A failed bid by Debswana Diamond Mining Company to settle its dispute with private investigations and security firm Infotrac has placed the matter in the hands of the judiciary, The Business Weekly & Review has established.
But a cloud of uncertainty continues to hang over both entities regarding the wisdom of deciding to place secrets that include alleged espionage under public scrutiny and what will happen if the decision backfires. The long-awaited matter is before Justice Abednego Tafa and is due in his court on Thursday next week.
Infotrac, which is currently suing Debswana for P110 million in allegedly unpaid debt apparently has a long history of doing work for Debswana. News that the matter was heading to court immediate sparked concerns that the case might open a can of worms for Debswana as the investigating firm may be compelled to publicise details of its previous work for the company to buttress its claim for payment for spying and investigative work for Debswana.
Secrets that explode before in the face of the diamond mining company include payments from Debswana to Infotrac for investigatory work allegedly done against several local companies many of which are not aware that Debswana ever allegedly ordered them spied upon. Among these alleged are Innolead Consulting, People 2 Projects, ProjectLink Holdings, Ares Africa, Barsure, BIE Inspection Services and G & H Consulting Engineers. On one hand, Debswana is disputing the validity of a current contract which is alleged to have been verbally made. “There is nothing to demonstrate that a contract or agreement of any description for the provisions for the alleged services was ever entered into,” says the giant miner.
On the other hand, Infotrac holds that this was not the first verbal engagement that it has had with Debswana. “The client facilitated the procurement of services and the modus operandi has been consistent with previous engagements, which were procured, delivered and paid for by your client without any contention as is this case with (the) matter at hand,” the company’s director, Mompoloki Motshidi, wrote to Debswana.
Infotrac added: “To cite an example of such other highly confidential procurement as referred to above, was the procurement of high-tech ‘spy’ equipment, further details of which shall be addressed at a later stage should need arise.” This procurement of the spy equipment by Debswana was consistent with the procurement of services under contention and is the client’s “normal and preferred process of procurement for such service”, Inforac asserted.
Implications for national security and potential violation of security legislation by Debswana, which is an eminent partly state-owned company, have already emerged in correspondence about the dispute. “Furthermore, we were also required by your client to ensure that the DIS does not come to know of the procurement and supply of the spy equipment because that may have raised questions of breach of national security given that Debswana does not have authority to procure and use such equipment,” Motshidi warned in his letter to Debswana.
“Needless to say that we delivered the equipment, your client demanded that Infotrac must use wrong narration and/or description, issued our invoice and were duly paid. The purpose of this narration was to avoid the workers union finding out about Debswana’s strategy of spying on their employees.” According to Motshidi’s letter, Debswana has been consistent in its choice of procurement method when procuring goods and services from Infotrac and this has been accepted as the preferred procurement practice, bearing in mind the nature of services requested.