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Confessions of a thieving ps

With government coffers bleeding to debilitating levels, a former permanent secretary (PS), who on one or two occasions had to participate in some corrupt activities in favour of his minister to secure him a government contract, has made a confession to this publication on how government is crippled of billions of pulas.

His reason for sharing, he says, is the popping out of activities that have fleeced government of billions of Pula. He cites the National Petroleum Fund (NPF), the Palapye Glass Project, the Morupule B Power Plant, a series of suspicious tenders awarded at Ministerial Tender Committee levels as the main sources of leakage within government. He also points to the plethora of Funds and Levies which are mismanaged and abused as the reason why Botswana “will soon be on her knees, if the carnage is not stopped.”

The former PS, whose name is known to this publication said he was worried by the fact that in many instances, the public views them as lazy people who do not even know their job. “But, the issue here is a lot happens behind closed doors in government offices. People take advantage of the five years and below contract term that we work under, and they just make us do corrupt things knowing we will be afraid of losing our jobs,” he noted.

“You get instructions telephonically or verbally that such contractor must be awarded a tender. And you will be told that you must see to it that you organise a proper team which will help you do the assessment process well. If maybe you don’t have people who do not question things, some officials will be transferred from other government departments to do as the seniors have instructed.”

The PS said sometimes they would ask their bosses to make a written instruction whereby they will be promised, but to no avail. “And you cannot ask them for the second time to make a written instruction; you just carry out the job as commanded,” he decried. He further noted that at times, they even get instructions from their juniors who lead certain departments within the ministry. “And because you are on contract, you just implement.

Of course, you know very well that what is being proposed is contrary to procurement, protocols or even accounting protocols: But you fear for your contract which would normally be extended by approval of that individual.” He decried that these dynamics of communicating verbally without any footprints have led to a lot of officers resigning for lack of evidence to prove the offending actions.

BUT THE MONEY PORES KEEP OPENING UP

Just recently the Public Procurement and Asset Disposal Board (PPADB) increased thresholds for Ministries’ Ministerial Tender Committees (MTCs). But according to this permanent secretary, “this is where the biggest problem lies.” He says they are easily instructed verbally to giving jobs to certain companies regardless of whether they qualify for the job or not.

In his estimation, “tax payers are losing billions to a well-orchestrated corruption scheme within government.” The former permanent secretary likens the scheme to a pyramid scheme because the key players are linked by their corrupt activities and they help each other get contracts or tenders across ministries.

“It is unfortunate that those who are sucking government of millions of Pula have been retained in cabinet. The thing is they always make sure it is not their names that appear on documents, they are smart. But they get the money and we ruin our names and reputations,” he said. The former permanent secretary said it is embarrassing that government is owing fuel suppliers more than P1.2 billion. “This is all because of the mismanagement and looting that took place at the National Petroleum Fund (NPF)”. He points out that some of the service providers are owed money in the region of between P200 million and P300 million.

Just last week, the Minister of Mineral Resources, Green Technology and Energy Security, Eric Molale, acting on behalf of the Minister of Finance and Economic Development transferred an amount of P430 million from the Road Levy Collections Fund to the National Petroleum Fund (NPF).

According to the Government Gazette of 25th May 2018, Molale cites that “…it is in the best interest of the public and the exigencies of the financial situation renders it expedient to withdraw funds from the Road levy Collections Fund to the National Petroleum Fund.” Finance and Economic Development Minister, Kenneth Matambo told WeekendPost in an interview on Friday last week that, “Yes, we gave NPF the money. NPF is bankrupt as we speak,” he said,

INCREASED THRESHOLD IS A BLANK CHEQUE TO THIEVES

The former permanent secretary is concerned that the Public Procurement and Asset Disposal Board (PPADB) has reviewed and increased the financial ceilings of both the Ministerial Tender Committees (MTCs) and District Administration Tender Committees (DATCs). He says this should have come with more tight financial controls. Although he draws solace from the proposed declaration of assets and liabilities laws and Financial Intelligence Act, he is worried by the sluggish implementation of oversight laws in the country.

