Members of Parliament across the political divide have implored the commission appointed and mandated by President Dr Mokgweetsi Masisi to review salaries of senior government officials and politicians, to be cognisant of the challenges faced by legislators in execution of their duties.
The legislators are said to have made their case clear at a general assembly meeting held last week Thursday. The agenda of the meeting was to give MPs an update on the review process. At the same assembly the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) was invited to update members on the low turnout of voters at election registration points.However, top of the agenda was the salary review with the voter registration issue given peripheral status.
Masisi appointed a commission to review salaries of senior government officials and politicians recently. The commission is led by Justice Monametsi Gaongalelwe. Other members include Thebe Mogami, Ntshabele Manamela, Oduetse Motshidisi, Motlhagodi Molomo, Tsetsele Fantan and Alpheus Matlhaku.Last year the MPs were given a 4 percent salary increase which brought an MP’s monthly salary to P23, 786 per month which is P285, 432. 20 per annum. In addition constituency allowances were also hiked for the members to serve voters diligently. Before then in 2015 they were also given a 6 percent increase.
But the legislators’ demand for a hefty salary adjustment face backlash following their rejection of a motion by Jwaneng-Mabutsane representative Shaun Ntlhaile calling on Government to introduce a living wage. “I cannot say a definite figure because as MPs we have never reached a consensus on the matter but we want something meaningful. If we can have a 20 percent increment and hopefully 30 percent constituency allowance depending on the vastness of the area,” said one MP who attended the meeting.
The legislators are further arguing that they should be entitled to a driver and a vehicle just like ministers so their job could be easier. “We have travelled around the world and mingled with some peers just across the border from SADC parliamentary forum and we are getting peanuts as pay. So apart from the salary, there are other factors that the commission should bear in mind. We should have a driver and a car which takes an MP to his constituency as and when one needs to,” added another MP.
As it is currently, backbenchers use their personal vehicles when they visit their constituencies, while ministers while on official duty are entitled to ministerial vehicles.No one is bold to come out about the matter as it is said to be “sensitive and could cause ruckus.” This they say, it is because there is a structure created to look at the matter and it would seem they are too forward.
Botswana MPs reports have always maintained that they are one of the lowest paid in the continent and the world. Former MP David Magang indicated in one of his books that legislators’ salaries are just peanuts and that “peanuts attract monkeys.” Nigerian MPs are among the highest paid in the continent and the world.
In addition to basic salary, they get a string of allowances in the form of hardship allowance, constituency, furniture, newspaper, wardrobe, recess allowance, accommodation, utilities, domestic staff and entertainment allowances. Kenyan MPs, are the second highest paid in the world. Ghana is also cited as paying politicians well. South African MPs now earn R 1, 1 million a year excluding other benefits.
LEGISLATORS BLAME IEC OVER REGISTRATION
Meanwhile the legislators at the meeting are said to have told IEC representatives that they have a hand in the low numbers that registered to vote in next year’s elections. They argue that IEC failed to mobilise the public to vote by raising awareness in various platforms available. “We have had songs, billboards and posters everywhere in the past but this time around it was just quite, so somehow they had a hand on this. But we asked them if funds are not enough or what,” Gaborone North legislator Haskins Nkaigwa said.
It is further said that the decision by IEC, without consulting the MPs, to reduce registration stations also had effect. A number of constituencies according to legislators have registration centres cut forcing prospective voters to travel as long as 30km to register. The MPs have nonetheless requested the IEC to do a supplementary registration. IEC PRO Osupile Maropa has stated that approximately 750 000 have registered to vote.
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.