The Chairperson of the Public Accounts Committee, Dithapelo Keorapetse has strongly rejected the observation that he is somehow delaying the release of a report on the probe of alleged embezzlement at the National Petroleum Fund (NPF).
Instead he posits that the narrative is sold by those who want to divert attention from the scandal, “all they are trying is to soil my name for political expediency.” Giving an update of the PAC examination of the books of accounts of the National Petroleum Fund, Keorapetse said the primary elections, shortage of staff, committee disagreements, incomplete information are among some of the factors that contributed to the delay in releasing the PAC’s report on the NPF. But he stated that there is light at the end of the tunnel as the report is currently being compiled after receipt of crucial information.
When quizzed on latest PAC business on the NPF probe, Keorapetse stated, “When the PAC adjourned, we subpoenaed information from Bank Gaborone and Stanbic Bank. PAC needed to know how the authorization of opening of bank accounts and disbursements and or transfer of funds happened; Who authorized and under what authority.” According to Keorapetse, information which was requested by the PAC has been submitted and copies have been given to MPs at their meeting of Tuesday the 28th.
“We’ve agreed to subpoena persons in respect of the information we received because we have to ascertain that there was compliance with Banking Act, Banking Regulations, Financial Intelligence Act and other important laws and regulations. We’ve to check if some banks or individuals employed by some banks colluded with those who plundered the NPF or not. So on Wednesday the 5th of September we intend to call witnesses from commercial banks to ask them a few questions,” said the PAC chairman.
Pressed further Keorapetse pointed to more challenges besieging his committee, he indicated that the PAC has One Secretary who is seconded from the Auditor General and the whole Parliament has two legal officers being the Parliamentary Counsel and her Assistant; “they service the whole parliament including all committees. These people are the ones who draft our reports not of only PAC but other committees and we depend on them. They’re not even directly employed by Parliament.”
Keorapetse said their role as MPs of the Committee is to discuss these draft reports and add or subtract. “People should understand the delay from the backdrop of our rubber stamp parliament which lacks experts such as lawyers, economists, forensic accountants etc, it also has no complex internal structures. I can confirm that the few bureaucrats we have at our disposal are seized with the matter and are drafting the NPF report.”
The Selibe Phikwe West Member of Parliament told this publication that most MPs in the PAC have been campaigning for both primary elections and general elections (registration). He acknowledged that it hasn’t been easy to meet.
“It’s also easy for MPs to opt to be in their constituencies or attend to their personal businesses than to sit in a PAC meeting and be paid P350, it doesn’t make sense to many to give Committees their whole attention, that is why we struggle with quorum all the time. That’s the sad reality.”
Meanwhile Keorapetse said as a committee they have also had their own points of disagreement. “My view as chair of the NPF inquiry was that the examination is incomplete and we’ve many unanswered questions. Fundamental was for the Speaker to invoke her powers in the National Assembly Powers and Privileges Act to compel former DG of DIS to answer questions. Most committee members didn’t agree with this. Their view is that we’ve adequate information of what really happened, that we can infer from the refusal to answer questions and make conclusions,” he shared.
The DIS Act Section 29 establishes the Intelligence and Security Council which consists of the Permanent Secretary to the President, the Attorney General, The DG, and Deputy DG. It’s function according to Section 30 is to review intelligence policies and activities and examine the expenditure, administration, complaints by and oversee the legal framework of the Directorate.
Keorapetse pointed out that as Chair was that the decision on anti-poaching security issues and other related matters which resulted in the procurement of security equipment with NPF money by the DIS ought to have been discussed and authorized by Council as this clearly falls within their mandate. “I wanted to put all the members of the council on stand to clarify these matters. Majority of committee members disagreed with this opinion. “
Keorapetse said the PAC had to establish the extent of the President’s (Commander in Chief) knowledge and involvement in the NPF issues especially as it relates to the DIS. “Was he aware of security concerns the DG spoke about when he appeared before the PAC? Did he know that money was sourced from NPF for the purpose of security equipment procurement and did he authorize it? If he didn’t know how did he not know when High policy intelligence matters are reported to him?
I wanted to put former President Ian Khama on the stand regarding the matter but majority didn’t think it’s necessary. I think the VP and minister in the Presidency would be privy to high policy intelligence matters and may have been briefed about the security concerns and the need to procure some equipment from Israel with NPF or other money. I was of the view that these people should be called to answer questions the same way former Ministers Sadique Kebonang and Kitso Mokaila were called.”
