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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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Gov’t has no budget for Magosi’s SADC chase

12th April 2021
Elias Magosi

Despite the government of Botswana’s ambition to have one of its own to lead Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) since its establishment in 1980, the Presidency says there is no budget specifically dedicated to the campaign.

The Government has released the name of Permanent Secretary to the President, Elias Mpedi Magosi, as the candidate for the SADC Executive Secretary position. Magosi is expected to face off with Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) candidate, Faustin Mukela. The position will become vacant in August this year.

However, despite the optimism the Botswana Government has not yet set aside a budget to assist Magosi to win against the seemingly DRC giant. “We all know that the COVID-19 pandemic has negatively affected the country’s ability to effectively fund any new project. This campaign is not an exception. As such, we do not have any budget for the campaign. However, we have so far managed to take advantage of His Excellency the President’s working visits to the neighbouring countries to also carry out the campaigns,” Press Secretary to the President, Batlhalefi Leagajang, explained.

Botswana has housed SADC since the establishment of the then SADCC in 1980, but has never occupied top most leadership positions at the SADC Secretariat.  “We therefore, strongly believe that we should also have an opportunity to contribute to the management of our regional body as it continues to drive the important issues of regional integration industrialization and socio-economic development.

This will also profile Botswana as a strong advocate of regional integration,” he responded to this publication’s questionnaire as to why the Government wants to occupy the plum post. SADC is a Member State driven organization. As such, Leagajang said, needs a well-grounded Executive Secretary with a blend of management and leadership acumen; a transformational leader with political awareness and integrity; private and public sector experience; a deep culture of corporate governance; as well as strategic agility and result-oriented consummate diplomat.

“These are the unique attributes of our candidate,” he said. So far President Mokgweetsi Masisi has visited nine out of 16 SADC member states on a working visit and also taking an opportunity to present to them his candidate.

“The countries have appreciated this effort and we remain hopeful. However, it is important to note that this is a democratic and competitive process which must be respected,” he responded when asked about the reception and assurances from various countries to cast a vote for Magosi.

In 2018, when Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi challenged for the Africa Union (AU) Chairperson, the government appointed former President Festus Mogae to be the campaign leader. Does the Government have anyone apart from Masisi to help with the campaign?

“The campaigns for the candidate are strictly led by the Government of Botswana. Since this is a candidate for Botswana, not just the Government, it will be appreciated if all Batswana, including the media, could also shoulder the responsibility to campaign for the candidate in their own spheres of influence,” Leagajang responded.

While there are sceptics on Magosi winning against the DRC man, the Government is confident and believes that with the unique traits that he possess, Magosi stands a chance. He is said to be a strong advocate of justice and fairness as he has played this role in his current role as PSP and in his previous roles as PS and in the private sector. He has helped individuals and companies to find justice and fairness in most of their dealings with Government.

Magosi is also said to be a proponent of corporate governance and which he has relentlessly pursued in most of his career including in Government and other sectors. A strong believer in following laid down procedures and laws. “He carries a variety of skills as an HR expert with experience in different sectors, a strategist and an Organization development specialist.

His experience and exposure spans government, parastatal, private sector and at regional level as well, thus making him a suitable candidate for the regional role. He has worked with governments, businesses, development partners and politicians and is comfortable navigating through all of them,” Leagajang concluded.

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Mzwinila’s P4.3 Billion gamble to keep water flowing

12th April 2021
orth-South-Carrier

The Minister of Land Management, Water and Sanitation Services, Kefentse Mzwinila looked a politician set to shoot the moon as he laid bare his billions of pula development agenda recently in Parliament.

His Ministry’s combined Recurrent and Development Budget Proposals for the 2021/ 2022 Financial Year is pegged at Four Billion, Three Hundred and Sixty – Five Million, two Hundred and Nineteen Thousand, Five Hundred and Sixty Pula (P4, 365, 219, 560). This is a budget 38.3% more than the allocation for the 2020/2021 Financial Year.

Mzwinila preluded his request to parliament with a demonstration that his Ministry has no champagne taste on a beer budget – indicating that his ministry’s expenditure at the end of February 2021P2.111 Billion or 96% of development budget; and P910 million or 90% of the recurrent budget.

