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BIDPA recommends Poverty Ministry

For the government to eradicate extreme poverty and alleviate inter-generational poverty, an independent structure or agency, precisely a ministry focusing on these vices should be formed as a matter of urgency, Botswana Institution for Development and Policy Analysis (BIDPA) has recommended.

The recommendation for a ministry focusing on poverty follows an eight-month consultation period by various stakeholders. The process, which ended in February, included over 63 villages, beneficiaries, village leaderships, civil organisations and implementing partners who all had a converging view on this. “Most of them told us in separate meetings that for us to fight poverty fiercely, we should create an agency or ministry,” Poverty Eradication, National Coordinator, Montshioa Montshioa told WeekendPost.

The research think-tank BIDPA has also carried its own study and reached the same conclusion. “It is in this regard that a new Ministry of Social Development was recommended by a report by BIDPA titled, ‘A Social Development Policy for Botswana: Phase II; Framework and Strategy’. The National Poverty Eradication Policy adopts this and recommends the establishment of a new Ministry,” noted the final draft of the Poverty Eradication.

The new Ministry will be responsible for policy formulation and development of programmes that are remedial, preventive, curative and development oriented to enable beneficiaries to be productive. This will allow people to participate meaningfully in the economic development of the country, says the policy document this publication is in possession of. The ministry, according to BIDPA, will be focused on management of all social protection and social security initiatives, management of all programmes that address child and inter-generational poverty.

“It will also be responsible for management of empowerment programmes for the poor, development and monitoring of all policies and programmes geared towards improvement of the lives of the poor and other vulnerable groups. Not only those but coordination of all initiatives that address poverty and vulnerability in the country,” the report indicated.

It is conceded by various captains in the ecosystem, that although all the government programmes are generally still relevant, their implementation is in disjunction owing to lack of coordination. Based on this, the ideal recommendation by the policy is the establishment of a new Ministry of Social Development, to lead and coordinate the implementation of all poverty eradication initiatives in the country.

“It has emerged that there was no policy but programmes and this made it difficult for us to work to maximum. There were challenges in profiling, monitoring and evaluating the beneficiaries. Our programmes are also scattered under various ministries and council but it should be consolidated under one roof hence the decision to have this structure,” Montshioa explained in an interview this week.

On average the National Coordinator Montshioa, reveals that they spent an average of P185 million on annual basis. This means the government of Botswana has in the past eight years splashed a whooping P1.2 billion in 52 packages aimed at emancipating the locals from an ugly face of poverty. Professor Keitseope Nthomang of University of Botswana (UB), who is also head of Social Work Department is however of the view that there should be research based evidence before ministry could be formulated.

“There is no research evidence which will give us an idea on how to correct this. The knee-jerk and piece meal approach will not take us anywhere. We should firstly carry a research and see how we should tackle this poverty because it shows that the money is there but then the programmes are disastrous,” he said. He however agreed that it is expected that this kind of structure will link many uncoordinated government efforts geared towards addressing poverty eradication. This includes monitoring and evaluation to ensure that stakeholders execute strategy efficiently and effectively.

Perhaps this is what the Minister of Presidential Affairs Governance and Public Administration Nonofo Molefhi was alluding to this week when he said: “All these poverty eradication programmes have not yielded the results we envisaged, so we should look at how best we can intervene productively to ensure that we win.”

Since its inception Poverty Eradication Coordinating Unit (PECU) says poverty incidence has decreased from 19.3 percent to 16.3 percent, while that of people leaving under extreme poverty has reduced from 6.4 percent to 5.8 percent (116,000),” said Montshioa.

According to Montshioa more then 33 000 projects have been funded with more than 26 000 (79.3 percent) operational. Of those operation eight percent of the businesses are successful and beneficiaries are ready to graduate.

Seeing this, the government has also drawn an exit strategy to ensure sustainability of the projects and avoid regression back to the poverty and venture into business institutions. By far 2094 beneficiaries have graduated from the Programme. It is however noted that the programme is not without challenges as 1462 (4 percent) businesses failed due to various reasons.

GOVT SWITCHES TO MULTI-DIMMENSIONAL POVERTY APPROACH

 Currently, extreme poverty in Botswana according to a study by Statistics Botswana, sits at 5.8 percent which equals to 116,000 people. This has coerced the government to chant a new path of fighting this evil-multi-dimensional poverty approach. BIDPA’s Dr Phirinyane Molefe said at the launch of this approach, “the universal stick approach and poverty datum line have been overtaken by events hence the need for a new strategy.”

