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Parastatals’ losses clock billion Pula mark

Almost P1 billion of tax payer’s money has been lost by 18 of the biggest state-owned enterprises, among them, Botswana Meat Commission (BMC), which recently made headlines when it nearly closed shop owing to P40 million debt.

The accumulated losses by the quasi-government institutions who are all failing to make profits stands at P742, 187, 254.00, according to Auditor General Report. This is without the other nine parastatals which are yet to submit audited reports to the Auditor General. There are possibilities that the loss could spill over billions. The state-owned BMC which has continued to experience financial challenges and has relied on government bailouts, loan guarantees and grants since years back, is yet to turn profit and is as good as insolvent.

BMC has on top of their deficit received P546 million as loans from government and it is yet to be paid back. However, the accounting officer of the commission has informed the Public Accounts Committee in the past that “a Government decision had been made in February 2018, to convert all loans to the Commission into equity.” 

BMC were audited by Messrs Ernst & Young, Certified Auditors, who were appointed by the Commission board. In the year under review, the Group and the Commission recorded a loss of P238.47 million and P242.15 million before revaluation loss on property, plant and equipment of P220.38 million and P222.28 million, compared to a loss of P222.52 million and P204.05 million, respectively, reported in the previous year.

The commissions’ balance sheet also shows a negative digit as it has current assets of P222.50 million while total current liabilities are P487.90 million, resulting in a net current liabilities position of P265.40 million, while that of the Commission showed current assets of P222.57 million and current liabilities of P543.30 million giving a current liabilities position of P320.73 million.

Most of the BMC debts accrue from overspending on paying for feedlots. “Management highlighted that there were instances beyond the Commission and the feedlotter’s control that sometimes resulted in cattle standing beyond the average time, such as days spent by cattle in sick pens and veterinary issues. Further it has been noted, as in the previous year, a balance of P7.29 million in the Botswana Post clearing account. 

“In response management (BMC) stated that they engaged Botswana Post on several occasions regarding the matter and it was not concluded. The Commission had decided to engage legally to settle the dispute as it was a dispute between the parties,” report highlights.
Other bleeding parastatals include Air Botswana (AB-P42.10 million) and Motor Vehicle Accident Fund (MVA-P126.49 million), Botswana Agriculture Marketing Board (BAMB-P65.36).

Their combined losses top P233.95 million and without much hope of their prospects improving drastically in the near future. The auditors had attributed AB losses to the fact that in the previous years, “management had not performed a formal review (except for motor vehicles) for a number of fully depreciated assets in the assets register to determine whether the assets were in use or needed”.

The auditors noted that the Corporation had not obtained approval from the Minister for tariff changes made during the year under review. “Management indicated that fares were influenced by competition, demand and seasonal promotions which require adjustments to fares to the prevailing conditions which could be as frequent,” says the report. MVA however could not tell the AG as to why they recorded such a deficit but in the past year it made a P260.62 million losses.

FIVE PARASTATALS MAKE P1.5 BILLION PROFIT

Five parastatals however; have made a promising profit of P1, 541,290.00 billion accumulatively. Water Utilities Corporation (WUC P513.46), Botswana Telecommunications Limited (BTCL P217.35 million), Botswana Power Corporation (BPC 67.411 million), Botswana Housing Corporation (BHC P87.75 million) and lastly Botswana Railways (BR P48.62 million).

Despite WUC making the highest profits it could have done more way better in profitability, “the auditors noted that total debtors outstanding for over 90 days amounted to P431.27 million, including Government debtors who made 50 percent of total debtors at year-end.” The auditors also indicated that at the end of the financial year under review, the Corporation was lagging behind on consumer billing, with a number of bills amounting to P37.52 million for 2017/2018 being processed in the financial year 2018/2019. BTC on the other hand while it made profit, it is a decrease from P237.35 million in the previous year.

10 PARASTATALS YET TO SUBMIT AUDITED REPORTS

The AG is lamenting that ten of the parastatals failed to furnish him with the audited finances for revision. NDB which is perennially on the red seeking bail-out loans from government did not submit. In 2016, NDB requested government to inject capital amounting to about P1 billion in the next three years in order to transform the bank and prepare it for commercialisation.  In 2017, it was offered P400 million by government, P100 million of it being a grant while the remaining P300 million was a loan.

