The newly elected President Mokgweetsi Masisi, has re-affirmed the promises he made during campaigning, promising to do whatever necessary to turn around Botswana’s fortunes. When giving acceptance speech after being sworn in for the second time, as Botswana’s fifth President, he said job creation remains a priority.
Masisi in prioritising job creation, his government will ensure the creation of meaningful and sustainable jobs by promoting public private partnerships with local and foreign investors in some of the key sectors of agriculture, mining, tourism, manufacturing, electronics, pharmaceuticals as well as research and development amongst others. “Through these sectors as well as the arts, the creative industry and sports, there is enormous potential for the creation of thousands of jobs for Batswana,” he said.
Masisi, who first became President in April 2018, said his government is also in negotiations with Forbes to host the 2020 Under 30 Summit in Gaborone, as part of the President’s Initiative. It will be the first time that the Forbes Under-30 Summit will be held in Africa. “The event brings together at least six hundred of the world’s most elite entrepreneurs and game changers. They will be 200 Africa best, 200 World Best and Botswana Best,” Masisi indicated.
“The Summit presents yet another opportunity not only for the young entrepreneurs in Botswana to learn from others and grow their businesses but also explore more ways to creating jobs for the youth.” Initiatives such as these, according to Masisi, are aimed at producing commercially viable and high value products and services, targeted at the export market.
“I say this cognisant of the fact that, creating a conducive and enabling environment for the private sector to grow is key to our economic transformation and growth. This will be underpinned by Government’s facilitation through the ease of doing business reforms,” he stated. He said a number of policy and legislative reforms that have been introduced, were primarily aimed at creating a favourable environment for the private sector to thrive and grow.
Government will furthermore leverage on the Economic Diversification Drive (EDD), Masisi said to give citizens an opportunity to set up industries to empower them and in turn create the much needed jobs for our people. “In order to implement our economic diversification and the citizen economic empowerment initiatives, Government will enact legislation to enforce compliance by relevant institutions including the private sector,” he said.
“This is why I am happy to announce that the EDD strategy is being reviewed to close the existing gaps and help us to achieve in full, the goals of the Citizen Economic Empowerment Programme.” Masisi has also made remarks on corruption, a subject which formed core of his campaign message during the battle for power. “We cannot hope to improve service delivery nor achieve any of our national objectives if our institutional frameworks are not robust, transparent, accountable and free from corruption.
“I have fought against the menace of corruption since ascending to the Presidency and it is my intention to continue to do so. I therefore wish to emphasise that my Government will put in place measures and mechanisms, through the application of best practices of good governance to ensure that corruption is defeated.” Masisi said following the passing of law on Declaration of Assets and Liabilities will result in the creation of Ethics and Integrity Directorate is being established.
“In the same vein, I would like to reiterate that I am committed to the rule of law in this country, as that would enhance confidence and send message to all of us that the law must be abided or face consequences of non-compliance,” he affirmed. He said as part of his Government’s efforts to deepen the spirit of therisanyo, Government is committed to a comprehensive review of Botswana’s Constitution which will take stock of the changed social, political and economic landscape over the last fifty three years.
“The engagements and consultations necessary to start the ball rolling will be initiated soon after the full formation of my government. I remain resolute in my commitment to create a more inclusive Botswana,” he said. Masisi, who is expected to appoint his cabinet on Tuesday, also indicated that Botswana has experienced high incidences of human-wildlife conflict particularly relating to elephants due to their significant increase in population.
“This largely reflects the success of our conservation strategies, where for example, approximately 40 percent of Botswana’s land mass in the form of national parks, game reserves and Wildlife Management Areas (WMAs), is currently set aside for wildlife conservation,” he said. “However, despite this land reservation, elephant population has increased beyond the capacity of the game reserves to encroach into human settlement areas and hence the conflict.
“My government nevertheless, will continue to commit to outcomes that will set the tone for conserving and managing our wildlife, and elephants in particular, while ensuring that we achieve sustainable benefits through their contribution to rural livelihoods and tourism growth. Citizens will play more meaningful and economically empowering role as we diversify our tourism base,” he said. Masisi also committed to transform education, improve health, maintaining a good foreign policy as well as fighting violence against women and children.
Government is currently sitting on 4 400 vacant posts that remain unfilled in the civil service. This is notwithstanding the high unemployment rate in Botswana which has been exacerbated by the recent outbreak of the deadly COVID-19 pandemic.
