At the beginning of March 2021, Leonard Marakaladi was unceremoniously dismissed as Chief Executive Officer of Botswana Agricultural Marketing Board (BAMB), a position that he had held since 2018 and had hoped to continue in it until five years later in 2023.
Although details proved sketchy at the time, as news of Morakaladi’s sacking spread, a lot of conspiracies emerged, the most prominent being that he was pushed out by then Acting Board Chairperson, Ruth Mphathi. However, the likelihood of this has lost currency over time
Investigations by The Business Weekly & Review have shown that the CEO of BAMB is appointed by the Minister of Agricultural Development and Food Security. It has emerged that the Minister of Agriculture Karabo Gare actually support the decision taken by the Board to not renew Morakaladi’s contract. But Gare himself said he will not discuss that matter in an interview.
It has also been established that contrary to what is believed in certain quarters and what this newspaper has reported, there was no board resolution pertaining to Morakaladi’s contract extension when he was sacked, the an option to increase his contract by two years existed, but the resolution was never made.
This is why, even though he was dismissed under a cloud, some of the people close to the matter say he believed he was entitled to an extension. Sources this week told The Business Weekly & Review that Morakaladi has gone to the courts to challenge his dismissal with a view to reinstatement.
According to sources, the former CEO of BAMB enjoyed a good working relationship with former agriculture minister Dr. Edwin Dikoloti who was shunted to foreign affairs in a cabinet reshuffle on 26 August 2020. It is said the incumbent agriculture minister, Karabo Gare, holds that Morakaladi’s time at BAMB is over.
In the aftermath of his dismissal, sources say a whistleblower’s report that alleges irregularities by Morakaladi has emerged and was reportedly used by the Board against him. According to the report, which begins its focus in 2019, feed making equipment was procured from the same supplier without a tender being floated. The machines, payment for which was authorised by BAMB’s Head of Finance, are reported to be lying idle at Pitsane today.
It is alleged that meetings for procurement of trucks were convened for Scania and Man with Morakaladi and the Head of Finance without a tender floated for such procurement. According to the whistleblower’s report, “direct sourcing had to be requested first from the Board as this was a multi-million (pula) procurement”.
While procurement procedures call for the HR and Engineering departments to purchase pool cars, specifically Isuzus and Corollas, the CEO and the Head of Finance directly purchased cars from Avis without the Board’s approval or following these procedures.
A Toyota Fortuner is said to have been bought in this fashion. The vehicle in question is reported to have been procured for the entire executive management but was mostly used by the CEO who kept its logbook and keys despite having an executive car. Morakaladi is also alleged to have bought himself a Toyota Land Cruiser, valued at over P1 million in the same manner as the Isuzus and Corollas were bought. This is “a provision that does not exist in the Conditions of Service and has never been extended to any other member of staff”, the report says.
The whistleblower also alleges nepotism, saying the CEO hired contract employees without engaging departmental heads. He also allegedly head-hunted the Head of Commercial & Business Development (CBD) “when she was undergoing investigations at her work place”.
Reached for comment via WhatsApp, Morakaladi responded: “All questions asked above are false and factually misdirected.” Pressed further, he added: “I understand there is an investigation currently ongoing at BAMB and I suggest I hold my detailed response until they conclude their work.”
The Business Weekly & Review is reliably informed that BAMB is currently indeed being audited by the Ministry of Agriculture in an enquiry that involves the Auditor General, the Deputy Permanent Secretary at Agriculture and the Directorate of Intelligence and Security Service (DISS).
Meanwhile, the former Head of Finance at BAMB, Thabile Lemo, is reported to have resigned when she was due for a hearing. A letter written to her seen by this publication accuses her of negligence of duty and states that she breached Board regulations by providing misleading information to the Board. According to this letter, Lemo exceeded her scope of duty in favour of Morakaladi regarding clearance for pool cars allegedly procured in violation of BAMB procurement procedures.