The Member of Parliament for Selibe-Phikwe West, Dithapelo Keorapetse’s attempts to post an urgent motion on State Funding of political funding as an urgent matter of public importance under the Standing Orders of Parliament was this week immediately shot down by the Speaker who informed him that the matter has been discussed in the past and agreed to and that the Government will have to come up with an Act to implement it.
Although Keorapetse’s reasoning was specific to the 2019 general election, the Speaker said Government must be given space to enact such a law. The Legislator had wanted to ride on what could be an apparent willingness to listen on the part of the State President Dr Mokgweetsi Masisi. Following the salary hikes for politicians and disciplined forces it is clear that Keorapetse is certain that Government is willing to gice yes as an answer to everything that requires cash solutions.
In his submission to the Speaker Keorapetse observed that Parliament has completed the 2019/2020 budget including the Committee of Supply debate. “I have noticed that there was nothing on either state funding of parties nor campaign funding. The Minister of Finance and Economic Development tabled Supplementary Estimates which covered inter alia Ministries responsible for Education and the Environment. Again there was nothing in the supplementaries for 2019 campaign funding. You’d know that the Standing Orders limited me to make an addition into the budget proposed, ie the amendment I would have sought could have increase the budget.”
He wanted Parliament to resolve to ask government to provide 2019 campaign funding for political parties represented in Parliament and or in accordance with 2014 electoral performance. “I am not at this point asking for Parliament to resolve on the General Party Funding that is normally debated or is under consideration at the All-Party Conference. This is strictly about 2019 General Elections. Parliament can sanction a Supementary Budget for this purpose,” he said.
According to Keorapetse IEC made some changes like supplementary voter registration etc for the next financial year. He said this change provided an opportunity for Parliament to increase the budget to enable campaign funding for 2019. However, this opportunity was missed. “ I am aware a motion on public funding of political parties was adopted by the 10th Parliament but has not been implemented.
This one is different in that it calls for Campaign Funding for 2019 General Elections…not the implementation of the motion on Public Funding of Parties. The latter is comprehensive (includes funding for party administration and activities plus campaign funding) and may require an Act of Parliament, as it is the case in countries with public funding. What I’m asking for through this motion is executive decision to provide funding for 2019 elections whilst a comprehensive funding is still being considered,” he narrated.
The Selibe Phikwe West opined that even assuming the motion is similar to the one adopted previously, which in his view is not, “I’m of the humble view that The 11th Parliament is not precluded from debating matters resolved by previous Parliaments.” “ I am of the view that every election year political parties and individual politicians face a mammoth task of funding the country’s democracy with the state through the IEC only assuming the role of a referee.
It has become expensive for parties and politicians to campaign for office as elections related materials and services have become exorbitant. Modern technology including but not limited to social media has made running for public office very expensive and hard for the youth and women whose unfortunate position in the country’s economy is well known. Many politicians who go to the polls as incumbents are compelled to use their gratuities to fund their campaigns and some who lost elections became instant paupers.”
Keorapetse said Botswana politicians have become vulnerable to manipulation by the Business community, and other sectional interests because of lack of party and campaign funding. “I’m also aware that there has been a change of guard with President MEK Masisi now at the helm. He has called political parties to a meeting and indicated his desire to resuscitate the All Party Conference. The All Party Conference has started some work. He may accede to this request by Parliament if it adopts the motion. He has, for the first time ordered the live coverage of opposition leaders’ responses to SONA and the budget speech. Therefore, this attempt is worth trying,” he reasoned.
He stated that it is for this reason that Botswana can start with campaign funding for 2019 as a pilot project for a fully-fledged party by the state. In its raw shape and form, Keorapetse had crafted his motion thus: “This House resolves to request government to provide campaign funding to political parties represented in Parliament and or using 2014 electoral performance for 2019 general elections whilst still considering comprehensive and fully fledged public funding of political parties”
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.