Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development (MLGRD) has for the past 10 years blown over P6 billion on the controversial Ipelegeng relief program, Parliamentary Accounts Committee (PAC) was told this week.
Ipelegeng is a Government Initiative whose main objective is to provide short term employment support and relief whilst at the same time carrying out essential development projects that have been identified and prioritised through the normal development planning process. It targets unskilled and semi-skilled labour for short-term assistance due to other economic factors through the use of simple tools and machinery. The programme focuses on maintenance of public facilities.
Ipelegeng is targeted mainly at being a source of supplementary income and employment to, but not limited to, vulnerable members of the community. Currently the programme targets at engaging a total of 50,000 beneficiaries per month. However despite this, a number of economists and politicians have scrutinised the program arguing that it is wasting public funds. The project for 2016/17 financial year targeted 770,292 recipients at a budget of P612, 964,380 per year.
For the past 10 years since the project took-off, it has gobbled P6, 1 billion. This pressed PAC member Dithapelo Keorapetse to question the sustainability of the project, arguing that, the money could have been channeled to projects that could create long-term employment.
“It has been said in the past that programs like Ipelegeng should be reviewed. It is difficult to say, but, yes, it should be reviewed. But it can be coordinated in a manner that it could help in the National Development Plan or District Development Plan, not just sweeping streets or cutting grass,” Permanent Secretary at MLGRD Boipelo Khumomatlhare said.
He continued, “If we do take some of the projects under NDP to Ipelegeng then it will be fine. If you are constructing some buildings, then people hired should be skilled and that is when Ipelegeng should assist.” The accounting officer, Khumomatlhare was again at pains when asked about the logic behind the Poverty Eradication program. “I do concur with you [MPs] some of these programmes need to be reviewed.
Under Economic Diversification Drive (EDD) those under the programs should be given contracts to supply either school or any government institution. We should do away with those that are not sustainable. Parts of the component should be reviewed,” he admitted. However it was not revealed how much has been spent on poverty eradication program.
OLD AGE PENSION REVIEWED
The MLGRD has further revealed that a working committee has been set-up to look at how best to deal with old age pension scheme. The government, apart from being 65 years old, wants to have other requisites for one to get the P430 allowance. In the past studies have revealed that the economy could be able to pay up P1000-P1500. It is argued that the money is little and therefore those are well-off and 65 years should be exempted from being beneficiaries.
In South Africa for instance, the social department check your financial status for one to qualify while in other countries the pension increases as beneficiaries get older. “There is working team doing desktop research and progress is ongoing and in SADC we can go to Namibia and South Africa for benchmarks,” the PS said.
DESTITUTES NUMBER INCREASING
The government has also revealed that the budget for helping destitute continue to rise. This, Khumomatlhare, has linked it to fraud by some beneficiaries who after being assisted with other programmes like Livestock Management and Infrastructure Development (LIMID) forge to gobble money claiming to be destitute, even when they are no longer qualify to benefit. The support program’s objective is to eradicate destitution by providing resources to the poor.
“We are getting worried by the increasing numbers while we have other programs we enroll them and are able to earn income. We are creating a single registry that will for all the beneficiaries. It will check those that benefit in one or two programs, and then it will be easy for us to remove others from destitute programme. There are some who have openly admitted because if you are doing well in LIMID you are no longer a needy you can sustain yourself,” he said.
The Directorate of Public Prosecutions (DPP)’s decision to reject and appeal the High Court’s verdict on a case involving High Court Judge, Dr Zein Kebonang has frustrated the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) and Judge Kebonang’s back to work discussions.
JSC and Kebonang have been in constant discussions over the latter’s return to work following a ruling by a High Court panel of judges clearing him of any wrong doing in the National Petroleum Fund criminal case filed by the DPP. However the finalization of the matter has been hanged on whether the DPP will appeal the matter or not – the prosecution body has since appealed.
Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) top brass has declined a request by Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) to negotiate the legal fees occasioned by 2019 general elections petition in which the latter disputed in court the outcome of the elections.
