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Why MPs choked P1billion transfer

Minister of Finance and Economic Development, Dr Thapelo Matsheka was on Thursday this week forced to withdraw a request to have P1.1 billion appropriated from the Development Budget to fund shortfalls in Government’s re-current budget owing to unbudgeted increment of public service salaries.

The withdrawal followed a fierce resistance from opposition benches, with the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) threatening to take the matter to court for interdiction. The UDC collectively believed that appropriating money from the development fund to augment shortfalls in the recurrent budget would be at variance with the Public Finance Management Act. The request was tabled on Wednesday before parliament, but consequent to UDC resistance, the matter was referred to the General Assembly [comprising all MPs] which met on Thursday morning for further discussion.

According to Dr Matsheka, at the General Assembly, it was concluded, through the guidance of Attorney General that the request to reallocate funds from the Development Fund to finance projected shortfall in the recurrent budget, as result of the salary adjustments approved after the 2019/2020 budget was concluded, was legal.

 “The opinion from the Attorney General proffered this morning [Thursday] at the General Assembly was that, indeed, the request by my Ministry was legal in terms of the supreme law of this country, which is the Constitution,” Matsheka told parliament when withdrawing the request. Dr Matsheka eventually agreed to withdraw the request in favour of a more agreeable approach.

It has emerged that while Public Finance Management Act forbids what the Minister of Finance proposed before parliament, the ruling party tried to find their way through the constitution, as they believed it is the “supreme law”, enough to relegate the Public Finance Management Act to a mere provision. However, the UDC court action threats were alive, and BDP feared the matter could enter the public domain and cause a stir should the opposition MPs challenge it in court.

WeekendPost also established that, a number of BDP legislators also opposed the request. One MP who opposed the motion from the floor on Wednesday, in presence of President Mokgweetsi Masisi, was Reggie Reatile, the Jwaneng-Mabutsane representative. Prior to reaching parliament, the request was first put before the Finance and Estimates Committee, Chaired by Kanye North lawmaker, Thapelo Letsholo.

Despite the Committee raising concerns with the request, it gave the proposal thumbs up. The committee comprises of Letsholo, Tshekedi Khama (Serowe West), Ignatius Moswaane (Francistown West), Tumisang Healy (Gaborone Central), Wynter Mmolotsi (Francistown South), Dr Kesetegile Gobotswang (Sefhare-Ramokgonami), Liakat Kablay (Letlhakeng-Lephephe), and Oarabile Regoeng (Molepolole North).

The Committee indicated its concern “over diversion of funds allocated to the development projects to finance the recurrent budget.” During his proposal, Dr Matsheka contented that the shortfall in the recurrent budget was an emergence, while the opposition were of the view that the decision to increase salaries in the absence of funds was for political expediency.

“Presidential Directive CAB.1/99 stipulates that only Supplementary Budget requests that arose from emergencies or were not foreseen qualify under this dispensation. Government took a decision to award salary and allowances increases to public servants after the budget process for financial year 2019/2020 was concluded,” Matsheka argued.

INCREMENT OF PUBLIC SERVANT SALARIES WAS NOT BUDGETED FOR  

During the past few months, Government made several commitments, including salary increment for two consecutive financial years as well as adjustment of salaries for public servants within security forces; namely Botswana Defence Force (BDF), Botswana Police Service (BPS) and Botswana Prisons Service (BPS).

A total of four ministries namely: Presidential Affairs, Governance and Public Administration; Basic Education; Local Government and Rural Development; and Defence, Justice and Security, had submitted Supplementary Budget requests to be funded from the Consolidated Fund. The Ministry of Presidential Affairs, Governance and Public Administration requested an additional funds amounting to P12,447,940. The request was to cater for the shortfall arising from adjustment of salaries for public officers for financial year 2019/2020 under the Directorate on Intelligence and Security (DIS).

The salary adjustments of 10 percent, 6 percent and 4 percent, for salary scales A and B; C and D; and E and above, respectively, were announced by Government in March 2019, after the budget for 2019/2020 financial year had been concluded. The salary adjustments were implemented with effect from 1st April, 2019.

The Ministry of Basic Education required a total supplementary funding of P71,234,580. Of this amount, a sum of P60,869,290 was needed to augment the shortfall under the Basic Salary and Allowances accounts at Headquarters, the Department of Out of School Education and Training and the Department of Teaching Service Management. The salaries and allowances accounts need additional funding following Government’s decision to award salary adjustments of 10 percent, 6 percent and 4 percent for various salary 8 grades effective from April 2019.

