Multitudes of Class B driving license applicants queuing to complete yard tests will have to wait until next year as the new Department of Road Transport and Safety (DRTS) automated testing system has experienced malfunctions since opening six months ago.
The P35 million built Maruapula Testing Centre was projected to service Gaborone and peripheral areas. However, ever since the Korean company, Neo Information Systems handed the project it has not performed to the expected standards. This has affected the licensing system as most people are congested in the yard level.
After exercising patience for some time with the hope that the situation will normalise, clients are now fed-up. This week scores of livid instructors and candidates had to summon the DRTS leadership for an impromptu meeting at the ground, lamenting about the service they get from the facility. Top of the concerns is failure by the ground to test 120 candidates in a day as it was initially promised. To make matters worse, is the failure to at least manage to test 60 per day.
DRTS earlier this year abandoned the old manual system of testing drivers and introduced the automated one. The idea was for the candidates to be tested by a system which is objective and to avoid human errors from examiners. “Only one vehicle is available the other two have mechanical faults. Batteries are dead, no pressure on tires and even the one available sometimes run out of fuel and you can imagine the demand for licenses,” member of the Botswana Drivers Training Association Lesego Dithore told DRTS chief Mokotedi at the meeting. Besides it is said there are only two examiners who cannot manage the number of applicants.
Not only is that, the Information Technology system at the ground is also down leading to the whole failure. “They could have continued with the old system of testing people because there is a lot that needs to be done before this one can be fully functional as it should,” Emmanuel Kebadirejang of The Homestead Pty Ltd said.
The Homestead is a company that was partnering with the Koreans in the building of the facility. The company was to manage and ensure the centre run smoothly after the departure of the Asians since they have been given the technical knowhow. “It will take time before it can service as it should. The government is yet to procure IT services from us which will take time, and while we are aware of some challenges here, we still have to thoroughly look at others and bring equipment here which is ordered from Korea. Things like Tachometer will be needed,” Kebadirejang said on the sidelines of the meeting.
DRTS boss Mokotedi who was faced with plethora of questions from the irate public conceded failure. “Yes I wholly agree we failed,” he said. “There are problems here and we should work together to address this. We have apologized to the association as the three cars we have lose signals while on the field, so im going to request patience,” he told a fully packed waiting room.
The amenity which boasts of being the first of its kind in Africa should work concurrently with the old yard if the DRTS wants to issue out licenses, candidates wrote in a letter presented to Mokotedi. “Allow me to say this, issues outside my jurisdiction will be escalated to my principals and I will do that on this matter to have two fields working concurrently,” said Mokotedi. He however assured angry multitudes that they are on the brink of procuring the services from The Homestead.
An automated testing system is the way to go for most of the countries. Botswana joined the bandwagon despite the glitches, but the system has been hailed as the best in exception of the challenges experienced. It is anticipated that the facility will be revived by the IT experts while candidates use the old manual system.
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.