Just before the burst of COVID-19, official data released by Statistics Botswana in January 2020, indicate that unemployment in Botswana has increased from 17.6 percent three years ago to 20.7 percent. “Unemployment rate went up by 3.1 percentage between the two periods, from 17.6 to 20.7 percent,” statistics point out.
Leading commercial bank, First National Bank Botswana (FNBB), expects the central bank to sharpen its monetary policy knife and cut the Bank Rate twice in the last quarter of 2020.
The bank expects a 25 basis point (bps) in the beginning of the last quarter, which is next month, and another shed by the same bps in December, making a total of 50 bps cut in the last quarter. According to the bank’s researchers, the central bank is now holding on to 4.25 percent for the time being pending for more informed data on the economic climate.
An audit of the accounts and records for the supply of food rations to the institutions in the Northern Region for the financial year-ended 31 March 2019 was carried out. According to Auditor General’s report and observations, there are weaknesses and shortcomings that were somehow addressed to the Accounting Officer for comments.
Auditor General, Pulane Letebele indicated on the report that, across all depots in the region that there had been instances where food items were short for periods ranging from 1 to 7 months in the institutions for a variety of reasons, including absence of regular contracts and supplier failures. The success of this programme is dependent on regular and reliable availability of the supplies to achieve its objective, the report said.
There would be instances where food items were returned from the feeding centers to the depots for reasons of spoilage or any other cause. In these cases, instances had been noted where these returns were not supported by any documentation, which could lead to these items being lost without trace.
The report further stressed that large quantities of various food items valued at over P772 thousand from different depots were damaged by rodents, and written off.Included in the write off were 13 538 (340ml) cartons of milk valued at P75 745. In this connection, the Auditor General says it is important that the warehouses be maintained to a standard where they would not be infested by rodents and other pests.
Still in the Northern region, the report noted that there is an outstanding matter relating to the supply of stewed steak (283×3.1kg cans) to the Maun depot which was allegedly defective. The steak had been supplied by Botswana Meat Commission to the depot in November 2016.
In March 2017 part of the consignment was reported to the supplier as defective, and was to be replaced. Even as there was no agreement reached between the parties regarding replacement, in 51 October 2018 the items in question were disposed of by destruction. This disposal represented a loss as the whole consignment had been paid for, according to the report.
“In my view, the loss resulted directly from failure by the depot managers to deal with the matter immediately upon receipt of the consignment and detection of the defects. Audit inspections during visits to Selibe Phikwe, Maun, Shakawe, Ghanzi and Francistown depots had raised a number of observations on points of detail related to the maintenance of records, reconciliations of stocks and related matters, which I drew to the attention of the Accounting Officer for comments,” Letebele said in her report.
In the Southern region, a scrutiny of the records for the control of stocks of food items in the Southern Region had indicated intermittent shortages of the various items, principally Tsabana, Malutu, Sunflower Oil and Milk which was mainly due to absence of subsisting contracts for the supply of these items.
“The contract for the supply of Tsabana to all depots expired in September 2018 and was not replaced by a substantive contract. The supplier contracts for these stocks should be so managed that the expiry of one contract is immediately followed by the commencement of the next.”
Suppliers who had been contracted to supply foodstuffs had failed to do so and no timely action had been taken to redress the situation to ensure continuity of supply of the food items, the report noted.
In one case, the report highlighted that the supplier was to manufacture and supply 1 136 metric tonnes of Malutu for a 4-months period from March 2019 to June 2019, but had been unable to honour the obligation. The situation was relieved by inter-depot transfers, at additional cost in transportation and subsistence expenses.
In another case, the contract was for the supply of Sunflower Oil to Mabutsane, where the supplier had also failed to deliver. Examination of the Molepolole depot Food Issues Register had indicated a number of instances where food items consigned to the various feeding centres had been returned for a variety of reasons, including food item available; no storage space; and in other cases the whole consignments were returned, and reasons not stated.
This is an indication of lack of proper management and monitoring of the affairs of the depot, which could result in losses from frequent movements of the food items concerned.The maintenance of accounting records in the region, typically in Letlhakeng, Tsabong, and Mabutsane was less than satisfactory, according to Auditor General’s report.
In these depots a number of instances had been noted where receipts and issues had not been recorded over long periods, resulting in incorrect balances reflected in the accounting records. This is a serious weakness which could lead to or result in losses without trace or detection, and is a contravention of Supplies Regulations and Procedures, Letebele said.
Similarly, consignments of a total of 892 bags of Malutu and 3 bags of beans from Tsabong depot to different feeding centres had not been received in those centres, and are considered lost. These are also not reflected in the Statement of Losses in the Annual Statements of Accounts for the same periods.