Botswana: CMB Saga Widens

11 September 2019

A whistleblowing tip off to Botswana Public Officers Pension Fund (BPOPF) about dealings of Capital Management Botswana (CMB) - who were partners in an equity fund Botswana Opportunities Partnership - has opened a can of worms with more under investigation by the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC), it is alleged.

On Friday Chairperson of Finance & Investments sub Committee of the BPOPF board of trustees, Mrs Emma Peloetletse, laughed off allegations that she is being pursued by DCEC over her relationship with liquidated controversial asset management firm Capital Management Botswana (CMB).

Allegations were that the board of trustees reported Peloetletse, who is the Accountant General, to the DCEC for criminal investigation on suspicion that she violated the rules of the Fund when she failed to declare 'gifts' or 'sponsorships' from one of the asset managers who were service providers of BPOPF. Such omission goes against governance of the Fund.

A whistleblowing tip off and subsequent investigations are alleged to have uncovered transactions showing that Peloetletse and her husband were sponsored for flights and hosted by CMB at a Jazz festival in Cape Town. The CMB gesture created conflict of interest on the part of the trustee and there is strong suspicion that because her family had been pampered on a lavish holiday she was influenced in her decisions as Chairperson of Finance and Investments Committee to allocate more funds to CMB. Peloetletse dismissed the allegation saying BPOPF Rules are so stringent that she cannot make unilateral decisions as chairperson of the subcommittee.

Peloetletse explained that there is no how she could have favoured anybody because the Rules of the fund dictate that decisions are by consensus. "An objection from only one member brings everything to a halt. Therefore, you cannot buy all members of the committee/ board," she explained.

Further allegations are that at some point during the blossoming friendship CMB loaned Peloetletse's husband -who owns a construction company- funds amounting to millions of pula.

"This is the first time I am hearing about this from you," she said.

"No. I am not aware of any allegations of an investigation against me. I have never been cautioned about that either by BPOPF board or DCEC. Tota tota, I know nothing about such allegations. If I was being investigated wouldn't I be advised by those investigating me or at least by the board I sit in?" she asked rhetorically.

Does she have any relationship with CMB Directors, Rapula Okaile and Tim Marsland? Is her husband friends or related to any of the Directors? Has she and her family ever been to a Cape Town Jazz Festival? "I do not know those people. Nooo, I have never been to a Jazz festival in Cape Town," she replied.

Asked if her husband has ever received any funds from CMB, Peloetletse expressed shock at the allegation. "Nnyaa rra. Rona raa itshokolla hela (We are struggling). My husband has been in the construction business for many years. If any transaction has taken place between his company and anybody obviously documents will show the money trail," she said.

She believes the allegations are an attempt to tarnish her reputation, perpetrated by those involved in cases where she is often called as a witness. "By virtue of my position (as Accountant General), which deals with funds most of the time, I am a witness in a number of cases where I am called to explain mainly the adjudication process. Specifically, on the CMB case I am witness in the matter," she said.

Chairman of the BPOPF board Solomon Mantswe could neither confirm nor deny any on-going investigations by DCEC on any of their board members or staff of the pension fund. He said as far as he knows the board referred the matter concerning the former Chairman (Morupisi) to DCEC following a whistleblowing tip-off.

"The last time they wrote to us was when they confirmed receipt of our report. We are still awaiting an update on their findings. I am not aware of any other case of a board member reported to DCEC," he said.

The Patriot on Sunday has in the past asked BPOPF CEO, Boitumelo Johnson, if they are aware of allegations that some of her Executives could be colluding with service providers or asset managers to fleece the Fund of millions of pula. This followed allegations by a former partner at CMB that s/he once overheard another partner bragging that they have opened offshore accounts for some Executives at BPOPF and the former Chairman in Mauritius where kickbacks are paid. Johnson denied knowledge of the claim, at the time. Former Chairman of BPOPF board Carter Morupisi also denied owning any bank account outside the country.

Morupisi was araigned before court on Tuesday facing three counts of money laundering, accepting a bribe and abuse of office following a DCEC investigation into his conduct and relationship with CMB Directors during his tenure. Morupisi, who is the Permanent Secretary to the President, is currently serving an indefinite suspension.

The looting of pensions funds under CMB seems to widen over time as it involves former BPOPF chairman and Director at CMB Rapula Okaile, former Chairman of BPOPF and PSP Carter Morupisi, and now Chairman of Finance and Investments Committee & Accountant General. President Masisi is also implicated, after CMB donated funds to his campaign for the Chairmanship of Botswana Democratic Party (BDP).

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