Former Botswana Agricultural Marketing Board (BAMB) chief executive officer (CEO), Leonard Morakaladi has dismissed a whistle-blower report that was filed with BAMB board and later copied to the Office of the President (OP) as a smear campaign meant to tarnish his name.
Morakaladi, who was fired under dubious circumstances, said he was aware of the report and at its first appearance two years ago, there was supposed to be an investigation into the allegations. “While I was happy to have these allegations investigated in order to clear my name together with my Executive Committee (EXCOM), I had an issue with the person leading the investigations as she was highly conflicted,” Morakaladi said, but declined to name the individual. “The person was a board member and not only did she want the investigations done, she also had her own private investigators that she appointed with a price tag of P250, 000,” he could only say.
Morakaladi noted that, “the board member was not interested in using a state agency which would do the job at no fee”. It is alleged that the P250, 000 was to be paid by BAMB and the board member wanted a company of her choice, which never tendered to do the private investigation. Morakaladi questioned why not use the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC) or the Directorate of Intelligence and Security (DIS).
Apparently the board member (name known to this publication) was not happy with using the DCEC nor DIS as she wanted to cash from the said company under dubious circumstances. The former CEO submitted that the whistle-blower’s report and subsequent style of investigation that the member preferred seemed to have had a pre-determined outcome which was to tarnish his name and remove him from office. “My letter of objection only managed to delay the desired outcome by a few months, as the issue resurfaced earlier this year which resulted in the board reneging on its 2019 resolution where it varied my contract from three to five years to align it with the new BAMB strategy,” he said. Morakaladi was given 48 hours to clear office and hand over instead of the usual three-month notice period. “This, it seems was meant to deny me an opportunity for certain benefits that were due to me under the normal notice period.”
He added: “Apart from removing me from office, one other thing that the report was meant to achieve was to present me as a corrupt and unethical CEO, so by resurfacing this report I can only assume that the same detractors are hoping to put what they believe is the last nail in the coffin.” Commenting on claims that procurement procedures were not followed under his leadership such as buying of feed, manufacturing, trucks, pool cars and a Toyota Fortuner amongst others, he explained that procurement of each of the items was ratified by the board. This is as they aligned with the Board‘s objectives such as cost cutting and turning the business around from loss making to profitability.
“I wish to add that when I took the reins as CEO in March 2018, BAMB was in very bad financial state with loan facilities that had not been serviced for sometime and most overdue. The only available vehicle fleet were old trucks and obsolete cars with a high maintenance cost.” As CEO, he had to be innovative and use private sector type initiatives to resource an entity like BAMB in order to bring it back to sustainability. Therefore, the only rational approach, which is common in the private sector was that of leasing as opposed to outright purchase. “For an entity with a healthy balance sheet,” he
Along with his management team they identified all visible risks based on financial projections and sales initiatives and were able to secure support from a leasing house and were further able to lease new trucks with trailers and new cars. This has enabled BAMB to cut costs and increase efficiency which has resulted in positive business performance and return to profitability. With regards to the Toyota Fortuner, this was inline with cost cutting and belt tightening against mileage claims that were on the rise as the Exco team used their own vehicles to visit branches and carryout other duties. Further to this the Fortuner was also used to transport board members who needed transport while of BAMB duties.
“Therefore I can assure you that due process was followed in procuring these items albeit with limited financing options and most importantly they were all ratified by the board.” He also dismissed nepotism and favoritism allegations leveled against him as far as recruitment was concerned. He said he was aware of an allegation that said he had employed his brother in-law as head of security at a new division that he introduced in light of prevalent and high stock losses due to theft. “What I can state for a fact is that I have two brothers in-law whom I was with earlier this week mourning the passing of our father. None of them or their cousin works for BAMB. I therefore put this allegation to a smear campaign that has been in the offing for sometime now,” he further said.
Morakaladi also denied claims that he fired more than 20 employees and that some employees were paid for jobs that did not exist. He said: “I wish to differ with the above statement because BAMB has laid down processes and procedures in its conditions of service that informs ways to relief staff of their duties. It is not the CEO who fires staff but the processes as defined in the conditions of service. I cannot comment further than this sincere some of the cases are still under police investigations, whilst others are before the Courts.
In conclusion Morakaladi said his tenure at BAMB has been very enlightening and he is happy with what his team managed to achieve in a short space of time. “Inheriting an entity with close to P300 million of overdue loans and long overdue collections at P180 million. It’s a great achievement where less than three years down the line BAMB only has loans of less P45 million and has been able to collect 50% of what was owed,” he said.
However, with the benefit of hindsight, he cannot help but wonder if the Board was ready for an experienced private sector professional to turn the fortunes of BAMB with innovative private sector thinking and initiatives where one wants to run the entity like a private sector company. “One must be aware that unlike most State owned Enterprises, BAMB does not receive government subventions therefore we don’t rely on money from government to run the business. As a farmer I will continue serving my country in other aspects of the agriculture sector,” he concluded.