The distressed University of Botswana (UB) is tittering on the cliff as the institution’s financial books are on extreme red after the institution controversially wrote-off P430 million owed by Ministry of Tertiary Education, Research, Science and Technology (MOTE)
Part of the woes contributing to this crisis is the fact that the institution which has the capacity of admitting 18, 000 students on annual basis find itself with only 12,451 students. This, according to the Vice Chancellor (VC) Professor David Norris “has a serious impact on the revenue base.” Norris, who appeared before Parliamentary Committee of Statutory Bodies and enterprises this week, also revealed that they have a serious deficit.
“We started the new financial year with a P71 million deficit; we struggled for months to pay salaries. When I got to the University last year we had a deficit of P231 million but we approached the ministry who assisted with P150 million,” he said. The institution has lamented to government to assist them. Norris said they have started new faculties (Faculty of Medicine & Engineering Technology) which are expensive to manage.
“They need more money; things like salaries are different from other faculties in the sense that to attract doctors and other specialists is very expensive therefore government should also come on board.” The institution has conceded that some courses in the humanities and social sciences are underutilized. This has prompted the UB leadership to aggressively come with attractive programmes that will not only attract locals but international students.
“Government has to chip in and we also have to internationalise our programs so that we don’t only look locally but also attract students from outside borders,” said Norris. The decision by the institution to write-off the P430 million was as a decision of the council as the money has been outstanding for a long time. The funds were result from the tuition services offered.
The ministry’s permanent secretary, Theophilus Mooko has also admitted to the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) that indeed the university was owed such an amount. He explained that the ministry had a serious financial challenge and UB was asked to use its own savings to remedy the situation. “The ministry ran out of funds and as per the agreement between three parties, being the latter, the university and the Ministry of Finance that the university will use its savings,” he said.
Mooko acknowledged that the funds were meant to sponsor students and that the ministry was not trying to write off the invoice without reason. Mendel Ngoni Nlanda Deputy Vice Chancellor (Finance & Administration) revealed that the decision to write-off the debts was as per the accounting processes. “The amount has been outstanding for long and as per the accounting standards we can’t carry it as assets. It will be misleading to the financial statement if we claim that we have this asset,” he said.
With ‘unconvincing’ response from Nlanda, committee chairperson Samson Moyo Guma suspected there could have been underhand tactics. “You are in collaboration with an officer out there who probably diverted funds from the institution [UB] to another. Where did the money go to? And to close the chapter off you write it off because of accounting standards.”
On the other hand, Mooko has denied diverting the money to private institutions, noting that it was purely because the ministry ran out of funds. “There is no such evidence that the money was diverted to private institutions. We just didn’t anticipate that we will run out of funds. The decision for UB to use its savings was a collective one,” he explained.
UB, MIN OF HEALTH TUSSLE OVER SKMTH
The Ministry of Health and Wellness (MoHW) has recently written to UB to have a title deed of the land in which Sir Ketumile Masire Teaching Hospital (SKMTH) is built on, Norris has revealed. “The teaching hospital lies on UB land, we have a title deed. The ministry recently approached us requesting to give them that land so they can have a title deed of that land.
This are the discussions we have and we have not finalised yet, the discussions are still ongoing,” Norris said. The hospital which was completed two years ago is yet to open as the government is still trying to come up with an operation model.
While there is no hard-and-fast rule in politics, former Molepolole North Member of Parliament, Mohamed Khan says populism acts in the body politic have forced him to quit active partisan politics. He brands this ancient ascription of politics as fake and says it lowers the moral compass of the society.
Khan who finally tasted political victory in the 2014 elections after numerous failed attempts, has decided to leave the ‘dirty game’, and on his way out he characteristically lashed at the current political leaders; including his own party president, Advocate Duma Boko. “I arrived at this decision because I have noticed that there are no genuine politics and politicians. The current leaders, Boko and President Dr Mokgweetsi Masisi are fake politicians who are just practicing populist politics to feed their egos,” he said.
Former Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) parliamentary hopeful, Lawrence Ookeditse has rejected the idea of taking up a crucial role in the Botswana Patriotic Front (BPF) Central Committee following his arrival in the party this week. According to sources close to development, BPF power brokers are coaxing Ookeditse to take up the secretary general position, left vacant by death of Roseline Panzirah-Matshome in November 2020.
Ookeditse’s arrival at BPF is projected to cause conflicts, as some believe they are being overlooked, in favour of a new arrival. The former ruling party strategist has however ruled out the possibility of serving in the party central committee as secretary general, and committed that he will turn down the overture if availed to him by party leadership.
Ookeditse, nevertheless, has indicated that if offered another opportunity to serve in a different capacity, he will gladly accept. “I still need to learn the party, how it functions and all its structures; I must be guided, but given any responsibility I will serve the party as long as it is not the SG position.”
“I joined the BPF with a clear conscious, to further advance my voice and the interests of the constituents of Nata/Gweta which I believe the BDP is no longer capable to execute.” Ookeditse speaks of abject poverty in his constituency and prevalent unemployment among the youth, issues he hopes his new home will prioritise.
He dismissed further allegations that he resigned from the BDP because he was not rewarded for his efforts towards the 2019 general elections. After losing in the BDP primaries in 2018, Ookeditse said, he was offered a job in government but declined to take the post due to his political ambitions. Ookeditse stated that he rejected the offer because, working for government clashed with his political journey.
He insists there are many activists who are more deserving than him; he could have chosen to take up the opportunity that was before him but his conscious for the entire populace’s wellbeing held him back. Ookeditse said there many people in the party who also contributed towards party success, asserting that he only left the BDP because he was concerned about the greater good of the majority not individualism purposes.
According to observers, Ookeditse has been enticed by the prospects of contesting Nata/Gweta constituency in the 2024 general election, following the party’s impressive performance in the last general elections. Nata/Gweta which is a traditional BDP stronghold saw its numbers shrinking to a margin of 1568. BDP represented by Polson Majaga garnered 4754, while BPF which had fielded Joe Linga received 3186 with UDC coming a distant with 1442 votes.
There are reports that Linga will pave way for Ookeditse to contest the constituency in 2024 and the latter is upbeat about the prospects of being elected to parliament. Despite Ookeditse dismissing reports that he is eying the secretary general position, insiders argue that the position will be availed to him nevertheless.
Alternative favourite for the position is Vuyo Notha who is the party Deputy Secretary General. Notha has since assumed duties of the secretariat office on the interim basis. BPF politburo is expected to meet on 25th of January 2020, where the vacancy will be filled.
Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) big wigs have decided to cancel a retreat with the party legislators this weekend owing to increasing numbers of Covid-19 cases. The meeting was billed for this weekend at a place that was to be confirmed, however a communique from the party this past Tuesday reversed the highly anticipated meeting.
“We received a communication this week that the meeting will not go as planned because of rapid spread of Covid-19,” one member of the party Central Committee confirmed to this publication. The gathering was to follow the first of its kind held late last year at party Treasurer Satar Dada’s place.