DIS returns P114 million Petroleum Fund
Directorate of Intelligence and Security (DIS) has finally paid back the P114 million that was unlawfully misappropriated from the controversial National Petroleum Fund (NPF).
P230 million was reported to be misappropriated from the NPF to the DIS last year leading to a marathon case involving businessman Bakang Seretse and two other whom are charged for money laundering. However, Minister of Mineral Resources, Green Technology and Energy Security Eric Molale confirmed that a balance of P116 million still remains unrecovered at the DIS. Molale told a pack of journalists this week in a press briefing that “in June 2018, the Ministry managed to recover P114 million from DIS leaving a balance of P116 million.”
He went on to highlight that the alleged misappropriation is a matter that is currently before the courts of law and subject of investigation by the law enforcement agencies. As at 31st October 2018, Molale stated that the NPF had a balance of P76 million adding that however the money is already committed to clear government debt to oil companies for December 2017 estimated at P96 million.
He further explained that “it is important to note that even if the P230 million had not been taken out of the fund, that more funds would have still been sourced from elsewhere to assist the fund.” He said this is because at the time of the alleged misappropriation prices had already gone into an under-recovery position and at the time the government debt to oil companies stood at. According to Molale the ministry had to source funds from elsewhere in a bid to manage the government debt to the oil companies.
“So far P430 million; P100 million and P300 million were sourced from Road Levy Fund, Security of Supply Margin and Government central budget respectively to assist the NPF in reducing the debt to the oil companies. This represents a total external cash injection of P830 million.” The Minister of Mineral Resources, Green Technology and Energy Security further pointed out that occasionally, the NPF has been used to cushion consumers from upward adjustments depending on the magnitude of adjustments and the balance of the fund.
He justified: “there are cases when the magnitude of the required adjustments gets too high to be covered through price cushioning by the NPF only. As a result such a situation dictates that the prices be adjusted since the fund balance would not be in a position to pay in lieu of adjustments.”
In addition, Molale also revealed that Botswana does not have any crude oil resources and as such imports all her petroleum product requirements. These products, he said, are sourced from the international markets such as Middle East or Arab Gulf, Singapore and the Mediterranean markets and supplied through the Republic of South Africa and or Mozambique. “Therefore, the country as a price taker; has been challenged because the product prices are largely influenced by external factors which the country does not have any control of.”
These factors, Molale said, they include among others the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC)’s tactics of controlling the global oil production output; some of the major producers such as Iran being put under oil supply embargo; intensity of the global demand and; the level of the United States of America strategic oil stock inventories. According to Molale, Brent crude oil prices have increased from US$62.87 per barrel in January 2018 to US$80.63 per barrel in October 2018 or 23.25% on the average adding that this is considered to be quite significant.
“During this period, the retail pump price under-recoveries for petrol grades increased from an average of 78.69 thebe per liter in January 2018 to 146.33 thebe per liter in October 2018. The price under-recoveries for diesel grades increased from 124.78 thebe per litre in January 2018 to 225.98 thebe per liter in October 2018,” Molale highlighted. This represents an average increase of 83.53% on the price under recovery rates which is considered to be very high, he said.
He further observed: “in short, the price deficit increased rapidly from negative 124.78 thebe per liter to negative 225, 98 thebe per liter within a period 10 months (January – October 2018).” In spite of the continuous increase in the international crude oil and finished product prices, Molale highlighted that the frequency of increase of the domestic prices has been done very rarely as compared to other countries and the rest of the world.
In fact, he mentioned that most countries that regulate fuel prices adjust them more regularly on a monthly basis like the South Africa to avoid price adjustments backlogs. “The last time prices had over recovered was in August 2016 when all petrol and diesel grades over recovered by an average of 19.45 thebe per liter. The largest over-recovery ever recorded was in December 2014 when the products over-recovered by more than 235 thebe per liter. However, in adopting the regular price adjustment government is vigilant of the changes on inflation,” he concluded.
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ENVIRONMENT ISSUES: Masisi asks Virginia for help
President Mokgweetsi Masisi says the issue of sustainable natural resources management has always been an important part of Botswana’s national development agenda.
Masisi was speaking this week on the occasion of a public lecture at Virginia Polytechnic, under theme, “Merging Conservation, Democracy and Sustainable Development in Botswana.”
Botswana, according to Masisi, holds the view that the environment is fragile and as such, must be managed and given the utmost protection to enable the achievement of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
“It is necessary that we engage one another in the interchange of ideas, perspectives, visualizations of social futures, and considerations of possible strategies and courses of action for sustainable development,” said Masisi.
On the other hand, dialogue, in the form of rigorous democratic discourse among stakeholders presents another basis for reconfiguring how people act on their environments, with a view to conserving its resources that “we require to meet our socio-economic development needs on a sustainable basis,” Masisi told attendees at the public lecture.
He said government has a keen interest in understanding the epidemiology and ecology of diseases of both domestic and wild animals. “It is our national interest to forestall the dire consequences of animal diseases on our communities livelihoods.”
President Masisi hoped that both Botswana and Virginia could help each other in curbing contagious diseases of wildlife.
“We believe that Virginia Tech can reasonably share their experiences, research insights and advances in veterinary sciences and medicines, to help us build capacity for knowledge creation and improve efforts of managing and containing contagious diseases of wildlife. The ground is fertile for entering into such a mutually beneficial partnership.”
When explaining environmental issues further, Masisi said efforts of conservation and sustainable development might at times be hampered by the emergence and recurrence of diseases when pathogens mutate and take host of more than one species.
