Just over a year into its existence, the Botswana Energy Regulatory Authority (BERA) has become tangled in a fierce turf war pitting members of the executive against the Board, Mmegi investigations have established.
Last week, the BERA Board suspended the chief operations officer (COO) Duncan Morotsi over the alleged improper appointment of a consultant from Tanzania to the Authority. However Morotsi continues to work with the full support of chief executive officer (CEO) Rose Seretse.
According to a suspension dated June 11, 2018, the suspension follows a preliminary report by a commission of inquiry team constituted by the BERA Board. The board determined that “there might have been impropriety in the engagement of Edwin Kiddiffu and it has become necessary to suspend you forthwith until further notice to enable a proper investigation to be carried out”.
Ironically, Kenneth Kerekang, the former director of the Energy Affairs Department who has been charged alongside with others for money laundering involving P250 million, is part of the three men commission of inquiry that suspended Morotsi.
The suspension letter authored by chairperson of the commission Jonathan Moseki further states that during the period of the suspension, Morotsi is not to interfere with the investigations. “Further, you will not be allowed into BERA premises nor are you to engage in BERA official business nor are you to conduct yourself as the chief operations officer. Your suspension however will not affect your remuneration and related benefits,” reads the letter.
According to sources close to the development, Morotsi resisted the suspension and wrote to the commission stating that the Board had no powers to suspend him. It is said that Morotsi argued that he reports to Seretse and that he viewed the suspension as a witch-hunt. The COO, it is reported, is of the opinion that the Board suspects that he is the one who reported them to the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC) recently. The DCEC is investigating the BERA Board for awarding some members salary increments in an unprocedural, possibly unlawful manner.
The source stated that Morotsi’s wrong was bringing on board Kiddiffu from an equivalent of BERA in Tanzania to produce regulations for them. “The organization was running behind with coming up with regulations for different sectors under BERA. Morotsi suggested to the team of management that Kidiffu could help. The management then spoke to Kidiffu who then said he would do it for $15,000 (about P150,000). Since the amount is less than P3 million (a statutory limit), management did not consult the Board and appointed the consultant who has since completed part of the job and has been paid part of the amount,” the source said. It is said this irked
According to sources, matters recently came to a head when the Board demanded that the CEO sign a press release announcing Morotsi’s suspension. Seretse refused to sign the release which had been drafted by Moseki, something which led to the commission of inquiry threatening to suspend her as well.
It is alleged that Seretse is pushing to get the Board fired and she is hoping it will happen this week. The Board on the other hand has apparently turned its guns on the CEO and raised the issue of her being paid a car allowance yet also being given a car.
“She demands both. It is one of the reasons they are fighting,” another insider said.
It is also reported that Morotsi bought himself a second-hand Volvo as a company car though he has a car allowance. “These are the underlying issues. They want to report the issue of the car allowance and car benefit to the Botswana Unified Revenue Services (BURS) and the permanent secretary in the Ministry of Mineral Resources, Green Technology and Energy Security.
“Seretse has no idea about corporate governance. She cannot refuse a Board instruction. Morotsi was appointed by the Board and can be suspended by it. In the enquiry she said she knew nothing about the consultancy,” said an insider. The Board chairperson Bernard Ndove, meanwhile, is said to be conflicted as he allegedly sold computers to the organisation with the blessing of Seretse.
BERA has eight Board members of whom four are permanent. The issue of four permanent members is said to be a cause of fights within the organisation as the Act is not clear as to how they work on a day-to-day basis. Contacted for a comment, Seretse would not speak on the matter stating that it was internal. Ndove and Morotsi could not be reached for comment for over a week since they were said to be out of the country.
BERA is responsible for licensing activities in the energy sectors; and balancing the interests of consumers, customers and licensees of the regulated entities including regulating network access for independent power producers, privately financed projects in the regulated sector. It also monitors and inspects those licences and enforces licence obligations and oversees project development in the regulated sector as well as ensures environmental compliance.