Keorapetse said they also noted that the role of PPADB is also in question because it is not clear of the SPADC which Manages Procurement of Highly Sensitive Items for Disciplined Services was involved or not. He noted that the PPADCB rejected the single sourcing for storage facilities “but what has been its role subsequently?”
“I was personally frustrated by all these and thought if we write a report without answers to these questions then our job isn’t over. But the attitude in our parliament has always been that “let’s get it over with”, even Bills pass through Parliament most of the time rather than being passed by Parliament. You should also note that most PAC MPs are ruling party MPs uneager to provide oversight of the executive for obvious reasons.”
According to Keorapetse Botswana parliament is extremely weak, “we don’t have the necessary capacity, human resource and other resources to effectively scrutinize some of these matters. People should understand that we are doing our best under the circumstances.”
Asked if he has any personal reasons to delay the NPF report, Keorapetse said, “My conscience is clear, I’ve been a consistent corruption fighter as DCEC Officer in 2007-2008, as an academic and columnist and as a trade unionists and politician. I don’t care about some brief-case political parties’ agents and their media plants who go around trying to damage me.
There are issues which I’ve explained which have delayed the report. PAC is a committee which does its work in public and that’s why I’m sharing this information with you and agree to answer your questions. Our secretariat will advise us when they’re ready.” The PAC is tasked with examining government books, and in this matter it is interrogating the Directorate on Intelligence Security Services’ (DISS) involvement in the P250 million National Petroleum Fund (NPF) scandal.
In an era where the advocacy for the rights and inclusion of marginal groups, especially individuals beset with profound and multiple impairments, grows more fervent, the Ministry of Education and Skills Development is actively devising schemes to integrate these individuals comprehensively.
Embarking on a pioneering venture, heralded by the Minister Douglas Letsholathebe, the establishment of a novel facility designated for individuals faced with disabilities is on the horizon, set to inaugurate in Maun by mid-2024.
This forthcoming entity, bestowed with the title “Maun Center for Learners with Severe and Multiple Disabilities,” is set to emerge as a sanctuary for those grappling with intense and diverse disabilities in the expanse of the Ngamiland District. Its mission extends beyond serving as a haven; it aims to elevate educational standards and secure outstanding scholastic achievements for this special cohort.
With palpable optimism, Dr. Letsholathebe heralds that this sanctuary, a collective effort of the ministry’s allies, is constructed and awaits its ceremonial launch in the June of 2024, marking a significant epoch in the winter season.
“Construction of the Maun Center for Learners with Severe and Multiple Disabilities has concluded, now in the stewardship of my Ministry. We are poised for its operational unveiling come June 2024,” Dr. Letsholathebe revealed, signaling a new chapter of assurance.
The Government of the Republic of Botswana is steadfast in elevating the status of individuals with disabilities, fostering an environment where their rights are fervently protected and upheld.
Echoing this commitment, the recent adoption of the Persons Living with Disabilities Act marks a historic stride. Its foremost objective is the establishment of the National Disability Coordinating Office alongside the National Disability Council, aligning with the mandates of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD). This movement is expected to significantly influence the integration of disability-centric issues.
Moreover, this legislative framework is set to fortify ongoing initiatives, increasing the economic participation of disabled individuals, thereby enhancing their living conditions and steering them towards securing a life marked by dignity and fulfillment.
In light of historical evidence, individuals bearing disabilities have consistently encountered significant obstacles in securing employment, often finding themselves at the margins of the workforce. Constraints to equitable employment opportunities compared to their non-disabled counterparts were a common plight.
A substantial portion of employers harbor reservations about integrating people with disabilities into their workplaces, fearing potential complications. Only a select few are open to the idea of employing individuals with disabilities. Consequently, these individuals face heightened unemployment rates and a lack of social support, exacerbating their vulnerability to economic hardship. The International Labour Organisation (ILO), along with the nation of Botswana, champions the cause of workplace inclusion for people with disabilities.
Statistics from Botswana’s multi-topic survey for the fourth quarter of 2021 underscore the situation. The labor force comprising individuals with disabilities saw an uptick to 11,553 from 8,649 in just a year. Among these, 4,313 were males and 7,240 were females. The unemployed tally stood at 2,195, against 9,358 who were employed. A notable majority resided in Urban Villages, with the remainder spread across rural locales and cities.
