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Govt Special Funds abused Auditor General

Auditor General (AG), Pulane Letebele is a man really concerned by the way monies in 25 government special funds are being used. He observes that the money is spent recklessly on un-intended purposes ultimately leading to the abuse of reserves which could have supported the intended ailments.  

Among the list of the abused Funds is the National Electrification Fund (NEF) of 2010 which has not been reconciled as per the order of the Auditor General from the previous year.  In the year under review, the failure to submit the accounts within the prescribed time limits had persisted. “I consider this state of affairs highly unsatisfactory as it denies the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) the opportunity to examine the audited accounts of the Fund on a timely basis, in accordance with the requirements of the Standing Orders of the National Assembly,” the concerned Auditor General laments.

Section 12 of the Fund, according to Letebele, provides that the accounts of the Fund shall within 3 months after the end of the financial year, be audited by an independent auditor appointed by the Fund Management Committee; and further that not later than six months after the close of the financial year, those accounts shall be submitted to the AG office- this never happened.

For the third year running, the Auditor General says accounts of the National Petroleum Fund (NPF) have not been submitted to his office, as the appointed auditor. “The Department of Energy Affairs, by letter dated September 2018, said they were in the process of finalizing the financial statements for the year ended 31 March 2018, and that they hoped to complete by October 2018.  At the time of writing this report, the accounts had still not been submitted,” AG said. NPF made headlines last year when P250 million was taken from the fund for a parallel activities, even up to now the monies are yet to be fully paid back.

Tobacco and Tobacco Products Fund (TTPF) is another Fund used in a similar fashion and this concerns Letebele, who has since confronted the relevant authorities on the matter. The major points raised in the management letter related to; “The use of Fund money on the treatment of ailments which were unrelated to the purposes of the Fund, such as medical charges for oncology, neurology, cardiology and fractures.”  

Further to the issue, the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Health and Wellness, Ruth Maphorisa has been asked about the delays in the appointment of the Tobacco and Tobacco Products Levy Implementation Committee during the period under review.  The Committee is responsible for overseeing the administration and management of the Fund.

In the year under review the major expenditure for the National Disaster Relief Fund (NDRF) was for the purchase of tents to the value of P5 234 780.  Out of this amount, supporting documents for transactions to the tune of P2 326 700 could not be produced for verification purposes. “Consequently, this expenditure is unvouched,” the Auditor General said.

“The over-arching findings related to lack of proper accounting and accounting records, resulting in poor monitoring of the issues of these items. There was no system of follow up on tents issued to beneficiaries which would ensure the retrieval into stock of tents that were no longer required.  Proper management of these requisites would suggest that purchases at any time should take account of the existing items in stock available for use”.

The Road Traffic Fines Fund (RTFF) of 2009 with specific purpose of purchasing and maintaining traffic-offence-detecting devices and for complementing law enforcement measures of curbing road traffic offences is also giving the Auditor General sleepless nights. In the year under review the fines collected totaled P95 621 813.

A heavy portion of these funds in the reserve have been applied to the general purposes of the Police Service beyond those contemplated in the Fund Order. “As I have repeatedly commented in the past, in my view, the Fund has become an additional or alternative source of funding for the recurrent expenditures of the Botswana Police Service. A number of vehicles were purchased from the Fund for the Transport and Telecommunications Branch, instead of using P32 057 580 appropriated for this purpose in the recurrent expenditure estimates, out of which only P1 387 301 had been used,” observes Letebele.

Public Debt Service Fund (PDSF) had accumulated P2 231 596 465 representing the value of investments made from the Fund. P900 566 097 as loans was made to the BCL liquidator, which could not be verified by reference to the loan agreement spelling out the terms of the loans. Botswana Meat Commission (BMC) also got a loan amounting to P354 000 000 from the fund. “In the case of loans made from the public revenues, Government has issued a directive that they be converted to equity, because of the Commission’s continued liquidity constraints”.

Botswana Development Corporation has also gotten a share of P189 500 000 which was not clearly stated in the statement. “The loan amount to the Corporation for the construction of the GICC project is P189 500 000, and not P89 500 000 as reflected in the Statement” highlights the AG.  Consequently, the AG says the statement shows an outstanding balance of P58 039 319 as at 31 March 2018, instead of P158 131 191 as per the loan repayment schedule as on that date.    

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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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