Last year, NDB again approached and lobbied the Parliamentary Committee on Public Enterprises and Statutory Bodies to facilitate a process that will see the beleaguered bank being recapitalised to stay afloat en route commercialization. CEDA which has in the past been defrauded millions of pula with the latest being P50 million loans to Samson Moyo Guma’s United Refineries which was never paid back also is on the list. Most of the monies loaned to entrepreneurs have not been paid back, a factor likely to see the Thabo Thamane led organisation also recording millions of deficit.

Other enterprises that are yet to submit the returns are Botswana Savings Bank (BSB), Botswana Tourism Organization (BTO), Botswana Unified Revenue Services (BURS), Civil Aviation Authority Botswana (CAAB), University of Botswana (UB), Public Enterprises Evaluation and Privatization Agency (PEEPA), Vision 2036 Council and Mineral Development Corporation (MDC). Reasons as to why they did not furnish the AG office with the report varied from “failure to have a functional board, others waiting the report from the auditors.”

“I had circularised all statutory bodies and state-owned enterprises requesting them to forward to me copies of their audited financial statements and reports for purposes of review and inclusion of the review results in this report,” AG Pulane Letebele says in his 201 paged reports. With the exception of the Botswana Railways and Air Botswana which are under the ambit of the AG, the rest of the statutory bodies and state-owned enterprises are audited by independent auditors appointed by their Boards of management under the terms of their governing statutes. However, by a long-standing arrangement these entities provide the AG with the audited accounts and reports of their organisations for purposes of review and inclusion of the review results in this report to the National Assembly.

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Botswana’s development agenda in jeopardy

21st September 2020
Botswana’s-development-agenda-in-jeopardy--water-construction

Stanbic Bank Botswana Quarterly Economic Review indicates that Botswana will fail to meet some of its Vision 2036 targets, particularly unemployment reduction and reaching high-income status.

The report says this is mainly due to the slow economic growth that the country is currently experiencing. This Quarterly Economic Review focuses on the 2020 Budget Speech.

The first paper reviews the entire budget with its key observations being that this budget is prepared as prescribed by the Public Finance Management Act; the priorities it seeks to address are drawn from Vision 2036 and the eleventh

The 2020 budget Speech, which was the maiden speech by the Minister of Finance and Economic Development, Dr. Thapelo Matsheka, and the first after the 2019 general elections, was delivered to Parliament on the 4th of February 2020.

It has been well received by the labour unions, business community, and the public at large as well as international organisations such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

It mainly derived its support from key facets including, emphasis on changing the business-as-usual approach to development; outlining the transformation agenda; fiscal reform that minimizes the negative impact on economic development and human welfare, competiveness and the decision to implement the 2019 negotiated and agreed public sector.

The budget’s progress review shows that economic growth was consistent with the NDP 11 projections, with growth of around 4 percent. At this growth rate, the country would neither ascend to a high-income status nor reduce unemployment towards the Vision 2036 target of a single digit.

Simple calculations of this review confirm that the economy will need to grow the Vision 2036’s target of 6 percent over the next 16 years for per capita income to increase from around USD 8,000.00 to above USD 12,000.00 in current prices.

Further, the population is anticipated to grow by only 2 percent per annum.

For this reason, the focal areas for the forthcoming FY’s budget include measures to increase economic growth towards an average of 6 percent per annum.

Economic diversification is reportedly progressing fairly well. The report says, the share of the non-mining private sector in value added has risen to 66 percent in 2018 from to 63 percent in 2015.

The sectoral pattern of growth showed that the performance of services sector (particularly transport & communications, trade, hotels & restaurants, and finance & business services) has been the silver lining and that of mining sector was subdued whilst the utility sector disappointed.

The drive towards the service sector of the economy, especially to low-productivity activities (tourism, public administration, wholesaling and retailing) does not bode well for the country’s development aspirations.

In the previous versions of this Quarterly Review, it was noted that there is need for the rethinking of economic diversification. Since the country’s domestic market is small, it is inevitable that economic diversification not only focus on broadening the product mix, but also the composition of exports and markets.

This understanding of economic diversification has not been embraced by this year’s budget. Consequently, Botswana’s exports are still overwhelmingly diamonds, which means that the rest of economic sectors are still highly dependent on foreign-exchange earnings from diamonds. Thus, “the transformation programme requires a review of the country’s entire ecosystem”.

