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BERA probe implicates Seretse in tender row

A Commission of inquiry has faulted Botswana Energy Regulatory Authority (BERA) Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Rose Seretse for engagement of a consultancy owned by a Tanzanian, Edwin Kiddifu under controversial circumstances.

The Commission of Inquiry follows a BERA board meeting resolution on its sitting of the 5th June 2018 to conduct an inquiry on engagement of Kidiffu to undertake consultancy services for BERA. This followed a concern of some anomalities on the procurement of the services of the consultant, owned by Kidiffu who is a legal practitioner employed by Energy and Water Regulatory Authority in Tanzania.


According to confidential documents passed to Weekend Post this week titled “Findings from a Commission of Inquiry conducted on the engagement of Mr. Edwin Kidiffu,” the BERA CEO acted in complete negligence of duty. “The CEO not only acted in complete neglect of her duties to oversee the day to day running of the Authority but was also aware and participated, from inception, in the approvals and transactions for the project,” the reports states.

In this respect, it found out that, the CEO’s submission is that the project was discussed during the Ministerial Tender Committee (MTC) or that the decision to engage Kidiffu was made at a management meeting – was misleading. It therefore posits that the CEO was quite dishonest in her submissions to both the board and the inquiry.


Therefore the findings of the Commission of Inquiry says “that the CEO should be asked to show cause why the board should not make a recommendation for her suspension to the Minister pending disciplinary action against her on the basis of the findings, the sworn statement from Kidiffu and for deliberately misleading the board and neglect of duty.” In addition to proposed suspension of the CEO, in terms of the recommendations, it is said that the Chief Operations Officer be asked also to show cause why disciplinary proceedings should not be instituted against him.

BERA IN CORPORATE GOVERNANCE BREACHES

It also highlights that the engagement of Kidiffu was spearheaded by Chief Operations Officer (COO) Duncan Morotsi who did most of the job in the process.  The CEO confirmed that Morotsi spearheaded the project right from the procuring the consultant up to project implementation. The findings highlight: COO is the Procuring Officer, Project Manager, Authorising Officer for payment and a Liaison Officer as well as working with the same consultant.

“The only time the issue of engagement of Kidiffu was discussed was during a normal meeting and what was mainly discussed was logistics to host him in Botswana. Present was CEO, COO, Director of Finance and Director of HR,” it says. The Inquiry revealed: “our findings are that the consultant may have been engaged at the instance of the COO Morotsi, without the necessary authority from the Board; that there were no Terms of Reference for the project; and that there was absolutely no tendering process that was followed. Simply put there was no process that was followed.”  

As part of the findings is also that there was neither a budget set aside for the project nor the authority from the board to implement the project in the absence of the approved budget. The highly classified document further highlights that “there was no Management Tender Committee meeting to subject the project to the necessary due process as there is no record to confirm such and management failed on request to present minutes and the agenda items for the alleged management meeting.”

In addition some of the findings of the Commission of Inquiry include that in essence the Tender Committee does not exist at BERA as such it has never met to adjudicate over any tender. The confidential report also observes that there has been no request for proposals and responses received from Kidiffu and that there are no minutes for the Management Tender Committee and the relevant agenda for the meeting.

“Kidiffu was single sourced without the necessary due process followed. There has never been no open competitive tender for the project. Kidiffu’s qualifications and experience has never been scrutinized so as to compare it to those of the locals. There is no indication that the project was an emergency. There is no indication that the project was budgeted for,” Inquiry states. It also found out that the manner in which the consultant was paid the 1st installment is strange where a driver was sent to cash his fees (US$3000) and give the money to him in US dollars.

“The consultant was further paid P2500 in cash per day as living allowance. The cash in all occasions was handed to Kidiffu after being withdrawn by the driver Tebogo Pladge in all occasions. BERA still owes the consultant US$5000.” Report states that there is no indication that Energy and Water Utilities Regulatory Authority (EWURA) sanctioned the whole process and that there is no correspondence that EWURA and BERA on the project. In addition, it states that there is no letter releasing Kiduffu to BERA and the associated conditions thereof; and that there are no clear terms of reference for the project and the consultant has never presented the deliverables to BERA senior management.

It is stated in the report that the team also visited the Records office at BERA head office and they found out that there was absolutely no record of the transaction. “The project was termed emergency but to date the results have not been implemented which defeats the emergency. The consultant undertook the consultancy in his personal capacity. The contract was negotiated by both Morotsi and Seretse at Grand Palm in Gaborone,” Inquiry points out.  

BERA officials whom were interviewed in the Commission of Inquiry includes BERA Records Office, CEO Rose Seretse, Driver Tebogo Pladge, Consultant Edwin Kidiffu, Nnosang Mhutsiwa and Chawada Machacha. The board members that conducted the inquiry on the appointment of the services of the said consultant are Part time board member being the chairman of the adhoc committee Jonathan Moseki; full time board member being a member of the adhoc committee Kenneth Kerekang; as well as full time board member being a member of the adhoc committee Matsapa Motswetla.

