Francistown High Court Judge, Lot Moroka has threatened to detain politicians who blame the delayed completion of a case in which opposition Botswana Congress Party (BCP) took government to court challenging the introduction of the Electronic Voting Machines on the court.
During trial of the case this week, Moroka was not amused that a certain politician has blamed the delayed completion of the landmark case on the court. “I have read somewhere that a certain politician blamed the tardy completion of this case on the court. In the future I will call such politicians before court to explain why they cannot be charged with contempt of court. Any person who blames the delay on the court is disingenuous,” Moroka divulged.
The presiding officer clearly indicated that his court is committed to swiftly deal with the case as it is of national interest since is about elections. According to Moroka, the progress of the case was halted after the applicants asked for a postponement to give the previous parliamentary session ample time to deliberate on the matter. “I want this matter to be finalised by the end of this year, I do not want to hold the whole nation at ransom,” Moroka averred.
Meanwhile, BCP attorney Dutch Leburu made an application seeking to amend his clients’ pleadings. “The purpose of the application is to seek the following reliefs; the plaintiff avers that the electronic voting machine as fully described in the Electronic Amendment 2016 and its usage constitute electronic transaction in terms of the Electronic Communication and Transaction Act of 2014,” Leburu said.
He added that, “the Electronic Voting Machine aforesaid and its usage as defined is not in compliance with Part ii, Part iii, Part iv and Part viii of the electronic Communications Act. The plaintiff therefore avers that, the EVM aforesaid and its usage contravenes the Electronic Communication and Transaction Act being the legislation that regulates electronic communication and/or transactions”. Leburu argued that the issue of amendment of pleadings has been dealt with in a number of cases in Botswana and beyond.
He mentioned that the courts usually grant applicants to amend pleadings where the amendments sought will not cause injustice to the opposite party that cannot be compensated by an appropriate order as to costs. Since the application is for an indulgence the applicant must afford an explanation for his request, more especially if his application is not timeous, involves the withdrawal of significant admissions, or where his opponent could be substantially prejudiced were the amendment to be granted, Leburu said.
“Generally speaking it is necessary to file an affidavit of merits, in answer to which his opponent may advance reasons as to why he may be prejudiced if the application is allowed,” he submitted. Leburu pleaded with the court that an amendment should not be refused merely to punish a plaintiff for his neglect and that in order to determine the real issues between the parties; the court may permit a new cause of action to be introduced by way of amendment.
On the other hand, Counsel Matlhogonolo Phuthego opposed the plaintiff’s application to file amendments. Phuthego argued that BCP keeps on shifting the goal posts, therefore delaying the progress of the case. “There is need for statutory notice to effect the amendment. The pleadings have been closed my Lord,” Phuthego pointed out. According to Phuthego the electoral act can only be amended by parliament since it was reviewed by it. Moroka will deliver his ruling on the BCP application to file amendments on November 29.
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.