Ex-Member of Parliament for Gaborone Bonnington North (formerly Gaborone West North), Robert Masitara has this week declared his parliamentary candidature as an independent contender for the area in the impending 2019 General Elections.
In an exclusive interview with the Weekend Post this week the politician cum Gaborone Socialite and philanthropist confirmed the move saying the country needs him and his expertise more at this juncture than never before. “I still feel that my skills are needed in parliament particularly the expertise and exposure on corruption,” he asserted while stressing “so the role that I want to play at parliament is mainly to fight corruption.”
According to Masitara, in his short stint while outside of parliament in the last term he became aware of some things that he was otherwise not aware of when he was in the system. “Being outside parliament briefly allowed me to gain some valuable expertise. I learnt that corruption is not only the element of stealing or visible corruption. There is a hidden and subdue corruption that you cannot understand. That corruption is beyond nepotism, extortion, embezzlement and misappropriation. And I want to fight that corruption in parliament,” he observed.
When did he take the decision to stand as an independent candidate?
The corruption busting former law maker stated that he took the decision to seek for a second term in parliament around two to three years back but kept it closer to his lips while being present in the area on the ground. It was about two to three years back, he pointed out to this publication.
He continued: “I have long taken the decision as soon as I got into the forensics and saw the way things are being done and I realised that none of our MP’s understand the dynamics of our corruption the way I do. And none of the people in the oversight duties of government understand corruption the way I do. So I thought my best decision is to go back to parliament to rescue them.
“I am the only person who can help Masisi” – Masitara
The maverick ex legislator said he thanks God for an extension of his life because his assignment to the people is not yet fulfilled and think it will be, under President Masisi. At this stage, he said, “I am the only person that can actually help President Masisi” while adding “I am putting my life at risk I know I am going to have opposition. He contended that his loss, will be a loss to the entire country. “Even if I lose, it will not be the loss to myself alone, but it is to the country. It’s very critical. So they must put me in parliament.
According to the one time ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) legislator, the people of Gaborone Bonnington North are different from other voters and that they understand him more to vote him back. “This is the time they need my services at parliament. With the influx of foreigners leading to more corruption, they need me more at parliament. Even if it means joining government it can help – mine is to help to recover corruption money. I will also put systems to block more money from going outside,” he said.
Corruption top priority for Masitara at parliament
Masitara highlighted that corruption will be his priority at parliament because every problem in this country cannot be resolved until they solve the nucleus of problems which is corruption. He observed: “I can draw a matrix of the economic situation of this country; the high rate of unemployment, substandard infrastructure. Everything emanates from our inability to provide corruption. There are no medicines in the hospitals as the supply chain in the procurement system of medicines has been captured. Service delivery cannot be executed as people are busy in demand of a ‘cut.’’”
Why he thinks he did not win in last 2014 elections
In terms why he lost the previous general Elections, the non-conformist politicians justified that there were many dynamics at time. He said, there were issues of public sectors strike that was at hand, but that he managed to garner more than 5000 voters against opposition Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) Duma Boko’s more than 7000 speaks volume.
“This means I cannot be taken lightly. Remember people were also being trafficked into the area to vote against me because of the strike. Right now dynamics and the landscape have absolutely changed. And so let the electorates decide what they want.”
Some BDP cadres conspired to throw Masitara under the bus politically
When narrating his ordeal, the celebrity politician said he submitted his application at the BDP to stand in the recent primary elections but was blocked. “I had channelled it through our branch committee and I don’t really know where my letter ended. So they blocked it. I was in Pretoria at the time when I put through my letter. But that’s water under the bridge,” he said. He also stated that he believes there was instruction from somewhere in the party high authority saying they should not allow me to stand.
“They know very well that they cannot stand me. The very reason why they did not allow me is because I was not even listened to while I was in parliament. It’s the very reason why I was launched three days before the 2014 October General Elections. I was launched after everybody else have been launched. This explains why,” he lashed out.
Masitara believes that when one is in the Finance department, such as he was in oversight parliamentary committees, there is no way he can/would have been friends with anybody when executing his duty which he says might have contributed to some of his colleagues non-support. He observed: “when I used to say I want people to account I mean it – right from the presidency down. If you become soft people take you for granted. These are public funds.”
Did Masitara fail as the Chairman of parliamentary oversight committee?
The ex-MP said parliament can do so much up to a certain level and that from there government must take over. “If I come as the Chairman of a parliamentary committee implying that there is corruption somewhere and advice for forensic audit to be carried out, and give government the report. My expectations is not to go to government and shove the report down their throat but that they should look at it and see if they can implement as they hold the government purse. So the system did nothing, and what else can I, as an MP do given the set up?” he asked rhetorically.
Senior officials are busy looting while Khama/Masisi fight
According to Masitara, former President Ian Khama and incumbent President Mokgweetsi Masisi are still fighting this senseless war, which he says he do not even know where the war emanates from although they can speculate, and that this is happening while people are busy looting on the sides.
“Minister, senior government officials are looting. They are looting money through the system. They are doing this because they is no monitoring, who is monitoring parastatals, government departments? Who provides financial oversight over all these institutions?” he further asked oratorically.
Botswana not fighting corruption but only noncompliance to BURS
The corruption fighting specialist went on to reveal that what Botswana is fighting now is not corruption but compliance; it is an issue of non-compliance to Botswana unified revenue Services (BURS) for tax purposes. “I even told the DISS about this. It is about someone owing tax and it accumulated with penalties and interest and now BURS want to confiscate his assets to forfeit, yes they can do but that’s not the duty of the DISS. Corruption and money laundering should make part of their duty.”
On Isaac Kgosi ongoing court case, Masitara said he feels embarrassed that the former DISS Director General Isaac Kgosi is only charged for leaking pictures of DISS operatives on duty against the DISS Act while there are strong allegations of corruption involving millions spanning in billions hanging on his head, but no charges have been laid so far. On NPF issue he stressed that it is just a tip of the iceberg and involves small money.
He stated that: “there is a risk that if the State fail to have collected evidence that is permissible in a court of law, the accused persons have a high risk of being discharged on technicalities because of our weaknesses in terms of collecting crucial data. And when they win the case they can even come back and sue government.”
On the famous undelivered promise to build bridge to the electorates
The philanthropist politician also pointed out that the issue was blown out of proportion. “Those are petty issues. I was standing against Otsweletse Moupo back then. I urged the people of Block 5 to vote for me so that I build the bridge for them. It was a simple thing as at the time as I had connections back then to deliver,” he said. So, he added that they decided to vote for Moupo instead and so there was nothing he could do then and he gave him a chance to execute his duties and that it’s now water under the bridge.
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.