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Jackdish Shah loses interest in BDP

17th May 2022
Jackdish

As the preparations for the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) congress are about to kick off, reports on the ground suggest that the party’s Deputy Treasurer Jackdish Shah will not defend the position in August as he contemplates relocation.

According to sources, the businessman who joined the BDP Central Committee in 2015 at the 36th Congress held in Mmadinare is ready to leave the party’s politburo. It is said he long made up his mind not to defend the position last year. A prominent businessman, Shah, when he won the position to assist Satar Dada in 2015 was expected to improve the party’s financial vibrancy. By then the party was under the leadership of Ian Khama.

According to close sources, Shah long decided not to contest because he has fallen out of favour with the party leadership. It is said he took the decision after some prominent businessmen who are BDP members and part of football syndicate decided to push him out and they used their proximity to President Mokgweetsi Masisi to badmouth him hence the decision.

“The fight at the Botswana Football Association (BFA) and Botswana Football League (BFL) has left him alone in the desert and some faces there used their close access to the President to isolate him,” said a source. Media reports say, Shah does not see eye to eye with BFA President MacLean Letshwiti who is also Masisi’s buddy hence the decision.

BFL Chairman Nicholas Zackhem is said to be not in good terms with Shah, who at one point Chaired the then Botswana Premier League (BPL). “He is seriously considering quitting because of what is unfolding at the team (Township Rollers) which is slowly not making financial gains and might be relegated and he wants to sell while it is still worth the investment,” said a highly placed source.

Shah is a renowned businessman who runs internet providing company Zebra net, H &G, game farm in Kasane, cattle farm in Ghanzi region and lot of properties in Gaborone. He also has two hotels in USA, his advisors have given him thumbs up on the possible decision of relocating provided he does not sell some of the investments that are doing well.

Asked about whether he will be contesting Shah could not confirm nor deny the reports. It is said for now it is too early as a public decision will have to be taken after the national council meeting and prior to the national congress. “As a BDP Central Committee member he cannot make that announcement now,” a BDP source said.

BDP is expected to assemble for the National Council during the July holidays while the National Congress is billed for August. It is then that the party will elect a new CC members. The last time BDP held elective congress was at Kang in 2019. The party is yet to issue writ.

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Govt ignores own agreements to improve public service

17th May 2022
Govt

The government has failed to implement some commitments and agreements that it had entered into with unions to improve conditions of public servants.

Three years after the government and public made commitments aimed at improving conditions of work and services it has emerged that the government has ignored and failed to implement all commitments on conditions of service emanating from the 2019 round of negotiations.

In its position paper that saw public service salaries being increased by 5%, the government the government has also signalled its intention to renege on some of the commitments it had made.
“Government aspires to look into all outstanding issues contained in the Labour Agreement signed between the Employer and recognised Trade Union on the 27th August 2019 and that it be reviewed, revised and delinked by both Parties with a view to agree on those whose implementation that can be realistically executed during the financial years 2022/23, 2023/24 and 2024/25 respectively,” the government said.

Furthermore, in addition to reviewing, revising and de-linking of the outstanding issues contained in the Collective Labour Agreement alluded to above and taking on a progressive proposal, government desires to review revise, develop and implement human resource policies as listed below during the financial year 2022/23,2023/24,2024/25

They include selection and appointment policy, learning and development policy, transfer guidelines, conditions of service, permanent and pensionable, temporary and part time, Foreign Service, expatriate and disciplinary procedures.

In their proposal paper, the unions which had proposed an 11 percent salary increase but eventually settled for 5% percent indicated that the government has not, and without explanation, acted on some of the key commitments from the 2019/2020 and 2021/22 round of negotiations.  The essential elements of these commitments include among others the remuneration Policy for the Public Service.

The paper states that a Remuneration Policy will be developed to inform decision making on remuneration in the Public Service. It is envisaged that consultations between the government and relevant key stakeholders on the policy was to start on 1st September 2019, and the development of the policy should be concluded by 30th June 2020.

The public sector unions said the Remuneration Policy is yet to be developed. The Cooperating Unions suggested that the process should commence without delay and that it should be as participatory as it was originally conceived. Another agreement relate to Medical Aid Contribution for employees on salary Grades A and B.

The employer contribution towards medical aid for employees on salary Grades A and B will be increased from 50% to 80% for the Standard Option of the Botswana Public
“Officers’ Medical Aid Scheme effective 1st October 2019; the cooperating unions insist that, in fulfilling this commitment, there should be no discrimination between those on the high benefit and those on the medium benefit plan,” the unions proposal paper says.