Notwithstanding the budget dust, the Minister justified this year’s increase in the Ministry’s total budget. He attributed the escalation to the commencement of major projects under the water sector. These include the implementation of the North South Carrier (NSC) 22.2 covering various sub projects. Mzwinila noted that these are all public value projects which are aimed at improving the lives of Batswana.

Mzwinila’s Ministry has projected that the sum of Nine Hundred and Sixty –Three Million, Nine Hundred and Forty – Seven Thousand, Five Hundred and Sixty Pula (P963, 947, 560) be permitted for the Recurrent Budget and stand part of the 2021 / 2022 Appropriation Bill ( No. 1 of 2021).

“55% of the Recurrent Budget is geared towards the Revenue Support Grant for 12 Land Boards and their subordinate authorities while the sum of P5 Million is allocated to the Real Estate Advisory Council (REAC). The remaining 44% is proposed for the Ministry Departments.”

The sum of Three Billion, Four Hundred and One Million, Two hundred and Seventy –Two Thousand Pula (P3, 401, 272, 000), for the Development Budget was approved and stand part of the same schedule of the appropriation (2021/2022).

When breaking down the Development Budget, Minister Mzwinila noted that Water Supply and Sanitation projects will account for P1.098 Billion to finance the Maun Water and Sanitation project, Molepolole Sanitation projects and the Shakawe Water Treatment Plant Rehabilitation.

With all the implementation bottlenecks troubling several projects in the country, Mzwinila had to satisfy the question of whether his Ministry demonstrated a dire need for the budget with reference to its execution of the budget for the financial year 2020/2021 and its delivery of strategic initiatives and projects?

Mzwinila’s pitch found favour with parliament and his ministry will get an aggregate budget of P3.198 Billion for the 2020/ 2021 Financial Year. Within this allocation, P2.188 Billion is for the Development Budget and P1.010 Billion will cover the Recurrent Budget.

The Minister revealed his strategic interventions for land management, water and sanitation services. Highlighting that efforts by Government to provide serviced residential land to citizens on the waiting list are being hampered by limited resources. He shared that his ministry needs P94 Billion to cover such costs which will directly link to water, sewage, roads, electricity, telecommunications and storm water drainage leading to the allocation of 4 587 plots on un-serviced land.

The minister projected that 22 952 un-serviced residential plots are planned to be allocated in the next financial year. However, there is a trend where allocated land remains fallow and undeveloped which raises misgivings that the requests could have been made on speculative plans.

Mzwinila noted that in the spirit of forging stronger International connections, the Ministry will in June 2021 sign a Memorandum of Understanding on Land matters between Namibia and Botswana with the aim of opening doors to the creation of Dry Ports in the country, facilitate international trade through Walvis Bay Sea Port.

Botswana is already challenged by scarcity of naturally occurring water resources due to the aridity of the country creating persistent water shortages. The type of infrastructure required to improve national water security is a true reflection of intensive investment needed in the water sector The Minister stressed.

“An emerging issue such as the COVID -19 pandemic poses serious challenges as the control of the virus requires reliable water supply. In an effort to mitigate the challenge, the Ministry has undertaken extensive bowsing throughout the country which included the provision of additional capacity for supplementary bowsing to areas with pervasive water shortages, plus an additional forty one (41) un-gazetted settlements.

Operational costs due to bowsing were at an average of P6 Million per month before the COVID-19 pandemic and increased to an unsustainable amount of the order of P13 Million per month, since the beginning of the State of Emergency in April 2020,” the minister shared.

Through the support of a World Bank Loan, the Ministry is implementing several initiatives under the Botswana Emergency Water Security and Efficiency (BEWSE) project. Through BEWSE the Raw Water Pricing and Abstraction Strategy will assess the pricing of water in a manner that enables the provision of water to support new economic development, the strategy is planned to be completed in June 2021.

The Ministry has commenced the development of a long term National Water Security Strategy to improve resilience to climate change impacts. The strategy development entails prioritization of the proposed future mega water transfers such as the Chobe – Zambezi water transfer, the Atlantic Ocean water transfer to Botswana through Namibia and Lesotho – Botswana water transfer.

