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BPOPF Audit exposes P1.5 billion ghost pensioners

An audit at the Botswana Public Officers Pension Fund (BPOPF) has exposed possible corruption.

Fresh information turned up by WeekendPost suggests that since the reclaiming of the funds administration from one of the fund administrators close to 1.5 billion pula worth of funds have no trace of active pension members. The company, which acted as advisor to the multi-billion Pula Botswana Public Officers Pension Fund (BPOPF), has been at the centre of reports of concerns of possible conflict of interest.

The same company was providing Financial Services to BPOPF which includes collection of members’ contributions and administration of benefits for 15 years. BPOPF pulled out of the contract, which started in April 2001 ended in May 2016. But BPOPF has since taken over the services and is doing everything in-house. What ensued thereafter were endless court battles.

“It’s an issue of data. It’s another legal battle.  You remember we took over the administration of the fund. Kante go na le maretshwanyana (There was a transgression of some sort),” a senior BPOPF official who spoke on condition of anonymity told WeekendPost this week.
She continued: “and I am sure you have heard of what is happening to our industry lately.

So basically when we took over from them, and all of a sudden this year, it was the first year that the funds were administered ko go rona (by us at BPOPF), and so rona (we) we gave actuaries all the data we were given.” According to the impeccable source, the data revealed new information of ghost pension members which opened a can of worms.

“In the data, they (actuaries) came to the finding that, which they shared with us, that 1.5 billion pula has never been declared to us (BPOPF). This is a serious matter. So it resulted in us reaching a negative. So what this means is that the actual members have been over provided for the last 10 years (the money accrued over the period),” the official pointed out. So we now had to adjust the 1.5 billion and declare a negative return, she added.

But she said the board instead insisted that they are uncomfortable with the actuaries’ results and ordered for more investigations in the matter and “we hired another forensic investigator to carry out the investigations on that data further. So it may be true that this board again is superfluous.” The official who also makes part of the top management at BPOPF further highlighted to this publication that; so, that’s why there is need to investigate further. The immaculate source further maintained that, as a result, “this space (BPOPF) needs God’s glory, it needs God’s interference I tell you. In fact if we should just become alive to the fact that this is 6 billion pula of people’s (pensioners) money we are talking about here.”

BPOPF ‘fund cleansing’ leads to data challenges

Meanwhile it is understood that owing to the state of affairs at BPOPF including updating members’ records, some pensioners were not paid. It is said that some on pension payroll didn’t get their dues last month due to the fact that BPOPF have suspended about 2000 pensioners from the payroll, all of whom need to go to BPOPF offices to sign a certificate of existence in order to be paid. The suspended ones are said to be those who didn’t confirm that they are alive in the current year.

It is also said that pensioners need to sign a certificate of existence annually to confirm that they are still alive. It is further understood that most do not do so and this leads to paying deceased pensioners. The BPOPF Board of Trustees who is also the Chairman for the Communications Committee Solomon Mantswe said last week in a press briefing that they have had some data challenges that have led to a delay in announcing the interest rate for active and deferred members and an increase for pensioners.

Some of the board of Trustees of BPOPF include Chairman Carter Morupisi, Ruth Maphorisa, Kaelo Molefhe, Ikotlhaeng Bagopi, Boitumelo Molefhe, Charles Nkele, Tobokani Rari, Ketlhalefile Motshegwa, Johannes Tshukudu, Topias Morenga, Solomon Mantswe, and others amounting to 40 (including alternates).

According to Mantswe, the new Pensions Fund Act has actually addressed the size of the board (which is said to be oversized and redundant) and with effect from the 1st of April the board would be reduced from 40 to 11 members. The trustees are driving the business of the fund from modest beginnings to investment under management of funds over 60 billion pula to this day. BPOPF is the first largest pension in Botswana and the third in Africa.

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People with Disabilities Face Barriers to Political Participation in Botswana

23rd February 2024

Individuals challenged by disabilities encounter formidable obstacles when endeavoring to partake in political processes within the context of Botswana. Political involvement, a cornerstone of democratic governance, empowers citizens to shape the legislative landscape that impacts their daily existence. Despite Botswana’s reputation for upholding democratic ideals, recent insights unveil a troubling reality – those with disabilities find themselves marginalized in the realm of politics, contending with substantial barriers obstructing the exercise of their democratic liberties.

