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BERA board chairman face sacking

Skeletons have begun to tumble out of the beleaguered Botswana Energy Regulatory Authority (BERA) closet as board chairperson Bernard Ndove is facing possible expulsion from the parastatal’s oversight body.

Weekendpost has established that the board took the decision after Ndove misinformed the Parliamentary Committee for Statutory Bodies and Enterprises, while under oath. The board has even suggested that, “it might be a more honorable decision for yourself to resign rather than to be taken to task for perjury and face criminal prosecution. But it is your call,” the letter from BERA’s concerned board member reads. 

Appearing before the committee this week, Ndove revealed that the Ministry of Mineral Resources, Green Technology and Energy Security trampled upon the BERA Act when increasing retail prices for all petrol grades by 65 thebe per litre, diesel by 73 thebe per litre and paraffin by 63 thebe. According to Ndove, BERA as the regulatory authority have the responsibility to recommend and determine the price of fuel as per their Act.

It appears other BERA board members were not happy with the conduct of the chairperson who was at pains responding to the question posed by the committee members. A letter seen by this publication written to Ndove a day after appearance at the parliamentary committee states that; he has put “BERA in a rather compromising position and put all the current board members in danger of losing their much appreciated appointments.”

Among the ‘fabrication or misinformation’ Ndove told the committee according to the letter, is the involvement of BERA in the recent petrol hike decision process.  “There has never been a board sub-committee approving the tariff for petrol nor has there been a board approval of the said tariff increase. Most of the board members saw the announcement on the newspapers just like the general public.”

The statement is contrary to Ndove’s pronouncement on Tuesday that the parastatal had actually recommended that petrol should be increased by P1.14 per litre and, “we were surprised when they made the announcement,” Ndove said referring to ministry announcement on the increase. The letter has also questioned the board chairperson’s decision to claim obliviousness on any BERA member who has had a business relationship with BERA.

“That is not true. You have had business relationship with BERA. A company associated with yourself Pipe King Services supplied BERA with computers worth P34 384.00 on October 2018.”  This, the letter says it is a fact Ndove has acknowledged in the last board session when financial statements were discussed.  “Whether you made profit or not, as you intimated in your blistering monologue is a moot point,” the letter stated.

BERA CEO Rose Seretse has told the oversight body this week that there is a matter under investigation relating to a member who has a business relationship with BERA. “DCEC is also involved on the matter. We picked it up since it was allegations in the newspapers. It is about a Tanzanian.” The parliamentary committee on Tuesday was told that the BERA logo was designed by a company called Heritage which was initially agreed to cost P150, 000 before more additions.

 “This was patently false too. You designed the logo even though Mr. Motswetla and myself, as I recall cautioned you against such as a matter of principle, even when we were informed that it would be for free or gratis, which to my knowledge it was. I still do not understand why you could not offer such an explanation.”  The two paged letter further went on to state that Ndove’s statement saying that no one was handpicked for a post at BERA is false. It is said CEO Rose Seretse was handpicked by both Ndove and the then Minister Sadique Kebonang.

Chief Operations Officer (COO) Duncan Morotsi and the Human Resource Director were also handpicked and unilaterally employed by the board chairperson. “Only Chawada Machacha, the Director of Finance went through an interview process,” It is said. Appearing for examination at the parliamentary oversight body, it was disclosed that the CEO and the chairperson circumvented established process, despite documented cautions from board members, and waivered a license provision for political expediency.  “You had been fully made aware that you do not possess such authority. Instead you chose belligerence over caution and ethics by attacking those who were warning you. That is rather unfortunate,” the letter quipped.

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Government sitting on 4 400 vacant posts

14th September 2020
(DPSM) Director Goitseone Naledi Mosalakatane

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.

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FNBB projects deeper 50 basis point cut for Q4 2020

14th September 2020
Steven Bogatsu

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.

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Food suppliers give Gov’t headache – report

14th September 2020
Food suppliers give Gov’t headache

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.

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