According to the reviewed thresholds, one of the Ministries that brew the biggest scandal in the country,  the Ministry of Mineral Resources, Green Technology and Energy Security had its threshold shoot from P300 000 000 to P600 000 000 . The new ceilings will become effective on the 1st June 2018. According to the PPADB the objective is to improve efficiency in the procurement system by ensuring that timely decisions are made at the Ministry and District level. “But there can’t be efficiency where corruption is the main reason for floating tenders and jobs,” observes the former permanent secretary.

The PPADB is mandated in terms of Section 65 of the Public Procurement and Asset Disposal (PPAD) Act to carry out this exercise. Another jump in threshold saw the Ministry of Land Management, Water and Sanitation Services also had its threshold doubled from P200 000 000 to P400 000 000.

Central Medical Stores, which has been on front pages for fraud related issues in the past had Adjudication Committee also leaped from P100 000 000 to P200 000 000. Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security Ministerial Tender Committee will now preside over a threshold of P240 000 000 instead of the old P120 000 000. The Ministry of Basic Education threshold has improved from P80 000 000 to P130 000 000.

The Ministry of Defence, Justice and Security Ministerial tender Committee budget has doubled from P160 000 000 to P320 000 000. The Ministry of Employment, Labour Productivity and Skills Development is up to P160 000 000 from P100 000 000; while the Ministry of Environment, Natural Resources Conservation and Tourism threshold doubles to P130 000 000.

The Ministry of Finance and Economic Development Tender Committee will make decisions worth P200 000 000 effective 1st June2018, a double from P100 000 000, the same figures and changes apply to the Ministry of Health and Wellness. The Ministry of Infrastructure and Housing Development Tender Committee threshold experienced the biggest percentage jump from P135 000 000 to P400 000 000.

On the other hand the Ministry of International Affairs and Cooperation Ministerial Tender Committee threshold was increased from P65 000 000  to P130 000 000; as for the Ministry of Investment, Trade and Industry, the Ministerial Tender Committee will start presiding over tender worth P300 000 000 compared to the previous P150 000 000. At the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development, the threshold has doubled to P240 000 000; as is the case at Ministry of Nationality, Immigration and Gender Affairs where the figure has doubled to P200 000 000.

The Ministry of Presidential Affairs, Governance and Public Administration Ministerial Tender Committee will deal with awards capped at P160 000 000, a jump from P80 000 000. At the Ministry of Tertiary Education, Research, Science and Technology the Tender Committee has been capped at P160 000 000, an increase from the old P80 000 000. Ministry of Transport and Communications’ Ministerial Tender Committee has its ceiling pinned at P260 000 000, an improvement from the P160 000 000 of old. The Ministry of Youth Empowerment, Sport and Culture Development also has a huge percentage jump from P120 000 000 to P360 000 000.

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Bangwato regent speaks ‘respect for Dikgosi’

23rd May 2022
Bangwato

Presidential Commission of Inquiry into the Review of the Constitution held a meeting in Serowe this week. The meeting was to accord Bangwato, just like other tribes, a platform to give their opinions, contributions and what they think is the horse power and limitations of the current Constitution of Botswana.

Bangwato Regent, Kgosi Serogola Seretse said, he is of the understanding that the Commission has not come for anything apart from getting their opinions on how things could be made better. His contribution was that he solely knows of only two social positions in the world; Dikgosi and Pastors. He said other positions are just benedictions. He further urged that, Batswana should respect God’s ordained protocols such as Dikgosi and Pastors.

Seretse pointed out the importance of acknowledging and appreciating Dikgosi as nation builders. He cautioned and warned that, the Commission should ensure that their dealing with Dikgosi is harmonious. He called for an amendment to be made on the ‘National Order of Precedence’ noting that Dikgosi are put at number 11, but should at least be taken a little higher to number 7.

One resident, Tshepo Moloi while giving his contribution said there must be provisions of Social Justice that ensure equal distribution of resources to all citizens. He said this provision should entail an obligation that all citizen have equal opportunities to different Government Initiatives. Moloi substantiated that, all ‘Presidential Commissions’ be engraved on the Constitution

Alfred Thogolwane who is as well a resident of the biggest village in the Central District, pointed out the need for preservation of the country and resources thereof, saying “it must dawn onto all that, the calabash that fetches water for the family cannot fixed once its broken.”  Another resident, Keikantsemang Sebedi advocated for Polygamous marriage, saying that men should marry as many wives as they please. She said there is no need for any socioeconomic assessment done on men who wish to marry more than one wife.

