Parliament shot down a motion by Alliance for Progressives (AP) leader Ndaba Gaolathe that requested President Ian Khama to appoint a judicial commission of enquiry into the alleged abuse of the petroleum fund.
The motion proposed as a matter of urgency, was debated in Parliament on Friday, and saw 37 legislators vote against it, while 14 voted in support, and one member abstaining.
“We hear that there is a possibility that hundreds of pulas have disappeared from the National Petroleum Fund (NPF). If this is true then it hampers on our ability to implement our development agenda.
There are those who believe that the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) is already dealing with it, but what is happening at the PAC is different as it is simply working on an assignment to review the NPF. The difference is that this motion looks into the alleged abuse, whether there was any and who the individuals involved could be,” Gaolathe said presenting the motion.
Legislators from both the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) and Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) opposed the motion arguing that Khama cannot be expected to set up a commission to investigate a matter that he is alleged to be implicated in. They also argued that PAC was tasked with looking into the matter.
“I agree that we debate the matter, however, I do not agree with a commission of inquiry as the matter is already before the PAC. The PAC has powers and the Auditor General assists it. My biggest worry is that we appointed a committee to deal with the matter, and the honourable member and myself are part of that committee.
The PAC can recommend a forensic auditor, which can go deeper into the matter. Can we complete our assignment as agreed? If we need capacitation, let us ask for that. My rejection is that we follow and respect our processes,” Tati East legislator, Guma Moyo said.
“Ordinarily, no one can refuse this motion. However, I suspect the mover is doing what we call political grandstanding and is on a popularity campaign. Again I am saying this is truancy because the President you want to appoint the commission is also listed in those alleged to have benefitted from the NPF. Ke go batla gore kamoso e bo le tla gape le re one a ka bona eng ka o mo teng,” Minister of Presidential
“This is a sad day when there is an attempt to undermine our institutions. It is sad because re tshameka politiki ka matshelo a Batswana. Re tshwenyegile re le Batswana.
Re dumalane gore re tlhotlhomise jaanong le hetogetse seo,” Sefhare- Ramokgonami legislator, Dorcas Makgato said.
Makgato argued that the House last December passed a motion by Specially Elected MP, Mephato Reatile, to have the PAC meet urgently to review the NPF. She said opposition MPs overwhelmingly supported Reatile’s motion.
Gaborone Central legislator, Phenyo Butale, said: “I’m fuming inside because I feel some of us here should have a feel for Batswana’s heartbeats. I’m disappointed people do not have trust that the President can do what he took oath for. This is an opportunity for those who did wrong to account.”
UDC President, Duma Boko said there is need for investigation, but it cannot be entrusted to the President, “who is also suspected to have benefitted from the NPF”.
“I agree that there is need for a comprehensive inquiry into this issue of national interest. But we cannot ask the same President who is alleged to be implicated to be the one setting up that commission and giving orders; I don’t agree with that.
I suggest that the motion be amended as I have a problem with the way it is now.
I also have a problem because the same people who will be appointed by the President are going to report back to him,” Boko said
Boko said the PAC should be able to carry out the assignment. If not, a special select Parliament Committee could be set up.
“A judicial Commission of Inquiry is the ideal approach for this as the Auditor General is an Executive-branch agency which has no capacity even for performance audits or value for money audits.
PAC comprises politicians who are not professionals with experience on matters of finance and investigations. In a Commission of Enquiry, experts with experience provide the executive direction.
In addition, on the challenge of having the President being the appointer of the Commission, we believe the Judicial Services Commission could help recommend commissioners,” Gaolathe argued in response to members’ contributions.