The budget review of the economic context also depicts that an economy with positive medium-term prospects, with growth expected to recover to 4.4 percent in 2020 from the expected growth of 36 percent in 2019 largely due to faster growth of services sectors and, thereafter, to slow-down to 4 percent in 2021.

These projected growth rates are comparable to those of the IMF staff’s baseline scenario of 4.2 percent in 2020 and 4 percent in 2021. Thus, the business-as-usual scenario produces growth rates that are still too low to achieve Botswana’s development objectives and create enough jobs to absorb the new entrants into the labour market.

Trade tensions between the two major markets for diamond exports, viz., the United States of America and China, is one of the factors that are cited as contributing to, indeed, undermining not only the domestic growth, but also the fiscal position.

Another notable downside risk to both global and domestic growth is outbreak of the coronavirus in China around January 2020. This has been declared as a global health emergency. In an attempt to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus pneumonia, the Chinese authorities have ordered city lockdowns and extended holidays, of course, at the expense of near- term economic growth, according to the new Stanbic Bank Botswana report.

According to Nomura Holdings Inc., fewer migrant workers returned for work than in previous years and business activities have been slow to pick up. The havoc wreaked by the virus on the world’s second largest economy is likely to spill over to the global economy. In fact, it has resulted in a glut in crude oil and, thereby placed oil markets into a contango, i.e., a market structure where near-term prices trade at a discount to future contracts.

It also presents significant risks one of Botswana’s main drivers of economic growth, diversification and foreign exchange earnings. According to the Financial Times (February 13, 2020), Chinese tourists spent $130 billion overseas in 2018. Regardless of whether the growth materializes, the projected domestic growth rate would not transform the economy to a high-income one.

Progress towards reduction of unemployment, to a target of single digit, and poverty and achieving inclusive growth has also been relatively slow, the Stanbic Bank Botswana Review says.

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OP leases Orapa House

21st September 2020
Orapa House

Ministry of Presidential Affairs, Governance and Public Administration (MOPAGPA) has through the Office of the President (OP) proposed to avail Orapa House for use by private training institutions as well as research institutions involved in the area of technology development.

For a very long time the monumental building located in the heart of the city has been a white elephant, despite government purchasing it for nearly P80 million from De Beers in 2012.

However, government has now identified a productive use for the iconic building. “The overall vision is for the building to be transformed into a hub for digital technology research and development to be carried-out by institutions, such as; Limkokwing University, BIUST, BITRI and other relevant stakeholders.”

The decision was taken as government traverse a new path of transforming the economy from a mineral led economy to a knowledge based economy through the promotion of research and innovation. However, the facility will need major maintenance to be carried-out in order to meet the requirements of the proposed change in use.

“The work will include provision of laboratories, work stations, production areas and seminar rooms; audio visual centre, high speed internet connectivity, exhibition areas and offices,” reads the proposal note for the development.

These developments will be done through the refurbishment and maintenance of the main building, workshop, and ablution block, gate house, parking area, grounds, and access control and security service.

“There will be minimal modifications to the structure as it stands. The project is estimated to cost approximately P50, 000, 000,” says the report. In this regard, it is said, the initial scope of the OP facility will be modified to accommodate the envisaged digital technology research and development hub.

With funds needed to improve the building, OP has requested that; “the 2020/21 annual budget provision for Orapa House will need to be increased by P37,500,000 from P2,500,000 to P40,000,000 to kick start the maintenance works.” Funds will be sourced from the projects that have been delayed due to Covid-19 protocols during the 2020/21 financial year.

The building has been a thorny issue for government for years. Initially, OP was expected to move there but the move never materialised. At one point it was a question of whether the Office of the President and the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development were planning to override a decision by Parliament which rejected the proposal to buy Orapa House under the belief that government may be buying its own property. The building was to be bought at a negotiated cost of P79 million.

Again in 2012, Government had wanted to buy Orapa House for a negotiated P79m but the Finance and Estimates Committee of Parliament had rejected the request because of the inconsistencies realised in the supporting documents of the proposed procurement. The valuation of the building was put at P74 million.

The Ministry of Lands and Housing had initially offered De Beers P73, 000,000 as the purchase price. However, De Beers countered with P85, 000,000. On negotiation and converging of the minds, the selling price was finally agreed at P79, 000,000.

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Sad state of Brigades: dumped and ignored!

21st September 2020
Brigades

Auditor General, Pulane Letebele, has expressed discontentment at the worrying and deteriorating state of brigades in the country.