Another agreement involves the standardisation of gratuities across the Public Service. “Gratuities for all employees on fixed term contracts of 12 months but not exceeding 5 years, including former Industrial class employees be standardized at 30% across the Public Service in order to remove the existing inequalities and secure long-term financial security for Public Service Employees at lower grades with immediate effect,” the paper states.

The other agreement signed by the public sector unions and the government was the development of fan-shaped Salary Structure. The paper says the Public Service will adopt a best practice fan-shaped and overlapping structure, with modification to suit the Botswana context. The Parties (government and unions) to this agreement will jointly agree on the ranges of salary grades to allow for employees’ progression without a promotion to the available position on the next management level.

“The fan-shaped structure is envisaged to be in place by 1st June 2020, to enable factoring into the budgetary cycle for the financial year 2021/22,” the unions’ proposal paper states. It says the following steps are critical, capacity building of key stakeholders (September – December 2019), commission remuneration market survey (3 months from September to November 2019), design of the fan-shaped structure (2 to 3 months from January to March2020) and consultations with all key stakeholders (March to April 2020).

The unions and government had also signed an agreement on performance management and development: A rigorous performance management and reward system based on a 5-point rating system will be adopted as an integral part of the operationalization of the new Remuneration System.

Performance Management and Development (PMD) will be used to reward workers based on performance. The review of the Performance Management System was to be undertaken in order to close the gaps identified by PEMANDU and other previous reports on PMS between 1st September 2019 and 30th June 2020 as follows; internal process to update and revise the current Performance Management System by January 2020.

A job evaluation exercise in the Public Service will also be undertaken to among others establish internal equity, and will also cover the grading of all supervisory positions within the Public Service.
Another agreement included overtime Management. The Directorate of Public Service Management (DPSM) was to facilitate the conclusion of consultations on management of overtime, including consideration of the Overtime Management Task Team’s report on the same by 30th November 2019.

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Health Expert rejects ‘death rates’ links to low population growth

17th May 2022
Health-Expert

A public health expert, Dr Edward Maganu who is also the former Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Health has said that unlike many who are expressing shock at the population census growth decline results, he is not, because the 2022 results represents his expectations.

He rushed to dismiss the position by Statistics Botswana in which thy partly attributes the low growth rates to mortality rates for the past ten years. “I don’t think there is any undercounting. I also don’t think death rates have much to do with it since the excessive deaths from HIV/AIDS have been controlled by ARVs and our life expectancy isn’t lower than it was in the 1990s,” he said in an interview with this publication post the release of the results.

Preliminary results released by Statistics Botswana this week indicated that Botswana’s population is now estimated to be 2,346,179 – a figure that the state owned data agency expressed worry over saying it’s below their projected growth. The general decline in the population growth rate is attributed to ‘fertility’ and ‘mortality’ rates that the country registered on the past ten years since the last census in 2011.

Maganu explained that with an enlightened or educated society and the country’s total fertility rate, there was no way the country’s population census was going to match the previous growth rates.
“The results of the census make sense and is exactly what I expected. Our Total Fertility Rate ( the average number of children born to a woman) is now around 2.

This is what happens as society develops and educates its women. The enlightened women don’t want to bear many children, they want to work and earn a living, have free time, and give their few children good care. So, there is no under- counting. Census procedures are standard so that results are comparable between countries.

That is why the UN is involved through UNFPA, the UN Agency responsible for population matters,” said Maganu who is also the former adviser to the World Health Organisation. Maganu ruled out undercounting concerns, “I see a lot of Batswana are worried about the census results. Above is what I have always stated.”

Given the disadvantages that accompany low population for countries, some have suggested that perhaps a time has come for the government to consider population growth policies or incentives, suggestions Maganu deems ineffective.

“It has never worked anywhere. The number of children born to a woman are a very private decision of the woman and the husband in an enlightened society. And as I indicated, the more the women of a society get educated, the higher the tendency to have fewer children. All developed countries have a problem of zero population growth or even negative growth.

The replacement level is regarded as 2 children per woman; once the fertility level falls below that, then the population stops growing. That’s why developed countries are depending so much on immigration,” he said.

According to him, a lot of developing countries that are educating their women are heading there, including ourselves-Botswana. “Countries that have had a policy of encouraging women to have more children have failed dismally. A good example is some countries of Eastern Europe (Romania is a good example) that wanted to grow their populations by rewarding women who had more children. It didn’t work. The number of children is a very private matter,” said Maganu

For those who may be worried about the impact of problems associated with low growth rate, Maganu said: “The challenge is to develop society so that it can take care of its dependency ratio, the children and the aged. In developed countries the ratio of people over 60 years is now more than 20%, ours is still less than 10%.”

The preliminary results show that Mogoditshane with (88,098) is now the biggest village in the country with Maun coming second (85,293) and Molepolole at third position with 74,719. Population growth is associated with many economic advantages because more people leads to greater human capital, higher economic growth, economies of scale, the efficiency of higher population density and the improved demographic structure of society, among many others.

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