A recent inquiry in Botswana unveiled a panorama where individuals with disabilities confront hurdles in navigating the political arena, their involvement often restricted to the basic act of voting. Voices emerged from the study, underscoring the critical necessity of fostering environments that are accessible and welcoming, affording individuals with disabilities the active engagement they rightfully deserve in political processes. Noteworthy was the account of a participant grappling with physical impairments, shedding light on the glaring absence of ramps at polling stations and the urgent call for enhanced support mechanisms to ensure an equitable electoral participation.

The echoes reverberating from these narratives serve as poignant reminders of the entrenched obstacles impeding the full integration of individuals with disabilities into the democratic tapestry. The inaccessibility of polling stations and the glaring absence of provisions tailored to the needs of persons with disabilities loom large as formidable barricades to their political engagement. Particularly pronounced is the plight of those grappling with severe impairments and intellectual challenges, who face even steeper hurdles in seizing political participation opportunities, often grappling with feelings of isolation and exclusion from the political discourse.

Calls for decisive action cascade forth, urging the establishment of more inclusive and accessible political ecosystems that embrace individuals with disabilities in Botswana. Government bodies and concerned stakeholders are urged to prioritize the enactment of laws and policies designed to safeguard the political rights of individuals with disabilities. Furthermore, initiatives geared towards enhancing awareness and education on political processes and rights for this segment of society must be spearheaded, alongside the adoption of inclusive measures within political institutions and party structures.

By dismantling these barriers and nurturing a political landscape that is truly inclusive, Botswana can earnestly uphold its democratic ethos and afford every citizen, including those with disabilities, a substantive opportunity to partake in the political fabric of the nation.

 

 

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Neo Kirchway- Defying the odds

23rd February 2024

In the heartwarming tale of Neo Kirchway, a beacon of inspiration emerges, shining brightly amid life’s adversities.

Defying the constraints of destiny, Neo Kirchway, a resilient Motswana soul now thriving in the United States, stands tall despite the absence of her lower limbs. With unwavering determination, she tends to her cherished family – a loving husband and four children – engaging in the daily symphony of household tasks with remarkable grace.

Neo’s indomitable spirit traces back to the fateful year of 1994, a time when medical intervention called for the amputation of her curled legs. Embracing this pivotal juncture with unwavering courage and the blessing of her mother, she ventured forth into a world adorned with prosthetic legs, eager to script a tale of triumph.

Venturing beyond borders, Neo’s journey led her to the embrace of the United States, where serendipity intertwined her fate with that of her soulmate, Garrett Kirchway. Together, this harmonious duo navigates the ebbs and flows of life, their bond fortified by unwavering love and unyielding support.

In a bid to illuminate paths and embolden hearts, Neo leverages the digital realm, crafting a sanctuary of empowerment on her YouTube channel. Brimming with authenticity and raw emotion, her videos chronicle the tapestry of her daily life, serving as a testament to resilience and the unwavering human spirit.

Amidst the digital cosmos, Neo, affectionately known as “KirchBaby,” reigns supreme, a luminary in the hearts of 658,000 enraptured subscribers. Through her captivating content, she not only navigates the mundane tasks of cooking, cleaning, and childcare but also dances with celestial grace, a testament to her boundless spirit and unyielding zest for life.

In the cathedral of Neo Kirchway’s narrative, resilience reigns supreme, echoing a universal truth – that amidst life’s gales, the human spirit, when kindled by hope and fortitude, emerges as a beacon of light, illuminating even the darkest of paths.

 

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Inequalities Faced by Individuals with Disabilities

22nd February 2024

The government’s efforts to integrate individuals with disabilities in Botswana society are being hampered by budgetary constraints. Those with disabilities face inequalities in budgetary allocations in the health and education sectors. For instance, it is reported that the government allocates higher budgetary funds to the general health sector, while marginal allocations are proposed for the development and implementation of the National Primary Health Care guidelines and Standards for those with Disabilities. This shows that in terms of budgetary solutions, the government’s proposed initiatives in improving the health and well-being of those with disabilities remain futile as there is not enough money going towards disability-specific health programs. On the other hand, limited budgetary allocations to the Special Education Unit also are a primary contributor to the inequalities faced by children with disabilities. The government only provides for the employment of 15 teachers with qualifications in special education despite the large numbers of children with intellectual disabilities that are in need of special education throughout Botswana. Such disproportional allocation of resources inhibits the capacity to provide affordable and accessible assisted technology and residential support services for those with disabilities. Given the fact that a different amount of resources have been availed to the education and health sectors, the general understanding is that the government is not doing enough to ensure that adequate resources are distributed to disability-specific programs and facilities such as barrier-free environments, residential homes, and special education schools for children with disabilities.

 

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