“Water pollution also kills aquatic life, such as fish, which is one of humanity’s much deserved sources of food. In this regard, One Health Approach imposes ecological responsibility upon all of us to care for the environment and the bio-diversity therein.”
He said the production and use of animal vaccines is an important space and tool for conservation, particularly to deal with trans-border animal diseases.
“In Botswana, our 43-year-old national premier pharmaceutical institution called Botswana Vaccine Institute has played its role well. Through its successful production of highly efficacious Foot and Mouth vaccines, the country is able to contain this disease as well as supply vaccines to other countries in the sub-region.:
He has however declared that there is need for more help, saying “We need more capacitation to deal with and contain other types of microbial that affect both animals and human health.”
Masisi saddened by deaths of elephant attacks
President Mokgweetsi Masisi has expressed a strong worry over elephants killing people in Botswana. When speaking in Virginia this week, Masisi said it is unfortunate that Batswana have paid a price with their own blood through being attacked by elephants.
“Communities also suffer unimaginable economic losses yearly when their crops are eaten by the elephants. In spite of such incidents of human-elephant conflict, our people embrace living together with the animals. They fully understand wildlife conservation and its economic benefits in tourism.”
In 2018, Nthobogang Samokwase’s father was attacked by an elephant when travelling from the fields, where he stayed during the cropping season.
It was reported that the man couldn’t run because of his age. He was found trampled by the elephant and was pronounced dead upon arrival at the hospital.
In the same year, in Maun, a 57-year-old British woman was attacked by an elephant at Boro and died upon arrival at the hospital. The woman was with her Motswana partner, and were walking dogs in the evening.
Last month, a Durban woman named Carly Marshall survived an elephant attack while on holiday in the bush in Botswana. She was stabbed by one of the elephant’s tucks through the chest and was left with bruises. Marshall also suffered several fractured ribs from the ordeal.
President Masisi Botswana has the largest population of African elephants in the world, totaling more than 130 000. “This has been possible due to progressive conservation policies, partnerships with the communities, and investment in wildlife management programmes.”
In order to benefit further from wildlife, Masisi indicated that government has re-introduced controlled hunting in 2019 after a four-year pause. “The re-introduction of hunting was done in an open, transparent and democratic way, giving the communities an opportunity to air their views. The funds from the sale of hunting quota goes towards community development and elephant conservation.”
He stressed that for conservation to succeed, the local people must be involved and derive benefits from the natural resources within their localities.
“There must be open and transparent consultations which involve all sectors of the society. It is against this backdrop that as a country, we lead the continent on merging conservation, democracy and sustainable development.”
Masisi stated that Botswana is open to collaborative opportunities, “particularly with identifiable partners such as Virginia Tech, in other essential areas such as conservation, and the study of the interplay among the ecology of diseases of wild animals and plants, and their effects on human health and socio-economic development.”
Gov’t commit to injecting more funds in fighting HIV
Minister for State President Kabo Morwaeng says government will continue to make resources available in terms of financial allocations and human capital to ensure that Botswana achieves the ideal of eradicating HIV and AIDS as a public health threat by 2030.
Morwaeng was speaking this morning in Gaborone at the High-Level Advocacy event to accelerate HIV Prevention in Botswana. He said the National AIDS and Health Promotion Agency (NAPHA), in partnership with UNAIDS, UN agencies, the Global Fund and PEPFAR, have started a process of developing transition readiness plan for sustainability of HIV prevention and treatment programmes.
“It is important for us, as a country that has had a fair share of donor support in the response to an epidemic such as HIV and AIDS, to look beyond the period when the level of assistance would have reduced, or ceased, thus calling for domestic financing for all areas which were on donor support.”
Morwaeng said this is important as the such a plan will guarantee that all the gains accrued from the response with donor support will be sustained until the end when “we reach the elimination of HIV and AIDS as a public health threat by 20230,” he said.
“I commit to continue support efforts towards strengthened HIV prevention, accentuating HIV primary prevention and treatment as prevention towards Zero New Infections, Zero Stigma, Discrimination and Zero AIDS related death, to end AIDS in Botswana.”
He reiterated that government commits to tackle legislative, policy and programming challenges that act as barriers to the achievement of the goal of ending AIDS as a public health threat.
In the financial year 2022/2023, a total of 119 Civil Society Organizations, including Faith Based Organizations, were contracted with an amount of P100 million to implement HIV and NCDs prevention activities throughout the country, and the money was drawn from the Consolidated Fund.
Through an upcoming HIV Prevention Symposium, technical stakeholders will use outcomes to develop the Botswana HIV Prevention Acceleration Road Map for 2023-2025.
Morwaeng stated that government will support and ensure that Botswana plays its part achieving the road map. He said there is need to put hands on the deck to ensure that Botswana sustains progress made so far in the fight against HIV and AIDS.
“There are tremendous achievements thus far to, reach and surpass the UNAIDS fast track targets of 95%- 95%- 95% by the year 2025. As reflected by the BAIS preliminary results of 2021, we now stand at 95- 98- 98 against the set targets.”
“These achievements challenge us to now shift our gears and strive to know who are the remaining 5% for those aware of their HIV status, 2% of enrolment on treatment by those aware of their status and 2% of viral suppression by those on treatment.”
Explaining this further, Morwaeng said shift in gears should extend to coming up with robust strategies of determining where these remaining people are as well as how they will be reached with the necessary services.
“These are just some of the many variables that are required to ensure that as a country, we are well positioned to reaching the last mile of our country’s response to the HIV and AIDS pandemic.”