FRANCISTOWN: The Minister of Mineral Resources, Green Technology and Energy Security, Sadique Kebonang has insisted on secrecy around big Government mining contracts, as such deals are “confidential by nature”, a stance that goes against recent World Bank recommendations.
Kebonang differed with the World Bank and the opposition, who advocate for more transparency in commercial Government deals.
“No country signs transparent agreements. Commercial agreements are confidential by nature because of the sensitivity of information they have. Even the World Bank, when they give us loans some details of the loan agreement are kept secret,” Kebonang argued yesterday.
He said that the negotiation process surrounding big Government mining contracts is fine, according to him.
“We have various representatives from the Ministry, parastatal and private sectors, Government and private attorneys and mining experts who are part of Government’s negotiating team. The participation of such parties in the negotiation process renders the negotiation process transparent,” he said.
Kebonang said those who negotiate on behalf of the Government are given a mandate to secure maximum benefits for the country.
He added that after agreements have been signed, stakeholders such as the media are informed about the outcomes of the agreement.
He, however, maintained that not all the details of the agreement can be revealed because there may be sensitive information that needs to be kept under wraps. This is despite the World Bank recommending that Government should make public big mining contracts in an effort to improve transparency.
World Bank consultant, Nils Handler, who was quoted by various media houses worldwide, said the Government’s decision to keep the negotiation process around contracts for diamond mining
“A more open process, including published contracts would assist Botswana in becoming a more transparent and accountable jurisdiction,” he said.
Large mining contracts are not only kept secret, the Auditor General is also not allowed to audit them.
Welcoming the World Bank’s recommendation, the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) has said that it also called on Botswana to make public huge mining contracts.
Opposition parties have often said the secrecy surrounding mining contracts means that leaders who negotiate such agreements cannot be held accountable.
“The World Bank is basically echoing what we have been saying all along. The problem is that when we question the secrecy surrounding some Government agreements or activities we are labelled rebellious,” UDC spokesperson, Moeti Mohwasa said.
Mohwasa said that the secrecy surrounding the mining contracts and other State activities have heightened the perception that Government institutions that were established to strengthen transparency are being shunned.
“Making mining contracts public will also provide much detail as to how Batswana benefit from diamonds,” Mohwasa added.
In 2011, Botswana signed a sales deal with De Beers. The deal facilitated the transfer of the sorting and marketing of Botswana diamonds to Gaborone from London. Details of this deal are yet to be made public.
Diamond mining mainly drives Botswana’s economy and the stones account for 30% of the country’s revenue.