A fresh Botswana Public Employees Union (BOPEU) Board of Trustees report has unearthed chaos and extravagant spending that resulted in misuse of the union’s finances between 2019 and 2021, The Business Weekly & Review has established. The Business Weekly & Review is in possession of the new damning report released by the board that presents operational matters of the union. The period under review is December 2019 to May 2021.
The report states that upon assuming office on 1st July 2021, the board devised a five-month plan to assess the union’s inventory and that of Babereki Investments as well as to peruse files for what transpired between 2019 and May 2021. This is where all the shenanigans emerge. Adding to the woes, the new board members report reveals neglect for good corporate governance at BOPEU.
BOPEU, BTC dubious contract
According to the report, it was discovered that there was a pending contract between Botswana Telecommunications Corporation Limited (BTC) which BOPEU entered into on 2nd May 2018 valid for 24 months. “The contract was signed by two board members of BOPEU Services being Chairperson, Mr Mosalagae Tlhako and member, Mr Motswaledi Monaiwa without the resolution from the Board of Directors,” says the report. Ironically, the report reckoned that the addresses used on the contract did not match that of the union but could be traced to a certain location in Lobatse.
Subsequent to signing of the deal, the union went for two years without paying, which prompted the leading wholesale internet service provider in Botswana, BTC, to cut the union’s telephone lines. “This contract interrupted BOPEU/Babereki Investments communication channels, i.e. rooters and faxes. However, the union took a decision to settle the bill in order to restore the smooth operations of the union,” says the report.
The board’s report says there was a lot of secrecy around the contract, hence the need for further investigation. “It was further observed that though BOPEU Services Board had six members, the contract showed that the beneficiaries were seven in total. As things unfolded, it emerged that another separate contract was signed in respect of two members who benefited from that contract,” reads the report.
“Total amount to be paid monthly according to the contract was P7000.00 and due to none payment the bill had accumulated to P275, 000.00,” it says. “An amount of P150,000.00 was made during the month of June 2020 and the outstanding balance of P125,000.00 was yet to be settled.”
Purchase of tribal Lot 6068, Mahalapye
On a spending spree by the then BOPEU leaders, the report notes, a tribal plot, Lot 6068 in Mahalapye, was purchased for P440,000.00 on 5 April 2018. This was against the Board of Trustees’ recommendation to defer purchase of property until the union had developed the ones it had. The report queries BOPEU’s purchase of the plot and whether proper due diligence was conducted at the time of the transaction.
According to the Board of Trustees report, the purchase of this plot had a three-year valid contract/agreement from date of signing in November 2019. The agreement was “for the provision of custom made merchandise in BOPEU colours for re-sale to members in BOPEU outlets across the country (Francistown, Gaborone, Palapye, Maun and Kang). According to the report, a company called Fancican was to foot the costs of both production and sale of the merchandise while BOPEU was responsible for collecting money from its members “at source and retaining 15 percent of the total sales”. However, the Board says the contract was terminated on 15 August 2020, although the Fancican declined the termination.
Detailing several deals that occurred during the period under review, the report notes that there was a contract between BOPEU and Sebaga Communications and Concepts signed on 20 May 2019 and valid until 30 June 2020. “The contractual agreement was renewable and or extendable, signed by Mr Olefile Fast Monakwe on behalf of BOPEU Employees and Khumo Peo Tselayagae representing Sebaga Communications and Concepts.” However, Sebaga Communications and Concepts was appointed without a resolution of the National Executive Committee (NEC) of BOPEU.
P470K BOPEU staff member payment
As the extravagance continued, one staff member is also said to have had a slice of the cake. “There was a reported issue of a staff member who was paid P470,000.00 purported to be reimbursement after an unauthorised training overseas,” states the report. “After numerous communications between the employee and her supervisors on reasons as to why they (employers) deem it impossible to reimburse her, the employee opted to engage the courts of law to resolve the matter.”
The matter was settled out of court and the employee paid the amount. But that is not water under the bridge because the Board holds the view that investigations ought to be conducted to establish the veracity of the story because the employer never authorised the training that the staff member sought reimbursement for. As it turned out, the said employee is related to one of the former BOPEU leaders.
Disregard for procurement procedures
Denoting total disregard for procurement procedures, the report says the Board of Trustees discovered that some goods were purchased without due procedure. An instance of this purchase of office furniture worth P93,000.00 under then BOPEU President Olefilwe Monakwe. “We also discovered that another set of furniture worth P30,066.85 was previously procured for the same office, hence the board was concerned about the high expenditure level,” the report says.
As the story of the BOPEU glitz and glamour unfolded, the Board investigation found that from 2nd May 2019 to 12 May 2021 money amounting to P5,021875.65 was expended on hotels, travel, sitting allowances and on accommodation. “Averagely NEC incurred P627,753.00 per quarter as the BOPEU Constitution prescribes for the convocation of NEC meetings,” says the report.
The board points out huge budget variation in that more money than was initially budgeted was spent. In similar vein, the then Board of Trustees spent P346,904.59 in more than 10 meetings held during the period under review. Additionally, P153,267.10 was expended on commissions during the same period.
The report concludes by stating that the Board of Trustees went through challenging times at the height of the tussle for power as it rendered most functions and activities a nullity, hence the overwhelming operational challenges and inability to meet the union’s mandate. Until recently, BOPEU was mired in a bitter leadership war that diminished the union’s credibility and projected it as one of many entities experiencing a crisis of leadership in Botswana.