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Education officials race to blow P1 million on retreats

Officials at the Ministry of Basic Education (MoBE) are said to be on a spending spree and racing against time to deplete the remaining funds that formed the P6 billion that was the recurrent budget allocated to the Ministry during the 2017/18 budget. The intention is to beat the deadline of closing of government books.

Government’s financial year cycle ends in March 31st and the Ministry officials are said to be splashing the money to avoid returning unspent millions of pula to the government coffers before the new financial year. Ministry of Basic Education was in 2017 allocated the largest amount of P6.80 billion or 17.2 percent of the total Ministerial Recurrent Budget by Minister of Finance and Development Planning, Kenneth Matambo.

It is understood that some of the funds (about P1 million) have gone unutilized and would have had to be returned but some departments are said to be running helter-skelter to ensure that the funds are all used-albeit not as should have been. The officials are said to have booked expensive and fancy retreats in faraway places as a way of using as much of the remaining funds as possible.

“A lot of funds are spent willy-nilly. Department of Technical Services under the Basic Education Ministry is said to have recently used up close to half a million for a retreat at Kasane,” an insider told WeekendPost this week. The Southern Education region office, still under the Ministry of Basic Education is also said to have used P600 000 at Maun recently also for a retreat. The money is said to have been channeled to Curriculum Development and Evaluation department through to the other individual departments.  

 
Efforts to solicit comment from the Southern Regional Education office Director, Acronews Maseko did not materialize as he along with other senior officials like the Public Relations Officer were said to be still at Maun at press time. Meanwhile when approached by WeekendPost outside parliament following the Ministry of Defence, Justice and Security supplementary proposal debate on Wednesday MoBE Assistant Minister Moiseraele Goya pointed out that the government funds said to be splashed on retreats by Ministry officials around the Education regions were budgeted for.

“The cash being used on retreats is the money that was already budgeted on the items before and during the budgeting stage. It was budgeted for that specifically for purposes of capacitating the employees; they must be work-shopped to bring them up to speed in terms of current developments,” he said. On how much money the whole Ministry has utilized so far and how much will be brought back to government coffers the Assistant Minister said it was not yet clear at this point.  

“We cannot know at this juncture as to how much we have spent as a ministry and how much money will be brought back to government. You will know just after the 15th March as the financial year draws to a close. We are still spending,” he further told this publication.
In addition he said: “we also have even requested for a supplementary budget because we have already exhausted our money for the recurrent budget for this year.”

The exhaustion of the recurrent budget of the Ministry has led to depletion of crucial funds like that of payment of temporary teachers, a move which Goya also admitted. Goya confirmed that “at this point we don’t even have funds to pay temporary school teachers. Re nna re kopa kwa le kwa re pecha (we request from here and there to make do for now).”

Meanwhile when speaking before parliament while debating the supplementary budget proposals for the Administration of Justice this week Goya said, like the Ministry of Defence, they always ask for a supplementary budget because they utilise all of the funds on their ministry recurrent budget and that this should be commended.

In the recurrent budget, out of the 6 billion allocated to the Ministry of Basic Education in 2017, the money which has all been used, have assisted in implementation of the Education and Training Sector Strategic Plan (ETSSP) which seeks to refocus education and training towards fulfillment of a more diversified and knowledge-based economy. “You should utilise all funds that you requested accordingly and for this we need to be encouraged and commended,” Goya told parliament while adding that they managed to utilise all the funds except for developmental budget.

In the development budget still in 2017, P844.94 million or 5.1 percent was proposed for allocation to the Ministry of Basic Education. The bulk of these funds amounting to P731.95 million was said to be for Secondary Schools Programme to cater for among others, provision of additional ICT facilities in secondary schools as well as construction of staff houses.

Why some Ministry funds go back to government reserves Goya maintained that the ministry funds get returned to the government treasury because of a slow procurement system by officials. “The development budget is purely for undertakings of ministry projects in terms of infrastructure like classrooms. Part of it will be brought back to government coffers. The reason why the money goes back is that; what has been happening in the past which is unfortunate is that the government officials wait until very late to prepare tender documents,” the Assistant Minister observed.