This approach is what Professor Nthomang is calling for. “You cannot deal with poverty without focusing on other issues affecting people. These other issues like unemployment and lack of amenities are what stuck most people in poverty,” he observed.
The multidimensional approach which is part of United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) agenda 2030 of ‘leaving no one behind’, will look at a number of perimeters that determine poverty levels. Health, Education, Standard of living, clean water, employment and sanitation among others.

 “But we have been trimmed only to income and consumptive level, but with this approach you will learn that one can be poor because there is no school or clinic in their area and all other factors cited. This also is fertile ground to the recurring cycle of an inter-generational poverty but now we will profile each individual as per their need.

That is when we will dove-tail all our efforts with other implementing partners to ensure that targeting was fine and then we can monitor and evaluate accordingly,” said Montshioa. OP in conjunction with UNDP was last week locked in a week long workshop training various stakeholders on tools to use and look into when measuring the poverty levels of Botswana. The training was facilitated by Oxford researchers.

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P500 million Tshesebe-Masunga road dispute lands in Court

25th January 2021
500-Million-Tshesebe-Masunga-road-on-a-stand-still

The Tshesebe-Mosojane-Masunga road estimated costs stand at P500 million, the tender which was awarded to Bash Carriers in 2017 has not taken shape four years after the project was commissioned.

Tshesebe-Mosojane-Masunga road when it was commissioned, was estimated at P500 million in value, this included construction of 22.50km of the two lane carriage way and 28.70km of access roads including associated bridge works, cross drainage works, storm water drainage works and relocation of services.

When it was first tendered the contract was awarded to Bash Couriers but was terminated after it was alleged that the contractor failed to deliver. It was said that Bash Couriers Construction Company was lagging behind schedule.

This publication visited the sites of Tshesebe-Masunga road last year December and it was evident that the project was at a standstill as deserted machinery on site could be seen with the gravel road also in a devastating state.

Information revealed then indicated that there had been issues of mining rights for aggregates, availability of structural engineers and manpower and a criteria for awarding tender to the specific company when the contract was terminated.

In 2016, as part of the ESP projects, government funded the 25 kilometres (Km) road project to link Tshesebe and Masunga.

Construction of the road, which also connects some of the villages within the district, commenced early in 2016 and was scheduled to be completed within 18 months.

The company had done nothing when their contract was terminated with allegations that it never had the capacity to carry out the project in the first place.

The major ESP project had ultimately robbed a lot of people potential employment when it succumbed to termination.

It was then that the government restarted the tendering process.

The project was awarded to Bango Trading Company and Zebra Construction in a joint venture at a value of P319 Million Pula.

However, information reaching this publication from the Ministry of Transport and Communications confirms that indeed there are no current works carried out on the Tshesebe Masunga road.

Responding to a questionnaire sent to them by this publication through their Public Relations Officer Doreen Moapare, the Ministry indicated that the Tshesebe-Masunga road project is before the courts therefore their response is limited by such a pending outcome.

“As a background the project had been awarded to Bash Carriers at a contract sum of P400, 044,365.68 to begin the works in May 2017 and complete the project in January 2019. Scopes of works included 51.2km main road inclusive of seven access roads. Due to non-performance, Bash Carriers contract was terminated on the 25th of September 2018. ”

Further, Moapare indicated that upon termination of Bash Carriers, a process began to ensure that the development project completes.

Five companies went for a selective tendering bid which she listed as; Lobkom Investments (Pty) Ltd, Landmark (Pty) Ltd and Truck Hire (Pty) Ltd Joint venture, ACE /Excavator Hire (Pty) Ltd and Asphalt Botswana (Pty) Ltd Joint venture, Cul De Sac, Bango Trading and Zebra Construction Joint venture.

“Some companies have since queried the results of the tendering adjudication landing the issue in the courts. We are currently awaiting a ruling expected in February/March 2021, and this will determine the course of action thereafter,” concluded Moapare.

At one point last year, reports indicated that Bango Trading Construction Company had faced raiding by the Directorate on Intelligence and Security, Botswana Police and Botswana Unified Revenue Services, with allegations that there was an emerging pattern targeting overscheduled construction companies with powerful political connections.

Bango Trading Managing Director, Moffat James, was reported to have had close links to former DIS Director Isaac Seabelo Kgosi. Bango Trading and Estate Construction Company which has obtained close to P 1, 5 billion government contracts under former President Lt Gen Ian Khama has been the subject of a parliamentary probe due to the many government contracts awarded to them.