During this quarter, individuals with disabilities accounted for approximately 1.3 percent (9,358 persons) of the overall 717,418 employed populace, marking a significant increase from the previous year. The distribution of employed persons with disabilities across various areas also saw changes, with urban regions employing a majority, followed by rural areas and cities.
The report further delves into the occupational landscape for people with disabilities, noting a predominant employment in service/sales roles over elementary positions – a contrast to the broader employment data.
Despite a reduction in unemployment figures for individuals with disabilities from the preceding year, the unemployment rate stands at a worrying 19.0 percent, with disparities between genders. Urban areas house the majority of the unemployed, with rural areas and cities following suit.
Unemployment across different age groups reveals a balanced distribution, highlighting a widespread issue across the demographic spectrum. This paints a vivid picture of the ongoing challenges and gradual progress within the sphere of employment for people with disabilities.
Majority of employers are still hesitant to employ people with disabilities because they believe they may bring problems in the workplace. Only a few employers are willing to hire workers with disabilities. This as a result makes people living with disability to be affected by high unemployment and insufficient social protection which then further increases their risk of poverty. The International Labour Organisation (ILO) is advocating for the inclusion of people with disability in the world of work and Botswana as a country too is advocating for their inclusion in the workplaces.
According to statistics Botswana, multi-topic survey quarter 4, 2021 labour force module report, the total labour force for people with disability was estimated at 11,553 persons, an increase of 2,904 persons over a period of twelve months (from 8,649 persons recorded in Q4 2020). From this total, 4,313 persons were males while 7,240 were females. In addition, 2,195 persons were unemployed whereas 9,358 persons were employed. Furthermore, the data showed the majority of labour force with disability were in Urban Villages (6,185), 3,708 were in rural areas and 1,661 in Cities & Towns.
The essence of community and local flair reigns supreme as St Louis Lager takes a bold step with its ambitious “Hype the Homegrown” Initiative, designed to bolster the visibility and support for local artists and home-based brands, weaving them into the fabric of mainstream success through revolutionary partnerships.
The launchpad for this endeavor has been set with a plethora of creative projects. Among them, a musical odyssey titled “The Journey,” featuring the fusion of local House and Pop virtuoso Hanceford Magapatona, widely celebrated as Han C. Enriching the project further are talents like the visionary Producer Flex the Ninja and the RnB Phenom, Priscilla K, whose track “Away” has captured hearts. This six-track EP, ripe with local genius, is up for grabs across all streaming services, inviting listeners to a world of Botswana’s finest.
But “Hype the Homegrown” transcends the bounds of musical exploration, delving into the realms of fashion and lifestyle, stitching a dynamic collaboration with Collections by B.K. Proctor. This venture, rooted in 100% local ownership by the trailblazing Rapper and Entrepreneur Bokang βBKβ Proctor alongside Digital Maverick, Fifi Wale, showcases a vibrant melding of St Louis Lager and Collections by BK Proctor insignias across a series of street-savvy sneakers and tees. These exclusive pieces have hit the shelves at the Collections by BK Proctor boutiques within the bustling hubs of Gaborone Fairgrounds Mall, Grand Palm, and Toro Junction Mall in Francistown.
Unveiled by the marketing maestro of Kgalagadi Breweries Limited, Gaamanngwe Ramokgothwane, this initiative not only shines a spotlight on KBL’s enduring commitment to the arts but also underscores the wealth of creativity brewing within Botswana, deserving of grand stages and accolades. Ramokgothwane passionately advocates for a collective embrace of this homegrown brilliance, positioning “Hype the Homegrown” as not merely a campaign but a clarion call to action for institutions far and wide to champion and elevate local talent.
Echoing this sentiment, KBL’s steward Carlos Bernitt envisions a future where these artisans not only sparkle locally but also etch their mark on the global canvas, all through the unified backing of Batswana. With “Hype the Homegrown,” a legacy of innovation, creativity, and inspiration is in the making.
The Deputy Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Trade and Industry, Seipati Olweny, acknowledged this campaign as a turning point for the creative community. She stressed the indispensable role of local talent in crafting Botswana’s cultural tapestry and stimulating economic diversification, pledging unwavering support from the ministry towards this collective journey of uplifting local flair.