is being finalised with the Bill expected to be presented in the July session of Parliament.