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DPP halts JSC, Judge’s back to work plan

25th January 2021
Kebonang

The Directorate of Public Prosecutions (DPP)’s decision to reject and appeal the High Court’s verdict on a case involving High Court Judge, Dr Zein Kebonang has frustrated the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) and Judge Kebonang’s back to work discussions.

JSC and Kebonang have been in constant discussions over the latter’s return to work following a ruling by a High Court panel of judges clearing him of any wrong doing in the National Petroleum Fund criminal case filed by the DPP. However the finalization of the matter has been hanged on whether the DPP will appeal the matter or not – the prosecution body has since appealed.

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BDP rejects Saleshando payment proposal

25th January 2021
MP saleshando

Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) top brass has declined a request by Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) to negotiate the legal fees occasioned by 2019 general elections petition in which the latter disputed in court the outcome of the elections.

This publication is made aware that UDC Vice President Dumelang Saleshando was left with an egg on his face after the BDP big wigs, comprising of party Chairman Slumber Tsogwane and Secretary General Mpho Balopi rejected his plea.

“He was told that this is a legal matter and therefore their (UDC) lawyer should engage ours (BDP) for negotiations because it is way far from our jurisdiction,” BDP Head of Communications, Kagelelo Kentse, told this publication.

This spelt doom for the main opposition party and Saleshando who seems not to have confidence and that the UDC lawyers have the dexterity to negotiate these kind of matters. It is not clear whether Saleshando requested UDC lawyer Boingotlo Toteng to sit at the table with Bogopa Manewe, Tobedza and Co, who are representing the BDP to strike a deal as per the BDP top echelons suggested.

“From my understanding, the matter is dealt with politically as the two parties are negotiating how to resolve it, but by far nothing has come to me on the matter. So I believe they are still substantively engaging each other,” Toteng said briefly in an interview on Thursday.

UDC petitioners saddled with costs after mounting an unprecedented legal suit before the court to try and overturn BDP’s October 2019 victory. The participants in the legal matter involves 15 parliamentary candidates’ and nine councillors. The UDC petitioned the court and contested the outcome of the elections citing “irregularities in some of the constituencies”.

In a brief ruling in January 2020, Judge President Ian Kirby on behalf of a five-member panel said: “We have no jurisdiction to entertain these appeals. These appeals must be struck out each with costs including costs of counsel”. This was a second blow to the UDC in about a month after their 2019 appeals were dismissed by the High Court a day before Christmas Day.

This week BDP attorneys decided to attach UDC petitioners’ property in a bid to settle the debts. UDC President Duma Boko is among those that will see their property being attached with 14 of his party members. “We have attached some and we are on course. So far, Dr. Mpho Pheko (who contested Gaborone Central) and that of Dr, Micus Chimbombi (who contested Kgalagadi South) will have their assets being sold on the 5th of February 2021,” BDP attorney Basimane Bogopa said.

Asked whether they met with UDC lawyers to try solve the matter, Bogopa said no and added. “Remember we are trying to raise the client’s funds, so after these two others will follow. Right now we are just prioritising those from Court of Appeal, as soon as the high court is done with taxation we will attach.”

Saleshando, when contacted about the outcomes of the meeting with the BDP, told WeekendPost that: “It would not be proper and procedural for me to tell you about the meeting outcomes before I share with UDC National Executive Committee (NEC), so I will have to brief them first.”

UDC NEC will meet on the 20th of next month to deal with a number of thorny issues including settling the legal fees. Negotiations with other opposition parties- Alliance for Progressives and Botswana Patriotic Front (BPF) are also on the agenda.

Currently, UDC has raised P44 238 of the P565 000 needed to cover bills from the Court of Appeal (CoA). This is the amount in a UDC trust account which is paltry funds equating 7.8 per cent of the overall required money. In the past despite the petitioners maintaining that there was promise to assist them to settle legal fees, UDC Spokesperson, Moeti Mohwasa then said the party has never agreed in no way to help them.

“We have just been put in debt by someone,” one of the petitioners told this publication in the past. “President’s (Duma Boko) message was clear at the beginning that money has been sourced somewhere to help with the whole process but now we are here there is nothing and we are just running around trying to make ends meet and pay,” added the petitioner in an interview
UDC NEC has in December last year directed all the 57 constituencies to each raise a minimum of P10, 000. The funds will be used to settle debts that are currently engulfing the petitioners with Sheriffs, who are already hovering around ready to attach their assets.

The petitioners, despite the party intervention, have every right to worry. “This is so because ‘the deadline for this initiative (P10, 000 per constituency) is the end of the first quarter of this year (2021),” a period in which the sheriffs would have long auctioned the properties.

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