‘Big wigs’ in COVID-19 tenders

Preliminary investigations by the Botswana Unified Revenue Service (BURS) and the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC) into the multi-milion Pula COVID-19 tenders are said to have implicated some politicians and prominent businessmen in the country, The Business Weekly & Review has established.

‘Big wigs’ in COVID-19 tenders

According to information seen by this publication, the investigating agencies are said to have began these probes last week.

 

Early indications suggest that some of the companies that were awarded COVID-19 tenders are secretly owned by some local prominent figures ;including businessmen, high ranking government officials and politicians.

 

It has been discovered that one company, known to this publication, which was recently marred in controversy after being awarded a tender to supply masks worth millions, is in contravention of tax laws. A trail of evidence seen by The Business Weekly & Review shows that millions of Pula ,sourced from COVID-19 tenders, which were deposited into the company’s accounts were immediately transferred into a trust account. It is believed that it is through the trust account that funds are distributed to other ‘silent shareholders’ as kickbacks. The director of the company is also believed to have close relations with some prominent figures within the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP).

Furthermore, most these companies are understood be in violation of tax laws, especially the non-compliance to VAT and PAYE. Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development Dr. Wilfred Mandlebe revealed in June 2020 that government had at the time spent close to P100 million in COVID-19 health supplies. In August 2020, parliament was told that more than P200 million had been spent on the same course.  These funds were drawn from the P2billion COVID-19 relief fund. Various local companies were awarded the tenders to supply most of these health supplies. These procurements were done through direct appointment by the Office of the President (OP).

Head of Compliance and Investigations at BURS, Kaone Molapo told this publication that he was not at any liberty to discuss any of their internal affairs with third parties. Several attempts to solicit a comment from DCEC director general Tymon Katlholo proved futile as his phone rang unanswered on Thursday.

Meanwhile, Katlholo, recently told the Parliamentary Committee of Governance and Oversight that the corruption-busting agency is probing 69 COVID-19 allegations of corruption that go back to April 2020.

In addition, last year reports stated that President Mokgweetsi Masisi warned his cabinet to “stay far away” from meddling in the awarding of COVID-19 tenders if they are to keep their jobs A list of some of the companies that won COVID-19 tenders is shown below.