NPF looting: The illicit deal gone horribly wrong

SHARE   |   Monday, 26 March 2018   |   By Adam Phetlhe
NPF looting: The illicit deal gone horribly wrong

It is difficult to stop talking about the National Petroleum Fund scandal because it is a classic case of the ‘Emperor has no clothes.’ It is also a classic case of how public power is sometimes misused for personal gain at the cost of the citizenry.  That the looting of the NPF is illicit is not in question because it is currently under investigation. And that, had this deal gone through unhindered, beneficiaries would be sitting pretty secured in comfort and opulence of unimaginable proportions not least bothered that this opulence could be disturbed or threatened presumably because such had never occurred.  They had presumed that political and intelligence safety was guaranteed. But like the saying goes, “You can fool all of the people some of the time and some of the people all of the time, but you cannot fool all of the people all of the time.”  That said, brutal and hard to believe piece of reality has sunk in which has become a bitter pill to swallow for the actors and their associates. The bubble has burst where political and intelligence machineries have dismally collapsed to the utter disbelief of the Government Enclave where it was mooted but badly constructed. This was a deal which, given these machineries and the characters of those who control their levers, and highly probable that other previous ones have passed without a glitch, should have also done so with flying colours. But lo and behold – it was never to be.

The first point of call to portray the NPF looting appear legal while illegal, was to begin the process in all manner of officialdom possible. It is an open secret that official correspondence was commenced by the intelligence agency which in all likelihood would have rendered it above board. The fact that the fund is reported not to have been subjected to an audit in the last two financial years or so would, I argue, have been a perfect start to siphon it. Not arguing this point like a competent auditor would but on a layman’s basis, failure to audit the fund meant that it would somewhat be difficult to identify any fraudulent or inappropriate activity on it if it actually occurred like it is the case. It also meant that the fund would not be protected to ensure that public funds are not misappropriated hence susceptible to all manner of vulnerability. It would be a cash cow and yes it is! The looting appeared to be on course until the bank transaction was intercepted which if it had succeeded would have sealed the deal once and for all. The current brouhaha about the fund would probably and beyond the bank transaction point, have not emerged. Now that the looting at this point had reached a brutal but painfully unexpected dead end, the illicit deal had gone horribly wrong with the softer targets, the earliest victims. One would have thought that the softer targets and the earliest victims would fall on their swords to protect the mighty and the powerful. But as events unfolded with intrigue and drama which is set to continue as the episode twists and turns, all the actors in the deal were laid bare. As is expected in such deals and with some guilt radiant in the actors’ body language however hard they try to conceal it, they made half-hearted denials reminiscent of obscured but apparent ‘acknowledgment’ of imminent fate. As in most if not all illicit deals there will be drug lords and the errand boys and girls. In these circumstances, power relations become desirable and handy for the obvious protection and security of the drug lords. When drug moles are arrested with narcotic drugs in their bodies, they are on their own. The drug lords do not always want to be associated with neither the knowledge of, nor the ownership. It becomes the survival of the fittest.

The power relations in the NPF looting become crucial for the protection and security of the mighty and the powerful at the detriment of the ‘errand boys and girls’ whose only salvation are courts of law. To the mighty and the powerful, they have overstayed their welcome. The mighty and the powerful are hanging on political power which from what we have seen so far, are set to circumvent it to the fullest with the hope that the matter dies a natural death. Beyond  political power, they still have the latitude to circumvent, manipulate and influence the corruption busting agency such that the matter is poorly investigated to render it unwinnable in court or that, it will never see the light of day because they have complete control of it. To be fair to the corruption busting agency, it has of late made significant inroads to deal with political, public and corporate corruption. What should be asked is whether it can sustain the momentum with corresponding positive outcome in the public interest. It was suggested that death threats were likely to be directed at the ‘errand boys and girls’ by the mighty and the powerful for obvious reasons. Should it emerge that the latter is indeed involved in the illicit deal, a lot of reputational damage which may be difficult to undo in the immediate to long term, would be too ghastly to contemplate. This cannot be easily dismissed because it is typical of the fall out occasioned by the collapse of such illicit deals whether as a result of some carelessness on the part of the role players or that the plan was poorly, badly constructed and implemented.

While the NPF illicit deal is to a great extent an activity in the public sector involving huge public funds, the corporate sector is of late caught in the crossfire where for example pension funds of public employees are exposed to greater risk probably more than ever before. Everybody who is anybody have their hands deep into the cookie jar and it appears these hands will go deeper unless and until somebody cuts them. A senior public official, whose position in the public sector pension fund was meant to protect and grow it, is reportedly engaged in some illicit deal of some sort to personally benefit materially and otherwise. Now that it is in the open that the NPF illicit deal has gone horribly wrong, it has become apparent that the mighty and the powerful together with identified beneficiaries are, as expected, trying to do damage control. The mighty and the powerful are mounting a serious push back with the belief and hope that their reputations, whatever little is left of them in any, may be salvaged for future relevance in the greater Botswana context. This is attempted through political power and other avenues available while the ‘errand boys and girls’ are resisting it. They say in politics, there are no permanent friends or allies but permanent interests. I am not sure if this applies to deals gone sour. But one thing is synonymous with illicit deals gone sour: the weakest link bears the most devastating brunt. Only time will tell if this proportion is attractive and/or compelling. Judge for Yourself! Send your comment to: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.