Permanent Secretary to the President (PSP) Carter Morupisi has admitted on Friday (yesterday) that government has gone overboard with regard to the law just to please former President Lt Gen Ian Khama.
Morupisi made this startling revelation at a media briefing in Gaborone which was aimed at discussing the pension and benefits of former presidents especially with regard to Khama. The public service chief said former presidents; the late Sir Ketumile Masire and Festus Mogae never wanted special treatment extended to them from government with regard to pensions and benefits, but Khama continues to expect preferential treatment.
“In all honesty I will be not fair and authentic to the late ex-president Masire if I state that he wanted the government to treat him with kids gloves and extended his benefits beyond what is in the rule book,” he stated. According to Morupisi, Masire never troubled government, even though he had many financial shortcoming and needs. In addition to Masire, the PSP also highlighted that even former president Mogae was welcoming and engaging.
“Most importantly he never wanted more than we can provide. When he had some displeasure over something he would rightly say it out to us without reaching such news into the public domain. We spoke in-house and resolved issues amicably in-house,” he pointed out. The PSP confirmed that there is absolutely nothing special out of the ordinary known benefits and privileges that government has done for both former president Masire and Mogae, unlike Khama, those of which they can speak of.
PSP confirmed that government has awarded former President Khama 13 additional home and office staff against the law. “In other words if he was supposed to have four, we have given him 13 additional staff which is against the law. We broke the law here. It was just to help to second Khama,” he explained. He added: “There is a senior catering officer, a chief catering officer, which ordinarily only should work in the State House. But since Masisi has not moved into the State House we borrowed the staff to Khama.”
According to Morupisi, the straw that broke the camel’s back is now when government asks the staff to return stressing, “that is why we are in disagreement with Khama.” At home, a former president is entitled to, in terms of the law, 2 maids, 1 gardener, and 1 bursary worker. So, it is understood that, with Mogae it is like that and its fine but for Khama, instead of having 2 maids, he was also awarded a chief catering officer sand senior catering officer on top of 2 bursary workers.
Morupisi tried to justify why he broke the law: “so, to avoid an out lash from tax payers and Batswana in general, I have employed a clause in the General Orders that speaks of secondment. I conferred the staff of the president to a secondment to office of the former President.” The PSP said they admit being wrong with regard to the fact that, they did this when Khama was still president. In other words, he added that, Khama took decisions concerning the office he was heading to, of former President, while he was still president.
“He took away the prerogative of the then incoming president, to take such decisions as the law provides for that. A sitting president now, is the one entitled to take such decisions with regard to the benefits of the retired president (office of the former president.) Morupisi emphasised that by then it was a very amicable understanding as they could not anticipate the hullabaloo that they are currently faced with regarding the fight between Khama and Masisi.
Even when he came into power, Morupisi stated that the incumbent President Mokgweetsi Masisi also asked where the PSP was getting the powers to take such central decisions. “I failed to answer this key inquiry. And I said we were doing this with the then president to facilitate his exit, and acknowledged that we were wrong and asked the president for forgiveness and understanding,” Morupisi said.
“There is no one that we are going to sue. In fact, the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) is waiting to hold us accountable on this, in terms of who authorised the payment of additional staff that assists the former President Khama. That’s where they are going to catch us.” I advised Khama, Morupisi highlighted adding that but Khama did not take the advices and the buck stopped with him as president. That is why, Morupisi continued, am not divorcing myself from those decisions that were still taken under Khama. And to put more blame to him, the PSP admitted that the secondment was done as an advice from him as he wanted the staff to work for Khama and return them to their respective previous offices after 12 months.
Government also favoured Khama on overtime allowances
Despite admitting that the former presidents have to be treated equally, Morupisi conceded that with Khama it was not the case. We, he said, normally give overtime allowances to former president to use them on staff when circumstances requires to do so and they realised that, in 2018/19, Mogae’s office was reimbursed 160 000 for overtime while Khama’s was awarded 650 000 signalling the disparity between the former presidents.
“Out of that amount, Mogae only utilised 109 000 and Khama used a whopping 546 000. When you look at the records, Khama spent most money on villages to give away bread and soup as well as assisting his team, Super IV to play football. You be the judge on how this money is used,” he said.
Morupisi also broke the law to accommodate Khama’s Pvt Sec Tlhalerwa
In another turn of events, it appeared that Khama’s Private Secretary Brigadier George Tlhalerwa earned for a salary scale that he was not supposed to be earning. Morupisi explained that: “Khama’s Tlhalerwa was awarded a three-year contract on May 2016 running for three years. But in 1 April 2018, was redeployed to be a Senior Private Secretary to former President Khama but he still retained all his benefits.”
But in a normal case, he added that when one becomes a Senior Private Secretary to former president it is a lower position than a Senior Private Secretary to a sitting President. “The former is Deputy Permanent Secretary Scale and the latter is Permanent Secretary Scale. So Tlhalerwa was paid the way he was previously, although in June 2018 he resigned on unclear grounds and we accepted,” he said.
Why government rejected Isaac Kgosi as Khama’s Pvt Sec
Tlhalerwa’s exit created a vacuum, and that is then that Khama asked government to hire for ex Directorate of Intelligence and Security (DIS) Director General, Colonel Isaac Kgosi as his Senior Private Secretary. “But it was turned down because Kgosi has been expelled by President Masisi on controversial circumstances so it was for government to re-hire him again and we explained. However the matter is currently before court.”
