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Friday, 19 April 2024

Guma throws Masisi in centre of BTO controversy

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President Mokgweetsi Masisi has been asked to take action against Minister of Environment, Natural Resources Conservation and Tourism Tshekedi Khama owing to his actions that threw Botswana Tourism (BTO) into controversy.

The Parliamentary Committee on Statutory Bodies and Public Enterprises, chaired by Tati East legislator and former Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) chairman Moyo Guma was tabled before parliament this week following a period anticipation. The report, which was presented by committee acting chairperson Ndaba Gaolathe was not kind to Khama over his actions in the running of BTO affairs.

The report points out that Khama breached BTO Act in several ways, including among others; failure to appoint a board within a reasonable time-frame to run the affairs of the BTO; intentional and unlawful supervision of the BTO as if it is a department of the Ministry; going against procedural advice of the Permanent Secretary, Chief Executive Officer of the BTO and Non-Bank Institutions Regulatory Authority; and unlawful procurement appointments during the absence of the Board.

Blame is also apportioned to Khama for the BTO satellite office which was to be established in Dubai, at the minister’s instruction.  According to the report, the Board had indicated that due diligence was not conducted to determine the viability of the office since it was Khama’s instruction. “The result was that a market analysis was not done to determine whether the market was relevant and worth the investment for the Botswana products. In spite of such procedural deficiencies the BTO was to spend P17 million on the establishment of Dubai office over a period of three years,” reads the report.

“It became apparent during the interrogation of the CEO that the BTO Board was no-existent for nine months hence the Ministry usurping the functions of the Board. The Committee was of the view that procedurally and in accordance with statutory requirements the CEO should take instructions from the Board not the Ministry.” The report implicates Khama in making direct procurement of services of one Mike Brook for the production of 10 copies worth P1,347,500 in the absence of the board.

Khama is found to have been directly involved in the restructuring of the BTO, a decision which would have required an additional P23 million which was not budgeted for, subsequently necessitating the Ministry of Tourism to approach parliament through supplementary appropriation. “It came to light that the Minister was directly running the BTO. The decision to restructure should have emanated from the Board and not the Minister,” the report reads.

The committee also found Khama to have acted wrongly when he instructed BTO to appoint a medical insurance company to provide an insurance cover for BTO. A direct appointment of ASUIA as a service provider for inbound insurance was to be made at the request of Khama. A contract was to be signed with the company at the direction of the Minister. “The NBFIRA had advised that BTO should engage a local insurer before opening the tender to international bidders. This advice was ignored by the Ministry,” indicates the report.

The committee further found that the decision made by Khama should have actually been made by the Board. In another wrong doing, Khama instructed then BTO CEO Brian Dithebe to appoint Changu Newman to be the BTO attaché in Washington DC against the advice from the Human Resources Unit.

“Mrs Newman’s overall performance in the assessment indicated marginally below average competency potential compared to other professionals in management. This also had a bearing on the issues of governance where the Minister interfered with the running of the BTO,” says the report.

The firing of BTO CEO was not procedural according to the report. The Acting Chairman of the Board acting together with Ministry agreed and terminated the contract without following proper procedures since the Acting Chairman of the Board cannot legally act on his own without other members of the Board, stated the report. “The Committee was of the view that the action of the Acting Chairman and the Ministry was procedurally flowed.”

RECOMMENDATIONS

The Committee recommends that the BTO be instructed to to conduct a forensic audit for a three year period ending December 2017, under the direction of the Auditor General and report findings to Parliament) the Tourism Bill, 2017, seeks to validate a process which was done improperly, and therefore the Committee recommends that the bill be deferred pending the outcome of the detailed forensic audit, Khama has also been warned to refrain from acting in such a manner that violates the BTO Act, with further recommendation that President takes appropriate action in relation to the Minister’s meddling with the affairs of the BTO.

In November 2017, Masisi, then Vice President coaxed Khama to withdraw the Tourism Development Levy Bill, after it emerged from the committee that Khama tried to validate his actions at BTO through the bill. The committee also comprise of Major Gen Pius Mokgware, Gilbert Mangole, Sethom Lelatisitswe, Dr Phenyo Butale, Kosta Markus and Mephato Reatile.