She advised that, the country should benchmark from the Zezuru culture that does it, with no complexities. On the other hand, Sebedi said that, there must be considerations done on the Old Age Pension. She said people who earned P4000 should not receive the old Age Pension upon their fullness of age.  Forshia Koloi called for amendments on Section 77 and all the provisions that speaks to the subject of Bogosi and the powers infested in them. He said they should be made more detailed and avoid ambiguity in clauses.

Mr Tlhaodi said there must be Land Audits done in the country. Citing an example of the Tati Land as one that should be thoroughly audited. He further advised that, Election Day be put on the Calendar. He said, if it happens that the day be a Saturday, there should be some special dispensation for the 7th Day Adventist Church members to take part in voting without compromising on their day of worship. Tlhaodi added that there must be People’s Complaint Commission in the country.

Speakers emphasized the need for the country to review the exercise of ‘Political Party Funding’. They articulated that lack of funding political parties’ results in political parties resorting to finding funds for themselves. They reiterated that sometimes going to the extent of getting funds through illegal means. Bangwato agreed in one accord that they want the President be tried whilst in office if suspected of any criminal offences. This was revealed in their contributions. They pointed out that, the law should not to wait until the end of their tenure.

For his part, the Deputy Chairperson of the Commission Johnson Motshwarakgole expressed gratitude to the residents of Serowe. He applauded women for their kindness saying it is only them, who always take responsibility for doing things amicably in the society.

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Parliament unveils major shake-up plans & reforms

23rd May 2022
Parliament

Parliament has revealed that it plans to rollout a Community Score Card (CSC) exercise as part of sweeping reforms to its role and mandate among others.

The planed shakeup, along with the rollout of CSC will see creation of new Parliamentary Portfolio Committees on Health, HIV&AIDS, Education and Skills Development, Trade and Economic Development, Agriculture, Lands and Housing and Local Governance and Social Welfare.
Parliament informed government ministries and departments that the CSC is a participatory, community based monitoring and evaluation tool that enables citizens to assess the quality of public services and interact with services providers to express their concerns.

According to Parliament, the CSC will assist to inform community members about available services and their entitlements and to solicit their opinions about the accessibility and quality of certain services related to the portfolio committees mentioned.  It said the main objective is for Parliament through identified oversight committees is to conduct a participatory monitoring and evaluating process that puts ownership and responsibility for delivery of services in the hands of both the Government and the service recipients.

“Through scorecards developed around identified sectors and services, communities and implementing departments remain in touch with progress made through the programme delivery cycle and are able to respond timely to bottlenecks,” the National Assembly said.  Some of the measurements and expected outcomes for the rolling out of the CSC include among others, improved monitoring and economic evaluation, to determine the impact of spending, so as to be able to direct resources from where they having the least benefit to those projects and programmes where they will have a larger positive impact.

The National Assembly explained further that this could result in a willingness to close down ineffective programmes and institutions and not to implement projects that do not deliver adequate returns, improved productivity in the public services, especially given the substantial pay increases.

The National Assembly believes that the rolling out of CSC is also expected to result in efficiency savings: many public services and programmes could be delivered more effectively at lower costs, by improving management and accountability, and making use of e-services. “This would yield financial savings that could be used for development programmes or reducing the deficit,” the National Assembly said.

The exercise is also expected to result in “Careful scrutiny of subsidy schemes and termination of those that do not address market failure or assist truly needy Batswana.”  The National Assembly revealed that proposed Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Health and Wellness has been established in accordance with the Standing of National Assembly of Botswana.  It explained that the mandate of the Committee is mainly to exercise Parliamentary oversight and scrutiny over Government Ministries, Departments and Agencies with portfolio responsibilities in respect of Health and HIV/AIDS.

“There is need to identify reasons for inefficiency and poor outcomes and ensure that health system reform improve productivity and value for money. Key areas of focus for scorecard, availability of drugs, staffing ratios, accessibility of health services, speciality care and services and sexual reproductively health,” the National Assembly said.

Another proposed Committee is on Local Governance and Social Welfare. The mandate of the Committee is mainly to exercise Parliamentary Oversight and Scrutiny over Government Ministries. Departments and Agencies with Portfolio responsibilities in respect of Local Governance and Social Welfare.

