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Gov’t 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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Gov’t shy to shame failing ministers

22nd February 2021
Morwaeng

Minister of Presidential Affairs, Governance and Public Administration, Kabo Morwaeng together with Permanent Secretary to the President (PSP) Elias Magosi, this week refused to name and shame the worst performing Ministries and to disclose the best performing Ministries since beginning of 12th parliament including the main reasons for underperformance.

Of late there have been a litany of complaints from both ends of the aisle with cabinet members accused of providing parliament with unsatisfactory responses to the questions posed. In fact for some Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) backbenchers a meeting with the ministers and party leadership is overdue to address their complaints. Jwaneng-Mabutsane MP, Mephato Reatile is also not happy with ministers’ performance.

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Bokamoso, Gov’t in P10M womb removal suit

22nd February 2021
Bokamoso

Bokamoso Private Hospital is battling a P10 million legal suit for a botched fibroids operation which resulted in a woman losing an entire womb and her prospects of bearing children left at zero.

The same suit has also befallen the Attorney General of Botswana who is representing the Ministry of Health and Wellness for their contributory negligence of having the unlawful removal of a patient, Goitsemang Magetse’s womb.

According to the court papers, Magetse says that sometimes in November 2019, she was diagnosed with fibroids at Marina Hospital where upon she was referred to Bokamoso Private Hospital to schedule an appointment for an operation to remove the fibroids, which she did.

Magetse continues that at the instance of one Dr Li Wang, the surgeon who performed the operation, and unknown to her, an operation to remove her whole womb was conducted instead.
According to Magetse, it was only through a Marina Hospital regular check-up that she got to learn that her whole womb has been removed.

“At the while she was under the belief that only her fibroids have been removed. By doing so, the hospital has subjected itself to some serious delictual liability in that it performed a serious and life changing operation on patient who was under the belief that she was doing a completely different operation altogether. It thus came as a shock when our client learnt that her womb had been removed, without her consent,” said Magetse’s legal representatives, Kanjabanga and Associates in their summons.

The letter further says, “this is an infringement of our client‘s rights and this infringement has dire consequences on her to the extent that she can never bear children again”. ‘It is our instruction therefore, to claim as we hereby do, damages in the sum of BWP 10,000,000 (ten million Pula) for unlawful removal of client’s womb,” reads Kanjabanga Attorneys’ papers. The defendants are yet to respond to the plaintiff’s papers.

What are fibroids?

Fibroids are tumors made of smooth muscle cells and fibrous connective tissue. They develop in the uterus. It is estimated that 70 to 80 percent of women will develop fibroids in their lifetime — however, not everyone will develop symptoms or require treatment.

The most important characteristic of fibroids is that they’re almost always benign, or noncancerous. That said, some fibroids begin as cancer — but benign fibroids can’t become cancer. Cancerous fibroids are very rare. Because of this fact, it’s reasonable for women without symptoms to opt for observation rather than treatment.

Studies show that fibroids grow at different rates, even when a woman has more than one. They can range from the size of a pea to (occasionally) the size of a watermelon. Even if fibroids grow that large, we offer timely and effective treatment to provide relief.

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Masisi warned against a sinking Botswana

22nd February 2021
Ndaba GAolatlhe

The Alliance for Progressives (AP) President Ndaba Gaolathe has said that despite major accolades that Botswana continues to receive internationally with regard to the state of economy, the prospects for the future are imperilled.

Delivering his party Annual Policy Statement on Thursday, Gaolathe indicated that Botswana is in a state of do or die, and that the country’s economy is on a sick bed. With a major concern for poverty, Gaolathe pointed out that almost half of Botswana’s people are ravaged by or are about to sink into poverty.  “Our young people have lost the fire to dream about what they could become,” he said.

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