The remainder of P10,365,290 was intended to cover the shortfall in the Temporary Teachers account of the Department of Secondary Education. The Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development requested additional funding of P260,014,920 comprising P122,517,050 for Revenue Support Grant (RSG) to Councils and P137,497,870 for Social Protection Allowances. Under the RSG, the shortage is caused by increases to staff salaries, allowances and pension contributions, which were affected by the 10 percent, 6 percent and 4 percent salary adjustments.

Councillors’ salaries, termination allowances and other allowances have been increased by various amounts whilst the Ward/Village/Umbrella Development Committees’ allowances were increased by P50 per beneficiary per month. In regard to social protection allowances namely; Destitute Allowance, Disability Allowance and Old Age Pension Scheme, the increases were P50 per beneficiary per month for the first two (2) allowances and P100 per beneficiary per month for Old Age Pension Scheme.

The increases were also announced after the budget for 2019/2020 had been concluded. The Ministry of Defence, Justice and Security requires a total sum of P757,402,760 for Basic Salary and Allowances for three of its departments. These are Botswana Defence Force at P248,353,120; Botswana Police Service at P430,508,030; and Prisons and Rehabilitation for P78,541,610. The additional provision was intended to cover the shortfall caused by the 10 percent, 6 percent and 4 percent salary adjustments, which took effect on 1 st April 2019.

SEVERAL PROJECTS FACED SACRIFICE

In order to mitigate against the crisis, cabinet tried to sacrifice certain projects, which were perceived to be not on time. “Given the increasingly constrained fiscal space, my Ministry has assessed and identified areas of possible savings from slow spending projects funded under the Development Fund to finance the Consolidated Fund Supplementary Estimates requests. “I am proposing reallocations from the 2019/2020 Development Budget of the Ministry of Land Management, Water and Sanitation Services (MLWS).

“In this connection the sum of P1,101,100,200 comprising P800,000,000; P200,000,000 and P101,100,200 from the Water Supply Pipelines; Water Supply and Sanitation Networks; and the Land Development projects respectively, is proposed for reallocation. “These are slow spending projects that are still left with sizeable unspent balances. This proposed reallocation will not have any adverse effect on the annual 10 budgets of the projects concerned nor on the Total Estimated Cost,” Matsheka told parliament.

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African countries call on WHO to increase funding

2nd February 2023

Minister of Health Dr Edwin Dikoloti says Africa member states call on World Health Organization (WHO) to ensure equitable resource allocation for 2024-2025. Dr Dikoloti was speaking this week at the WHO Executive Board Meeting in Geneva, Switzerland.

He said countries agreed that there is need to address the budget and funding imbalances by increasing the programme budget share of countries and regions to 75% for the next year.

“The proposed budget for 2024-2025 marks an important milestone as it is the first in Programme Budget in which country offices will be allocated more than half of the total budget for the biennium. We highly welcome this approach which will enable the organization to deliver on its mandate while fulfilling the expectations for transparency, efficiency and accountability.”

The Botswana Health Minister commended member states on the extension of the General Programme of Work (GPD 13) and the Secretariat work to monitor the progress towards the triple billion targets, and the health-related SDGs.

“We welcome the Director’s general proposed five priorities which have crystalized into the “five Ps” that are aligned with the GPW 13 extension. Impact can only be achieved through close coordination with, and support to national health authorities. As such, the strengthening of country offices is instrumental, with particular focus on strengthening national health systems and on promoting more equitable access to health services.”

According to Dr Dikoloti, the majority of countries with UHC index that is below the global median are in the WHO Africa region. “For that, we call on the WHO to enhance capacity at the regional and national levels in order to accelerate progress. Currently, the regional office needs both technical and financial support in order to effectively address and support country needs.”

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Botswana still weighing in on Maseko’s assassination

27th January 2023

The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Dr. Lemogang Kwape says Botswana has not taken any position regarding the killing of a renowned human rights lawyer, Thulani Maseko, who was gunned down at his house in Mbabane, Eswatini.

In a brief interview with WeekendPost, Dr Kwape said Botswana has not yet taken any position regarding his death. He said the purported incident should be thoroughly probed before Botswana can form an opinion based on the findings of the inquiries.

