Members of Parliament have heaped praises on a motion that proposes establishment of an autonomous National Road Development Agency, an institution that would oversee and ensure that Botswana’s road network are world class were enabling rather than frustrating economic growth efforts.
The Agency, according to majority of lawmakers will not only ensure proper and monitored construction, development and maintenance of Botswana’s most used mode of transport but will also play a critical role in developing road anchored economic sectors like Transport & logistics. When presenting the motion before lawmakers recently Member of Parliament for Nata Gweta, Polson Majaga said the agency would be predominantly mandated with ensuring that Botswana’s road network is up to date and a necessary enabler in flourishing Botswana’s economy.
Majaga noted that the Agency would be resourced with seasoned academia and experienced experts from across all areas that make up top notch road network. “This would be amongst others civil and construction engineers, transport and logistics experts, facility managers, procurement & contract management experts as well as private sector representatives,” he said. Majaga explained that the organization’s mandate would also extend to addressing challenges that are facing the entire transport sector.
The Nata-Gweta lawmaker submitted that it was evident that currently Botswana’s roads were in poor condition and that hindered economic growth and deterred flourishing of a number of economic sectors such as trade and tourism. “We intend as a country to move towards an export led economy and we are rigorously developing other economic sectors to move away from mining dependence such as inter boarder trade, tourism amongst others and in all these efforts, high standard road network was an integral requirement,” he said.
Majaga underscored that this would in turn result in the economy becoming more efficient and competitive. He added that a good and well maintained road network would enable movement of Batswana country wide and facilitate access to services and economic opportunities. The National Road Development Agency comes at a time when Botswana is faced with challenges of poor implementation of heavy national projects which usually bleeds government coffers millions.
Majaga reiterated that construction and maintenance of roads in Botswana had in recent years come under immense pressure as a result of resource limitations. “This is where now we would have monitoring and evaluation mechanism over road construction projects in turn preventing budget overruns and delayed completion. Member of Parliament for Serowe East, Tshekedi Khama recommended that in going about setting up the agency there must be sufficient funds and resources allocated towards the organization to ensure effective delivery on the mandated task.
Tshekedi noted that often times good ideas with well thought concepts suffer poor implementation. “The Agency must be fully resourced, we want safe roads, well fenced, in good conditions, facilitating economic value chains other than claiming lives of our loved ones,” he said, adding that the proposed Road Development Agency was a well thought and commendable piece of legislation.
Member of Parliament for Gaborone Bonnington South, Ndaba Gaolathe applauded the proposition saying it was a necessity for any developing economy. Gaolathe added that in setting up the agency, its mandates could be widened to include all forms of mode of transport including railway lines and cycling tracks.
According to Gaolathe, the agency would also move to draw up long term road development plans that reconcile with evolving economic trends, “This would now call for detailed strategic frameworks that design and plan Botswana’s road networks well ahead, taking into consideration the country’s blue prints on other economic development ideals such as Special Economic Zones, Export promotion amongst others, to actually integrate all plans,” he said.
Gaolathe highlighted that a well functioning Road Development Agency would also explore opportunities of potentially having Botswana‘s road network financing itself through toll gates, among other means. Newly inaugurated Member of Parliament, Moagi Molebatsi of Mochudi East underscored that the motion couldn’t have come at a better time considering the fact that Botswana’s poor roads were a potential hindrance to foreign direct investment efforts. Molebatsi pointed out that once in place; the road agency should ensure that the country’s roads were friendly to all road users and not only to motorists.
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.
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.
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.