“Strategies under NDP 11 to improve outcomes of social uplifment include; diversification of rural economies, development and support of small businesses, provision of social safety nets, eradication of absolute poverty, provision of quality and equitable education and harmonisation of social protection programmes,” said the National Assembly.  It said social nets need to be improved so as to target these most in need (at present some social safety nets benefit many people who are not the most needy, but also miss out some of those who are needy).

“Some social development policies more broadly should also aim to reduce household vulnerability to shocks such as those arising from fluctuations in agriculture, climate change, incomes and employment and improve their ability to handle shocks, thereby building household resilience,” the National Assembly said.

Another Committee established is on Agriculture, Lands and Housing. The mandate of the Committee is mainly to exercise Parliamentary oversight and scrutiny over Government Institutions, Departments and Agencies with portfolio responsibilities in respect of Agriculture, Lands and Housing.

The National Assembly said the average growth rate of the agricultural sector since the beginning of National Development Plan 11 (NDP11) (i.e. during the 2017/2018 and 2018/19 financial years) was 2.5 percent, making it the slowest growing sector of the economy, in line with its historical performance.

“Over the same period, its share of GDP has been stagnant at around 2 percent. The sector also contributes job opportunities for about 80 000 adults. Food security has become paramount since the onset of the corona virus pandemic,” the National Assembly said.  The National Assembly said the Government realises the need to increase food production for products in which Botswana has a cooperative advantage such as beef, grains and other horticulture products.

The Committee on Finance, Trade and Economic Development has also been established. One of the mandates of Committee would be to exercise Parliamentary oversight and scrutiny over government ministries, departments and agencies with portfolio responsibilities in respect of Finance, Development, Trade and Industry.

“The sector is at the core of industrialisation aspirations and strategies for economic development in Botswana. Manufacturing in particular can be the driver of economic growth through technological improvements and innovation,” the National Assembly said. Hence, it said, the development of the sector could also foster export diversification and export led-growth in Botswana while benefitting from the African Continental Free Trade Area (AFCFTA).

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Salbany, Bareetsi threaten to sue DIS

23rd May 2022
Salbany Bareetsi

Two senior members of Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC) have threatened legal action against Directorate of Intelligence and Security (DIS), it has transpired. The threat is contained in an answering affidavit of Director General of DCEC, Tymon Katlholo in which he is seeking an interdiction from High Court to stop the DIS from accessing investigation files at his office.

After the DIS detained DCEC officials Joao Salbany and Tsholofelo Bareetsi on December 16, 2021, they filed an official complaint against DIS and some officials. They complained about abuse of office by DIS and five officers. Salbany and Bareetsi also complained about unlawful detention by DIS and unlawful dissemination of classified information contrary to Section 44 of Corruption and Economic Crime Act. “The DIS interviews were premised on information divulged during the course of official DCEC work product, that is the Monday media brief meeting,” they wrote.

They further requested leave to institute a civil suit against the DIS and its officers, and invariably the State for inhuman and degrading treatment they suffered and unlawful detention. They also pondered a declaratory seeking a sanction against the DIS and Botswana Police Service (BPS) and clarification of the role of BPS officers seconded to DIS.

“The envisaged suit against BPS and DIS officers and the DIS will inevitably centre on investigations done by the DCEC and the scope of the protection availed to DCEC officers for conduct done in the course and scope of DCEC official duties.” The duo said it was self-evident from the conduct of the DIS officers that there was nothing urgent about the information required by the DIS, justifying their detention at its Sebele facility from 08:30 hours on December 16, 2021 until 02:00 hours on December 17, 2021.

They reasoned that the information required by the DIS could have been obtained by a simple request to DCEC Director General. “What the DIS did was to seek to intimidate officers of the DCEC whom they knew were carrying out investigations against some of the DIS officers who were part of their investigation team. This turn of events has a chilling effect not only on the functioning of the DCEC but also on the official conduct of officers of the DCEC as to how they conduct their official duties.”

They concluded by stating that in the event the request is granted, they would further request to be advised as to the provision of legal representation as the unalwful detention and the degrading and inhuman treatment by the DIS was in relation to matters conducted by and on behalf of the DCEC.

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