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Nigerians, Zimbabweans apply for Chema Chema Fund

16th April 2024

Fronting activities, where locals are used as a front for foreign-owned businesses, have been a long-standing issue in Botswana. These activities not only undermine the government’s efforts to promote local businesses but also deprive Batswana of opportunities for economic empowerment, officials say. The Ministry of Trade and Industry has warned of heavy penalties for those involved in fronting activities especially in relation to the latest popular government initiative dubbed Chema Chema.

According to the Ministry, the Industrial Development Act of 2019 clearly outlines the consequences of engaging in fronting activities. The fines of up to P50,000 for first-time offenders and P20,000 plus a two-year jail term for repeat offenders send a strong message that the government is serious about cracking down on this illegal practice. These penalties are meant to deter individuals from participating in fronting activities and to protect the integrity of local industries.

“It is disheartening to hear reports of collaboration between foreigners and locals to exploit government initiatives such as the Chema Chema Fund. This fund, administered by CEDA and LEA, is meant to support informal traders and low-income earners in Botswana. However, when fronting activities come into play, the intended beneficiaries are sidelined, and the funds are misused for personal gain.” It has been discovered that foreign nationals predominantly of Zimbabwean and Nigerian origin use unsuspecting Batswana to attempt to access the Chema Chema Fund. It is understood that they approach these Batswana under the guise of drafting business plans for them or simply coming up with ‘bankable business ideas that qualify for Chema Chema.’

Observers say the Chema Chema Fund has the potential to uplift the lives of many Batswana who are struggling to make ends meet. They argue that it is crucial that these funds are used for their intended purpose and not siphoned off through illegal activities such as fronting. The Ministry says the warning it issued serves as a reminder to all stakeholders involved in the administration of these funds to ensure transparency and accountability in their disbursement.

One local commentator said it is important to highlight the impact of fronting activities on the local economy and the livelihoods of Batswana. He said by using locals as a front for foreign-owned businesses, opportunities for local entrepreneurs are stifled, and the economic empowerment of Batswana is hindered. The Ministry’s warning of heavy penalties is a call to action for all stakeholders to work together to eliminate fronting activities and promote a level playing field for local businesses.

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Trade and Industry’s warning of heavy penalties for fronting activities is a necessary step to protect the integrity of local industries and promote economic empowerment for Batswana. “It is imperative that all stakeholders comply with regulations and work towards a transparent and accountable business environment. By upholding the law and cracking down on illegal activities, we can ensure a fair and prosperous future for all Batswana.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Merck Foundation and African First Ladies mark World Health Day 2024

15th April 2024

Merck Foundation, the philanthropic arm of Merck KGaA Germany marks “World Health Day” 2024 together with Africa’s First Ladies who are also Ambassadors of MerckFoundation “More Than a Mother” Campaign through their Scholarship and Capacity Building Program. Senator, Dr. Rasha Kelej, CEO of Merck Foundation emphasized, “At Merck Foundation, we mark World Health Day every single day of the year over the past 12 years, by building healthcare capacity and transforming patient care across Africa, Asia and beyond.

I am proud to share that Merck Foundation has provided over 1740 scholarships to aspiring young doctors from 52 countries, in 44 critical and underserved medical specialties such as Oncology, Diabetes, Preventative Cardiovascular Medicine, Endocrinology, Sexual and Reproductive Medicine, Acute Medicine, Respiratory Medicine, Embryology & Fertility specialty, Gastroenterology, Dermatology, Psychiatry, Emergency and Resuscitation Medicine, Critical Care, Pediatric Emergency Medicine, Neonatal Medicine, Advanced Surgical Practice, Pain Management, General Surgery, Clinical Microbiology and infectious diseases, Internal Medicine, Trauma & Orthopedics, Neurosurgery, Neurology, Cardiology, Stroke Medicine, Care of the Older Person, Family Medicine, Pediatrics and Child Health, Obesity & Weight Management, Women’s Health, Biotechnology in ART and many more”.