“Botswana generally condemns any killing of human life by all means,” says Dr. Kwape. He wouldn’t want to be dragged on whether Botswana will support the suspension of Eswatini from SADC.

“We will be guided by SADC organ Troika if they can be an emergency meeting. I am not sure when the meeting will be called by Namibian president,“ he said.

However, the Namibian president Hage Geingob notes with deep concern reports coming out of Eswatini about the killing of Mr. Maseko. In a statement, he called upon the “Government of the Kingdom of Eswatini to ensure that the killing of Maseko is swiftly, transparently and comprehensively investigated, and that any or all persons suspected of committing this heinous crime are brought to justice.”

Maseko was chairperson of the Multi-Stakeholder Forum which was established as a coalition of non-State actors to advocate for a process of national political dialogue aimed at resolving the security and political challenges confronting the Kingdom.

“SADC expresses its deepest and heartfelt condolences to the family of Mr. Maseko, his friends, colleagues, and to the people of the Kingdom of Eswatini for the loss of Mr. Maseko. In this context, SADC further calls upon the people of the Kingdom of Eswatini to remain calm, exercise due care and consideration whilst the appropriate structures conduct the investigations and bring the matter to completion,” the statement says.

Geingob reiterated the need for peaceful resolution of the political and security challenges affecting the country.

Meanwhile political activists are calling on SADC to suspend Eswatini from the block including the African Union as well.

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Kopong Murder: Accused interferes with witnesses again!

27th January 2023

State prosecutor, Seeletso Ookeditse revealed before the Broadhurst Magistrate Jobbie Moilatshimo that the third accused involved in the murder of Barulaganye Aston, has interfered with the State witnesses again.

The second and third accused (Lefty Kosie and Outlwile Aston) were previously accused of interference when they were caught in possession of cellphones in prison. They were further accused of planning to kill the deceased’s brother, who is currently the guardian to the children of the deceased.

Ookeditse indicated that Outlwile had earlier went to challenge the magistrate’s decision of denying him bail at the High Court before Judge Michael Motlhabi.

“The third accused approached the High Court and made a bail application, which was dismissed on the same day,” Ookeditse said.

However, even after the High Court verdict on their bail application, the duo (Kosie and Aston) has once again applied for bail this week.

Ookeditse plead with the court to stop the accused from abusing the court process.

“Yesterday, Directorate of Public Prosecutions (DPP) received papers of his bail application filed before the Broadhurst Magistrates Court. However, the papers do not speak to changed circumstances, therefore this back and forth about bail must be put to a stop,” said the State prosecutor.

While giving evidence before court, the Investigations Officer, Detective Inspector Quite Zhalamonto, said his investigations have proved that there is interference continuing regarding the accused trio.

He told the court that on the 12th of January 2023, he received a report from Thato Aston, who is the son of the accused and the deceased. The son had alleged to the Investigation Officer that he received a call from one Phillip Molwantwa.

According to Zhalamonto, Thato revealed that Molwatwa indicated that he was from prison on a visit to the Outlwile Aston and went on to ask where he was staying and where his siblings (Aston’s children) are staying.

“Thato revealed that Phillip went on to ask if he or his siblings saw their father murdering their mother, and he was referring to the crime scene. Thato told me that he, however, refused to answer the questions as he was afraid especially because he was asked about where him and his siblings stay,” said Zhalamonto.

Zhalamonto alluded to the court that he then went to Orange to confirm the communication between Thato and Molwantwa where he found the case.

“I have arrested Philip yesterday and when I interviewed him, he did not deny that he knows Aston and that he has indeed called Thato and asked questions as to where him and his siblings resides even though he failed to give reasons for asking such questions,” Zhalamonto told the court.

He further revealed that Molwantwa indicated that he had received a call from an unknown man who refused to reveal himself.

“Phillip told me that the unknown man said he was sent by the accused (Aston), and that Aston had instructed him to tell me to check if there was still some money in his bank accounts, and he also wanted to know where the kids were residing, the unknown man even asked him to meet at Main Mall” the Investigation Officer told the court.

He further informed the court that he is working tirelessly to identify the “unknown caller” and the route of the cell number.

Furthermore, the fourth accused, Kebaleboge Ntsebe, has revealed to the court through a letter that she was abused and tortured by the Botswana Police Services. She wrote in her letter that she suffered miscarriage as a result of being beaten by the police.

Ntsebe is on bail, while a bail ruling for Aston and Kosie will be delivered on the 6th of next month

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