Following the signing of the tripartite Memorandum of Agreement (MoA) between Botswana, Lesotho and South Africa in November 2017 for the Lesotho –Botswana Water Transfer project, a 24 months contract for a combined prefeasibility and feasibility study for the development of a bankable Lesotho – Botswana Water Transfer project feasibility study was signed and is to be completed in 2022.

One of the Ministry’s famous major water supply projects such as the North South Carrier (NSC) 2.2 has experienced hiccups; having tenders for contract 1 (Masama to Mmamashia Pipeline) and Contract 2 (Mahalapye to Masama Pipeline) cancelled due to budgetary constraints.

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Will Botswana’s Climate Change policy climax?

12th April 2021
Botswana Climate

The Botswana Climate Change policy draft of 2021 was tabled in Parliament by the Minister of Environment, Natural Resources Conservation and Tourism, Philda Kereng for consideration and adoption.

The policy attempts to indicate the country’s environmentally conscious development agenda as Substantial resources are being dedicated to research and policy efforts to mitigate climate change and support adaptation to the current and future impacts of greenhouse gas emissions.

Kereng indicated that Botswana is not immune to the impacts of climate change and it continues to delay the country’s national development efforts and that the key economic development sectors dependent on the climate system have recorded declines over the years due to the variability of the rainfall and other climatic conditions. Experts elsewhere have pointed out that lack of consideration of population dynamics hampers the development of stronger, more effective solutions to the challenges climate change poses – hopefully this policy if effectively implemented could partly answer this question.

Kereng underscored that sectors such as agriculture, water, bio diversity, health and tourism have suffered the most and the consequences of these have contributed significantly to the decline of livelihoods in Botswana especially in rural areas.

To respond to the changing climate, Botswana has embarked on sectoral reform such as climate smart agriculture, poverty alleviation initiatives, building resilience on the economic productive sectors, diversification of tourism for the improvement of livelihoods and income generation, local economic development and sustainable environment.

The efforts require a coordinated mechanism that will provide an enabling environment for an integrated approach to the formulation and implantation of development plans and socio economic related policies in Botswana that are responsive to the changing climatic conditions.

Minister Kereng explained the draft policy is characterized by an inclusive and integrated approach to social, economic development and governance modalities that would enable the country to achieve a sustainable development pathway. It provides opportunities for improved livelihoods through creation of green jobs, development and transfer of relevant technologies as well as creation and ease of access to both local and international markets. It also commits the government, private sector and non-state actors to adopt adaptation and mitigation measures that would facilitate sustainability and building of resilience of all sectors.

While Members of Parliament were trying to comprehend the policy, this publication got in touch with Green Botswana to solicit their views on the policy draft. Ms. Sela Motshwane, the Founder of the Trust highlighted that “the Climate Change policy was meant to be read in August 2019. It is long overdue, and we all need to see it and understand it in full.

I understand the current budget does not allow for a full implementation- but I could be wrong. More funds could have been allocated since. I think generally, Batswana need to understand fully what this means to our daily lives. I believe the true understanding is by policy drafters and the Ministry of Environment only.”

In the same vein, Green Botswana Trust took to the streets to provide a community solution to climate change on World Health Day (Wednesday). Green Botswana held a “Free Trees for Babies” at Extension 2 Clinic where fruit trees were gifted to parents, expectant mothers, 25 health workers, police officers and the prison officers who had accompanied prisoners to the clinic.

Motshwane said: “The decision to do the “Free Trees for Babies” by gifting fruit trees was to raise awareness to our imminent food security issue as stated by the Deputy Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Agricultural Development and Food Security, Mr. Thabang Botshoma and encourage the general public to plant a tree so that we can reach our SGD Goal 13 : Climate Action. The trees gifted are to be named after the baby recipient”.

Green Botswana is calling for the urgent action from government and members of the public to create a culture of community accountability and collegiality in moving Botswana towards climate action and sustainability. To achieve the 2030 Paris Agreement Pledge, it will take all citizens and not just the government to reach goals.

Parliament resolved to adopt the Botswana Climate Change Policy, 2021.

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