As per the available data, Africa has only 34.6% of the required doctors, nurses, and midwives. It is projected that by 2030, Africa would need additional 6.1 million doctors, nurses, and midwives*. “For Example, before the start of the Merck Foundation programs in 2012; there was not a single Oncologist, Fertility or Reproductive care specialists, Diabetologist, Respiratory or ICU specialist in many countries such as The Gambia, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Central African Republic, Guinea, Burundi, Niger, Chad, Ethiopia, Namibia among others. We are certainly creating historic legacy in Africa, and also beyond. Together with our partners like Africa’s First Ladies, Ministries of Health, Gender, Education and Communication, we are impacting the lives of people in the most disadvantaged communities in Africa and beyond.”, added Senator Dr. Kelej. Merck Foundation works closely with their Ambassadors, the African First Ladies and local partners such as; Ministries of Health, Education, Information & Communication, Gender, Academia, Research Institutions, Media and Art in building healthcare capacity and addressing health, social & economic challenges in developing countries and under-served communities. “I strongly believe that training healthcare providers and building professional healthcare capacity is the right strategy to improve access to equitable and quality at health care in Africa.

Therefore, I am happy to announce the Call for Applications for 2024 Scholarships for young doctors with special focus on female doctors for our online one-year diploma and two year master degree in 44 critical and underserved medical specialties, which includes both Online Diploma programs and On-Site Fellowship and clinical training programs. The applications are invited through the Office of our Ambassadors and long-term partners, The First Ladies of Africa and Ministry of Health of each country.” shared Dr . Kelej. “Our aim is to improve the overall health and wellbeing of people by building healthcare capacity across Africa, Asia and other developing countries. We are strongly committed to transforming patientcare landscape through our scholarships program”, concluded Senator Kelej.

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Interpol fugitive escapes from Botswana

15th April 2024

John Isaak Ndovi, a Tanzanian national embroiled in controversy and pursued under a red notice by the International Criminal Police Organization (Interpol), has mysteriously vanished, bypassing a scheduled bail hearing at the Extension 2 Magistrate Court in Gaborone. Previously apprehended by Botswana law enforcement at the Tlokweng border post several months earlier, his escape has ignited serious concerns.

Accused of pilfering assets worth in excess of P1 million, an amount translating to roughly 30,000 Omani Riyals, Ndovi has become a figure of paramount interest, especially to the authorities in the Sultanate of Oman, nestled in the far reaches of Asia.

The unsettling news of his disappearance surfaced following his failure to present himself at the Extension 2 Magistrate Court the preceding week. Speculation abounds that Ndovi may have sought refuge in South Africa in a bid to elude capture, prompting a widespread mobilization of law enforcement agencies to ascertain his current location.

In an official communiqué, Detective Senior Assistant Police Commissioner Selebatso Mokgosi of Interpol Gaborone disclosed Ndovi’s apprehension last September at the Tlokweng border, a capture made possible through the vigilant issuance of the Interpol red notice.

At 36, Ndovi is implicated in a case of alleged home invasion in Oman. Despite the non-existence of an extradition treaty between Botswana and Oman, Nomsa Moatswi, the Director of the Directorate of Public Prosecution (DPP), emphasized that the lack of formal extradition agreements does not hinder her office’s ability to entertain extradition requests. She highlighted the adoption of international cooperation norms, advocating for collaboration through the lenses of international comity and reciprocity.

Moatswi disclosed the intensified effort by law enforcement to locate Ndovi following his no-show in court, and pointed to Botswana’s track record of extraditing two international fugitives from France and Zimbabwe in the previous year as evidence of the country’s relentless pursuit of legal integrity.

When probed about the potential implications of Ndovi’s case on Botswana’s forthcoming evaluation by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), Moatswi reserved her speculations. She acknowledged the criticality of steering clear of blacklisting, suggesting that this singular case is unlikely to feature prominently in the FATF’s assessment criteria.

 

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