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The Debswana secret
The Debswana secret
P.S Ministry of Minerals and Energy: Ellen Richard-Madisa

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The Debswana secret

  • PAC quizzes PS on secrecy surrounding sale agreement

Permanent Secretary (P.S) in the Ministry of Minerals and Energy, Ellen Richard-Madisa says the auditor general is free to look at the Debswana accounts as well as the sale agreement between the mining company and De Beers, but what is prohibited is to keep a copy of those documents.

Madisa was appearing before the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) this week, and responding to questions posed by Jwaneng Mabutsane Member of Parliament (MP), Mephato Reatile.

The MP had wanted the P.S to state the Act that protects the secrecy behind Debswana and its sales agreement with De Beers, which tends to prohibit the auditor general from having access to company documents.

“You are both public servants with the auditor general, then if the auditor general is dangerous to the public service, then explain her danger!” said Reatile to Madisa.

However, in her response, Madisa indicated that they can avail the accounts to the auditor general for examination.

“She can also have a look at the sales agreement, she can come to the ministry and read it with us and understand it, but what is impossible is for us to say have a copy,” explained Madisa.

Madisa said the reason for the secrecy is to protect the information so that competitors do not lay their eyes on the agreement because if they do, it would then spell doom to the country and its economy.

Meanwhile, another Committee member, Wynter Mmolotsi expressed concern that government does not have officers stationed at private mines, adding that the arrangement where Minerals Development Company Botswana (MDCB) has to look out for government interests in those private mines is not working.

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“If you weigh the cost of placing staff at mines against possible loss from cheating by reporting wrong quantities of production, you may find that the costs of paying an officer is almost negligible,” said the Francistown South MP.

He said if the country was to generate lots of revenue from the mineral sector, these are areas that should be looked at in order to close loopholes.

“These people can actually report half of what they produce because MDCB is not there full time,” he said.

Responding to Mmolotsi’s concerns, Madisa said they will consider stationing officers at private mines to be government’s eyes.

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