This publication is made aware that UDC Vice President Dumelang Saleshando was left with an egg on his face after the BDP big wigs, comprising of party Chairman Slumber Tsogwane and Secretary General Mpho Balopi rejected his plea.
“He was told that this is a legal matter and therefore their (UDC) lawyer should engage ours (BDP) for negotiations because it is way far from our jurisdiction,” BDP Head of Communications, Kagelelo Kentse, told this publication.
This spelt doom for the main opposition party and Saleshando who seems not to have confidence and that the UDC lawyers have the dexterity to negotiate these kind of matters. It is not clear whether Saleshando requested UDC lawyer Boingotlo Toteng to sit at the table with Bogopa Manewe, Tobedza and Co, who are representing the BDP to strike a deal as per the BDP top echelons suggested.
“From my understanding, the matter is dealt with politically as the two parties are negotiating how to resolve it, but by far nothing has come to me on the matter. So I believe they are still substantively engaging each other,” Toteng said briefly in an interview on Thursday.
UDC petitioners saddled with costs after mounting an unprecedented legal suit before the court to try and overturn BDP’s October 2019 victory. The participants in the legal matter involves 15 parliamentary candidates’ and nine councillors. The UDC petitioned the court and contested the outcome of the elections citing “irregularities in some of the constituencies”.
In a brief ruling in January 2020, Judge President Ian Kirby on behalf of a five-member panel said: “We have no jurisdiction to entertain these appeals. These appeals must be struck out each with costs including costs of counsel”. This was a second blow to the UDC in about a month after their 2019 appeals were dismissed by the High Court a day before Christmas Day.
This week BDP attorneys decided to attach UDC petitioners’ property in a bid to settle the debts. UDC President Duma Boko is among those that will see their property being attached with 14 of his party members. “We have attached some and we are on course. So far, Dr. Mpho Pheko (who contested Gaborone Central) and that of Dr, Micus Chimbombi (who contested Kgalagadi South) will have their assets being sold on the 5th of February 2021,” BDP attorney Basimane Bogopa said.
Asked whether they met with UDC lawyers to try solve the matter, Bogopa said no and added. “Remember we are trying to raise the client’s funds, so after these two others will follow. Right now we are just prioritising those from Court of Appeal, as soon as the high court is done with taxation we will attach.”
Saleshando, when contacted about the outcomes of the meeting with the BDP, told WeekendPost that: “It would not be proper and procedural for me to tell you about the meeting outcomes before I share with UDC National Executive Committee (NEC), so I will have to brief them first.”
UDC NEC will meet on the 20th of next month to deal with a number of thorny issues including settling the legal fees. Negotiations with other opposition parties- Alliance for Progressives and Botswana Patriotic Front (BPF) are also on the agenda.
Currently, UDC has raised P44 238 of the P565 000 needed to cover bills from the Court of Appeal (CoA). This is the amount in a UDC trust account which is paltry funds equating 7.8 per cent of the overall required money. In the past despite the petitioners maintaining that there was promise to assist them to settle legal fees, UDC Spokesperson, Moeti Mohwasa then said the party has never agreed in no way to help them.
“We have just been put in debt by someone,” one of the petitioners told this publication in the past. “President’s (Duma Boko) message was clear at the beginning that money has been sourced somewhere to help with the whole process but now we are here there is nothing and we are just running around trying to make ends meet and pay,” added the petitioner in an interview UDC NEC has in December last year directed all the 57 constituencies to each raise a minimum of P10, 000. The funds will be used to settle debts that are currently engulfing the petitioners with Sheriffs, who are already hovering around ready to attach their assets.
The petitioners, despite the party intervention, have every right to worry. “This is so because ‘the deadline for this initiative (P10, 000 per constituency) is the end of the first quarter of this year (2021),” a period in which the sheriffs would have long auctioned the properties.
President of the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) Duma Boko’s alliance with former President Lt Gen Ian Khama continues to unsettle some quarters within the opposition collective, who believe the duo, if not managed, will once again result in an unsuccessful bid for government in 2024.
While Khama has denied that he has undeclared preference to have Boko remaining as leader of UDC, many believe that the two have a common programme, while other opposition leaders remain on the side-lines.