Every new president presents a Policy shift
According to Morupisi, every new president comes with agenda that should be respected and followed. It is lawful, he said that every new president may come with a policy shift while they ascends to power like President Masisi is currently doing. A leader of the Executive he directs the direction that a new government should take, the PSP emphasised.
As examples, “from 1982 to 2017, at Ministry of Agriculture there was ALDEP. It was later reformed to ARAP until 2008 when it became ISPAAD under Khama. Masisi will review it to improve it. There was also SLOCA 1982 – 1987 it gave birth to LIMID. In 1978 – 1994 there was Constituency Community Programe, LG 70 to LG 110, at Ministry of Local Government. So with every new president comes with new direction.”
Presidential Housing Appeal was started by Masire – PSP
The president housing appeal was started by not Khama, but former President Masire in 1994, and then it was named Small Borrowers Fund, Morupisi told the press adding that it assisted with a lot of things like school fees. “So the truth is Khama, you did not start this housing appeal,” he lashed out. According to Morupisi, Khama only made it to appeal to the private sector.
He justified: “the destitute housing programme, from 2006, it built 3336 houses and 1972 in some areas. We did these, from the Office of the President, even under Khama. But now we took an action, to avoid personalising programmes, that we started presidential housing appeal funds.”
Dalai Lama visit: Khama’s security personnel was unlawful
In 2017, the 14th Dalai Lama, the head of state and spiritual leader of the Tibetan government-in-exile based in Dharamshala, India was invited to Botswana and cabinet discussed his visit 2 to 3 times in cabinet. Morupisi stated that they advised Khama against contravening one China policy and that as a sovereign state Botswana should meddle in other countries affairs “but Khama had the last word, as he wanted Lama to come saying he is human right activist.”
The PSP narrated that China assists Batswana with scholarships, they loan Botswana with little interests, send their specialist doctors to Botswana while paying for them. Most importantly, he revealed that as Debswana deputy Chair, 20% of Botswana diamonds are sold to China. “They also threated to close their Embassy. We urged Khama that the national interest far outweighs his interest. But Khama went ahead with his decision despite all these. He took security personnel with him.”
Morupisi confirmed that the security personnel that accompanied Khama to India, against governments order faces disciplinary hearing. “All security personnel must know that their allegiance is mostly to, nobody else but a sitting Commander In Chief. All the disciplinary forces, the ultimate responsibility and direction, they take them from the President. When he orders them they should take such orders without hesitation through his operatives. When he says go to war you go to war, when he says don’t you should not.”
Khama wants Morupisi to account for his retirement gifts
Against what he said at Serowe, Morupisi told the media that when Khama retired Batswana gave him gifts those gifts he said, Khama should ask Tlhalerwa and his team about them not him. Meanwhile on Khawa, the PSP also reminisced that Khama said they are refusing his team to play at Khawa. “I want to clarify that his team is not owned by government but is for him as an individual and therefore government can’t spend on it.”
On transport, Morupisi pointed out that there is where they disagree, as government believes that the law states that former president can be availed transport on a case by case scenario as determined by a sitting president and that it is the prerogative of the president. “Now Khama interprets it differently that it’s a must for transport to be availed to him upon request,” he said.
On transport, the PSP also confirmed that “out of 13 requests made by Khama, Masisi accepted 7 and rejected 4. Now all these issues are before court; Khama is using government.” When narrating this, the PSP wants the nation to make a sound judgement on whether they are on the right track or not treating Khama well – in terms of the law.
What the law says: benefits of former presidents
The Pensions and Retirement benefits Act provides that; a former President is, upon ceasing to hold office, entitled to receive a tax free monthly pension equivalent to the monthly basic salary attached to the office of President the time that he or she ceases to hold office, or 80 percent of the incumbent President’s salary, whichever is greater.“The President shall upon dissolution of Parliament, or immediately ceasing to hold office as such, be entitled to receive a gratuity equal to 30 percent of his or current monthly basic salary multiplied by the number of months completed by him or her as President,” it further provides.
The Act states, however, that the benefits will not be paid should the former leader of state pay allegiance to a foreign power or State. When they are sentenced to death or to serve a prison term and the sentence has not been wholly suspended, a sitting President may withhold the benefits if he sees it fit. The gratuity, pension and all other benefits will be stopped in case the former President dies, or in case of marriage of the surviving spouse or when their dependent child reaches the age of 21 years.
The bill also states that when the former President, spouse or their offspring is ruled to be bankrupt, the pension, other benefits and their value shall not form part of the assets of their insolvent estate. In addition, the former President is entitled to a number of security officers as determined by the sitting President, two drivers, one private secretary, one secretary and one office attendant. It states that first class air travel is extended to international trips up to a maximum of 4 trips per annum(including a spouse if accompanying)and per diem for each trip as may be determined by a sitting President.
For transport needs a former president receives one sedan (Mercedes Benz or an equivalent or similar class of motor vehicle), one 4 wheel drive station wagon and one pick-up van and they will be replaced as and when necessary, like other government vehicles, albeit being in the permanent disposal of the former President. Every former president also receives entertainment allowance determined by a sitting President, telephone expenses as well as water and electricity expenses for the office and residence.
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.