A day after Botswana Public Officers Pension Fund (BPOPF) Board unanimously agreed to end the relationship with Principal Officer, Boitumelo Molefe, government reinstated employer trustees who were earlier removed for violation of the Fund Rules, The Patriot on Sunday can reveal.
The Trustees, deployed by their constituent organisations, were expelled for breaching various aspects of the Rules of the Fund. Director of Public Service Management (DPSM), Goitseone Mosalakatane, has written a letter to Non Bank Financial Institutions Regulatory Authority (NBFIRA) acting Chief Executive Officer Sriram Gade, informing him of the decision by government to reinstate employer trustees who were removed late last year for violating the Fund Rules. The duo, retired army officer Brigadier Charles Nkele and The Accountant General, Emma Peloetletse, could soon return to the BPOPF board notwithstanding their breaches which offend the Fund Rules.
Through a letter dated 20th May 2020, Mosalakatane told NBFIRA that "be advised that there being no conflict of interest demonstrated on the conduct of Brigadier Nkele and Ms Peloetletse, we maintain that the two be retained as Employer Trustees". Earlier BPOPF had, through a letter dated 22 February 2019, requested DPSM to withdraw Nkele from the Board of Trustees but government ignored the request saying there was not justification.
After the removal of trustees, the BPOPF board continued operating short of five members. Going forward Mosalakatane will join the BPOPF board to replace former Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Health and Wellness, Ruth Maphorisa, whose membership of the Board terminated when her contract in the civil service expired late last year.
In the same letter to NBFIRA, Mosalakatane also revealed government would finalise the replacement of Maphorisa in the Board by June 05, 2020. Although she did not state catergorically, The Patriot on Sunday can confirm that Mosalakatane's name has been submitted to NBFIRA for vetting before she joins BPOPF as employer Trustee.
The reinstatement marks the culmination of a protracted showdown between the Executive (represented by senior government officials) and leadership of BPOPF -the Board and Principal Officer. From the onset, Government rejected reasons advanced by the Board and instructed that their Trustees be reinstated, but the Board of Trustees disregarded such instruction. Those in the know say government officials are poking their nose where it does not belong because the employer and employee organisations (trade unions) are just constituent members, and therefore do not have a say in the management of the affairs of the fund or its Board of Trustees.
Although fully aware of the developments, BPOPF Board Chairman Solomon Mantswe is yet to alert other Trustees. A Board member tells The Patriot on Sunday that government cannot impose their preferences on the board, particularly individuals who have been disqualified for violations. "The Board of Trustees followed proper channels to establish if Government trustees are in good standing following a whistleblowing that some of them may be contravening the Fund Rules. In fairness to them, those Trustees were granted an opportunity to defend themselves against the accusations and show cause why action cannot be taken against the. The Accountant General admitted to the board that she benefitted from an all expenses paid trip to Capetown, which later turned out that the sponsor was Capital Management Botswana (CMB) Directors. The board considered such revelation so serious that the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC) was alerted about the conduct of the Accountant General. DCEC later replied in writing confirming that the matter falls within their purview and they are investigating further," the source revealed.
The Patriot on Sunday has it on good authority that both President Mokgweetsi Masisi and Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Finance Wilfred Mandlebe have been very unhappy with the goings-on at BPOPF. In fact, both Mantswe and outgoing Chief Executive Officer Boitumelo Molefe have been summoned by the senior government officials and admonished for some decisions they had ensdorsed in the management of the Fund. At some point the Board of Trustees disregarded an attempt by the Permanent Secretary to summon them to his office, insisting that they do not report to the Ministry of Finance or any government department because they are independent organisation, totally removed from government.
It is not clear how far the DCEC investigations have gone. A financial expert, who prefers anonymity, says the brazen approach by a government that repeatedly claims to fight corruption raises eyebrows and creates an impression that government instead condones corruption. He said reinstating the Accountant General despite an ongoing DCEC investigation flies in the face of graft busters, particularly in view of the sensitive office she holds as the supervisor of government accounts.
Through a whistleblower tip-off the BPOPF was alerted to Peloetletse's adventures in CapeTown. The matter was referred to the risk committee who notified the board of trustees. The board resolved to report Peloetletse to the Regulator and the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC) because her relationship with Directors of an asset management company that was being investigated for defrauding BPOPF raised more questions than answers. "We were concerned that there could have been more to the relationship than the all expenses paid Cape town holiday. As the Chairperson of the Investment Committee, Peloetletse rendered advise to the board on decisions to make about BPOPF millions. Some of those decisions directly affected CMB and its directors who had sponsored the Cape town holiday," a Board member told The Patriot on Sunday.
Peloetletse has never appealed the decision of the Board ever since she was told to step aside. In fact such would be a futile exercise as many others who took that route had failed, primarily because the Board is reluctant to overturn its own decisions. Examples include terminated asset management companies among them the most recent African Alliance, Confianza Capital and others.
Peloetletse who was the chairperson of the Investment Committee was removed from the Board of Trustees after she was found to have enjoyed gifts from controversial asset manager Capital Management Botswana (CMB).She was found to have enjoyed a CMB all expenses paid for dream holiday attending an International Jazz Festival in Cape town with her spouse. The Directors of the company, Rapula Okaile and Timothy Marsland, are currently involved in a legal tussle with BPOPF after obtaining about half a billion pula from the Fund under suspicious circumstances and making dubious transactions outside the local private equity arrangement- Botswana Opportunities Partnership (BOP).
Some public officers complain that the Masisi administration handling the Accountant General with kid gloves, and favouring her by not suspending her from duty. Section 35 of the Public Service Act dictates that (1) if the supervising officer becomes aware that criminal proceedings have been or about to be instituted against an employee, or considers that disciplinary proceedigns should be instituted against a public officer, and is of the opinion that such officer should be suspended from the performance of his or her duties pending the taking of proceedings against him or her, the supervising officer shall report the matter in writing to the Permanenet Secretary recommending the suspension of such employee".