In an audit inspection which was carried out at Tshwaragano Brigade in Gabane, a number of observations showed weaknesses and shortcomings in the conduct of the financial affairs of the institution.

According to Letebele’s report, former students of the brigade had been engaged to carry out maintenance works on the school premises, comprising of painting, tiling, plumbing and electrical works, which covered the period from July 2017 to June 2018.

Although the agreed maintenance period had elapsed, the works had not been completed because of unavailability of funds and this situation had persisted up till the time of inspection in November 2019.

Auditor General says arrangements should have been made in time for funds to be available to complete these relatively minor works even before the works commenced.

Various contractors had been engaged for clearing the bush and for the supply of concrete stones, pit and river sand and hiring equipment for digging the trench towards the construction of an auto mechanics workshop, the report said.

It stated that the cost of services and supplies provided totalled P117 949.80. However, despite the services and the supplies having been paid for, the construction works had not commenced for a long period afterwards, resulting in the trench filling back in.

The audit inquiries had not elicited satisfactory responses as both the institution and the Ministry had not accepted the responsibility for the project, although orders for the provision for the supplies had been made. For their part, the Ministry had stated that they had sub warranted funds for the purchase of porta cabins.

Letebele indicated that it is therefore confusing that a project which is critical to the functioning of an institution such as this one would commence without a well-defined plan.

Furthermore, the accounting and maintenance of records for the supplies items were not of the standard prescribed by the Supplies Regulations and Procedures in that the supplies ledger cards, the main accounting records for Government assets, were not properly maintained for the recording of receipts and issues.

This had resulted in significant discrepancies between physical and ledger balances, while in other instances the supplies items had not been recorded at all.

The report says 24 of the 91 new computers found in the computer laboratory at Kumakwane ABC campus were not recorded anywhere, as were the other computers in the storeroom which could not be counted due to the disorderly storage conditions.

The institution had entered into a contract agreement with a security company for the provision of security services at Tshwaragano Brigade, ABC and Horticulture campuses at Kumakwane for a 2-year period which ended in June 2018, WeekendPost learnt.

After the contract expired in June 2018, an extension was granted till the 30th September 2018. Since then, there has been no security service coverage for the institution to-date. According to Auditor General, in the face of prevailing crimes, it is of paramount importance that government properties be protected by provision of security services at all times.

At Tlokweng Brigade, it was noted that the kitchen staff were working under difficult conditions as the kitchen facilities and equipment, such as the cold room, tilting pot, food warmers and solar power for hot water were dysfunctional. The kitchen roof was leaking and men’s restrooms was not working. All these need to be brought to a reasonable and functional state of repair.

The kitchen staff should use a purpose-designed Rations Ledger for the recording of receipts and issues of foodstuffs to reflect the usage of those items. As far back as 2014 the Department of Buildings and Engineering Services had found that the house occupied by the bursar was uninhabitable on account of structural defects, the report said.

A site visit during the audit had established that the house was indeed unfit for occupation as there were cracks on the walls, power switches were not working and the roof was leaking. On a sadder note, there were a number of finished items of clothing, such as dresses, shirts, and jackets from students’ practical exercises from the Fashion Design Textiles Workshop.

Auditor General shared her take on this, saying: “I have not been able to ascertain the policy on the disposal of products from these practicals. A trace of 103 green acid-proof overalls which had been purchased in August 2018 had indicated that there was no record of these items having been recorded or issued, nor were they available in stock. I was not able to obtain any explanation for this situation.”

Kgatleng brigade was also audited and inspected by Auditor General who observed that the brigade has 26 institutional houses at Bokaa, both old campus and new campus. Some of these houses are very old and dilapidated, with two declared uninhabitable. The condition of the houses is a clear indication of lack of care and maintenance of these properties.

At the time of the audit, there was no contractor engaged for the provision of security guard services at the new campus, after expiry of the previous one in July 2019.  It is hoped that steps would be taken to safeguard the security of the premises and government properties against any acts of hooliganism.

In August 2019, there was a break-in at the electrical and at the plumbing maintenance workshops and a number of high value items, such as drilling machines, bolt cutters, spanners and cables, were stolen. The break-in and theft were reported to the police.

“However, at the time of writing this report I was not aware of the outcome of the police investigation, nor of any loss report submitted in terms of the Supplies Regulations and Procedures,” Letebele said.

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