The Chairperson of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) Abram Kesupile has told Parliament that they have halted their review of the National Petroleum Fund (NPF) scandal, a move that has been heavily criticised by Alliance for Progressives’ (AP) Members of Parliament.
According to Kesupile, this followed an advice from the Attorney General (AG) Abraham Keetshabe notifying the Clerk of the National Assembly that the PAC cannot review the NPF as the matter is now before the courts. When presenting a statement to Parliament Thursday, Kesupile indicated that they sought the opinion of the AG on December 5, 2018 after some witnesses expected to appear before the committee pleaded that they were before the courts and therefore did not wish to put themselves in positions of self incrimination.
“Madam Speaker, shortly after the commencement of our work, law enforcement agencies started to vigorously investigate the same issue, which then led to arrests of certain persons, some of whom were very key to our review and some who indeed had appeared before us,” said Kesupile.
He said they have been recently advised to let the court deal with the matter by Keetshabe as Parliament’s legal advisor. “My committee met on Tuesday and reflected on the AG’s advice which was basically that it would be best if Parliament left this issue to the courts-lest we jeopardise the processes,” said Kesupile.
“We then agreed in the majority that perhaps there was wisdom in the advice and therefore that we not proceed, but revert to this August House as we hereby do to report that we are constrained to proceed with the assignment in the light of AG’s advice.”
Mmegi is in possession of the savingram, which was a response to a request for opinion of December 5, 2018 sought by the Clerk of the National Assembly on whether the PAC could continue its proceedings to review the NPF. Through the savingram, Keetshabe reasoned that there couldn’t be parallel investigations and hearings of a similar.
“The correct position is that criminal proceedings pertaining to the National Petroleum Fund (NPF) are now active before the court; with a number of accused persons having been charged. We cannot therefore, have parallel investigations and hearings,” he said.
He stated that once the matter is before the courts, it should remain the preserve of the
MP for Mogoditshane, Sedirwa Kgoroba said the decision by the Committee was irresponsible, as it was not premised on any contravention of the law. He said the Committee should have sought legal opinion from an independent body as this now stifles the independence of Parliament.
“Where is the independence of Parliament in this if you seek advice from another arm of government, the Judiciary,” he asked rhetorically.
Another AP legislator for Gabane/Mmankgodi Major General Pius Mokgware said he was disappointed that the Committee agreed with AG’s advice.
Mokgware said the courts and the PAC do not follow the same processes, hence the two could not jeopardise each other. He agreed with Kgoroba that the independence of Parliament has been compromised.
Gaborone North MP, Haskins Nkaigwa asked why the Committee did not take the matter back to Parliament to decide as it was just delegated to review the NPF. He said Parliament would have taken the best decision on the matter.
However, Kesupile responded that this was a majority decision and was in order. He said it was unnecessary for the Committee to seek an independent opinion as the matter is not dead but has been halted until the courts were done. “Parliament can still make another recommendation,” said Kesupile.
The review on the NPF by PAC commenced last year and several players including former Ministers of Minerals Resources, Green Technology and Energy Security Sadique Kebonang, Kitso Mokaila and former Director General of Directorate of Intelligence and Security (DIS) Isaac Kgosi have appeared to give evidence before the committee. The initial proceedings followed a motion by Specially Elected Member of Parliament, Mephato Reatile requesting that there be a review of the NPF after it came out that the P250 million that was intended for the construction of fuel storage tanks ended up in Israel.