Information surrounding acquisition of The P58 million Tautona Lodge in Ghanzi is coming in bits and pieces amidst a national backlash against government for buying it.
Following his recent disclosure in Parliament that the property was acquired for P58 million and that it was budgeted for in the NDP 11 Mid-Term Review, the Minister for Presidential Affairs, Governance and Public Administration, Kabo Morwaeng, is not giving any more information about the controversial deal.
In his latest response, a letter written by Morwaeng sets the tone by acknowledging receipt of a letter from the MP for Maun West, Dumelang Saleshando, dated 3 September, which sought details about the acquisition.
“The reason I deferred adhering to your request to disclose on the 2nd September 2021 was to allow myself to be fully advised legally on what I can and cannot disclose,” Morwaeng wrote in response to a letter from the MP for Maun West, Dumelang Saleshando, dated 3 September.
According to Minister Morwaeng, he is constrained to disclose all documents due to legal restrictions imposed by the Public Procurement and Asset Disposal Act (Cap 42:08). “The context in which I made the statements that I had the documents and they were available for inspection must be construed within what is permissible within the confines of the law,” he wrote back to Saleshando.
Tautona Lodge was previously owned by former minister Christian de Graaf. Attached documents show that upon a shareholding transfer, its director was one Barobi Mosugelo.
According to Morwaeng, details of the direct procurement and/or selective procurement of Tautona Lodge are classified under the PPADB Act and it is therefore a criminal offence to disclose this information. Disclosure of official correspondence between his office and Tautona Lodge detailing the transaction is also prohibited by the same law, he added.
Save for where Minister Morwaeng refers Saleshando to the Deeds Registry upon enquiring about evidence of land use, everything about this transaction is classified information. In the letter, Morwaeng notes that Saleshando – who is also the Leader of the Opposition and vice president of the UDC – can pay P50 to access such information.
“As stated above, the PPADB Act has several restrictions on disclosure of documents relating to bids,” the minister wrote. “There are requirements for documents to remain confidential except in specific situations.”
After news emerged that the government had paid P58 million for Tautona Lodge, social media was awash with commentary, with most critics questioning the rationality of procuring such a property when the country is faced with the COVID-19 pandemic and dwindling state coffers.