Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) has distanced its office from the procurement of the Communications and Intelligence Machine that was to be used in the upcoming general elections and further confirmed that the equipment will not be used in the polls.
This comes after the leader for the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC), Duma Boko interdicted through the courts, equipment that was to be purchased by Directorate of Intelligence Services (DIS). The machine that was to be procured from a Switzerland based company was solely the DIS brainchild with the election custodian IEC pushed away. The machine could be used to intercept elections data processes and can be programmed to advance the interest of a given client. This raised eyebrows of most key players, including political parties and IEC.
This week, IEC through its spokesperson Osupile Maroba, confirmed that this year’s elections will follow the traditional manual way of voting and counting. “We have never been in the process of procuring any machine as the IEC and I can tell you that for this elections, will be doing the same way we have been doing in the past elections. We know nothing about the machine you are referring to as the commission” he revealed in an interview with this publication.
Before Boko interdicted the purchase of the machine there was a growing concern by his party that it could be used by the ruling party for undue illegal surveillance purposes. This, it was argued that the BDP which enters the 23rd October elections, unsure of the election outcomes, could organize electoral fraud by mixing up the Identity cards related equipment with possibilities of opposition voters not allowed to vote as their ID numbers might not tally with what is in the voters roll. The machines were to be useful in opposition stronghold constituencies, those in the know have told this publication.
For IEC, they were not bothered by the purported acquisition of the machine. “Since the Electronic Voting Machine (EVM), was repelled by parliament there is no machine that will be used for the elections. It has to go through process and we had to be taking part in that, so there is nothing of that sort,” Maroba stated.
Any usage of machine on this year’s polls was always going to meet with resistance from stakeholders as evidenced by the intensive rejection of the EVM. What could have made it more difficult for Surveillance and Intelligence Equipment to see the light of the day is the timing and process it was intended to be used. “IEC is also aware of the significance of this year’s elections so they would not want to upset people like that. Machine has not been bought and it will not,” one observer revealed to this publication.
ADVANCED POLL REGISTER 25,044 VOTERS
Meanwhile 1,044 ballot papers have crossed the border as the IEC will today carry elections for Batswana outside the country. “The process has been going very well and the last box of paper flew on Wednesday to its destination”, Maroba shared. Batswana voters will only be allowed to cast their vote in countries where this nation has diplomatic missions. After this election, police officers and IEC staff will also cast their vote on the 19th. “Police and IEC staff who will be working on the day will vote early. The total number we have registered is around 24, 000.”
OBSERVER MISSIONS FLOCK BOTSWANA AHEAD OF ELECTIONS
With only 10 days left before the Election Day, various election observer missions have shown interest in observing this year’s polls. Already, Maroba says, seven international organisations have illustrated interest to observe the local elections which are normally described as free and fair. “We have seven organisations that have shown intent to see our elections including African Union, European Union and other bodies that normally observe our elections.”
The number of observer mission organisations are nothing strange as it is the same number IEC usually accredit despite the intensity of this year’s elections. However, the number could rise because interested parties apply through the Ministry of International Affairs with IEC only focused on accreditations.
“A number of bodies apply through the ministry and we do accreditations. For now I can’t state the numbers we are expecting because we don’t deal with applications. As for the SADC observer mission, which normally arrive before others, I guess they are looking at their budget to see for how long they would come but for now we have not accredited them but they have sensitized us about their intentions to be here on election date,” said Maroba.
In the past elections international observers have noted with concern, low turnout by the local observer groups but this has been corrected. Botswana Council of Non-Governmental Organisations (BOCONGO), will be leading the local observer mission for the first time, with Botswana Council of Churches also on the mix.
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.