He pointed out that it is uncalled for and sluggish as the budget process starts around September, every year (like last year) in which the ministry can prepare well in advance for procurement processes. “What must happen after September is that just after the proposals have been sent to the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning, then in January the following year the process should have started to prepare the tender documents, and then floating, then companies declaring interest and then adjudication takes place until awarding and then telling them to wait until April 1st when new financial year starts and funds get disbursed.”

Right now is already late as they have not started the process of tendering and that is why, he emphasized, that the money is mostly brought back to the government coffers. Meanwhile in 2018, Ministry of Education has also gotten the largest share amounting to P7.97 billion or 17.7 percent of the total Ministerial Recurrent Budget.

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Understanding the US Electoral College and key election issues 

28th October 2020
Mark J Rozell

The United States (US) will on the 3rd of November 2020 chose between incumbent Donald Trump of the Republicans and former Vice President Joe Biden of the Democrats amid the coronavirus pandemics, which has affected how voting is conducted in the world’s biggest economy.

Trump (74) seeks re-election after trouncing Hillary Clinton in 2016, while Biden (77) is going for his first shot as Democratic nominee after previous unsuccessful spells.

US Presidents mostly succeed in their re-election bid, but there have been nine individuals who failed to garner a second term mandate, the latest being George W H. Bush, a Republican who served as the 41st US President between 1989 and 1993.

Dr Mark Rozell, a Dean of  the School of Policy and Government at George Mason University  in  Arlington, Virginia describes the complex US electoral system that will deliver the winner at the 3rd November elections.

“The founders of our Republic de-centralised  authority  significantly  in  creating  our  constitutional  system,  which  means that  they  gave  an  enormous  amount  of  independent  power  and  authority  to  State  and  local governments,” Dr Rozell told international media on Elections 2020 Virtual Reporting Tour.

Unlike  parliamentary  democracies, like Botswana the  United  States  does  not  have  all  of  the  national government elected in one year. They do not have what is commonly called mandate elections where  the  entire  federal  government  is  elected  all  in  one  election  cycle  giving  a  “mandate”  to  a particular political party to lead, and instead US have what are called staggered elections, elections over time.

The two house Congress, members of the House of Representatives have two-year long terms of office. Every two years the entire House of Representatives is up for re-election, but senators  serve  for  six  years  and  one  third  of  the  Senate is elected every  two  years.

For this election cycle, US citizens will be electing the President and Vice

President, the entire House of Representatives and one third of the open or contested seats in the Senate, whereas two thirds are still fulfilling the remainder of their terms beyond this year.

An  important  facet  of  US electoral  system  to  understand  given  the  federalism  nature  of  the republic, the US elect presidents State by State, therefore they do not have a national popular vote for the presidency.

“We have a national popular vote total that says that Hillary Clinton got three million more votes than Donald Trump or in Year 2000 that Al Gore got a half million more votes than George W. Bush, but we have what is called a State by State winner takes all system where each State  is  assigned  a  number  of  electors  to  our  Electoral  College  and  the  candidate  who  wins  the popular vote within each State takes 100 percent of the electors to the Electoral College,” explained Dr Rozell.

“And that is why mathematically, it is possible for someone to win the popular vote but lose the presidency.”

Dr Rozell indicated that in 2016, Hillary Clinton won very large popular majorities in some big population States like California, but the system allows a candidate to only have to  win  a  State  by  one  vote  to  win  a  100 percent of  its  electors,  the  margin  does  not  matter.

“Donald  Trump  won  many  more  States  by  smaller  margins,  hence  he  got  an  Electoral  College majority.”

Another interesting features by the way of US constitutional system, according to Dr Rozell, but extremely rare, is what is called the faithless elector.

“That’s the elector to the Electoral College who says, ‘I’m not going to vote the popular vote in my State, I think my State made a bad decision and I’m going  to  break  with  the  popular  vote,’’ Dr Rozell said.

“That’s constitutionally a very complicated matter in our federalism system because although the federal constitution says electors may exercise discretion, most States have passed State laws making it illegal for any elector to the Electoral College to break faith with the popular vote of that State, it is a criminal act that can be penalized if one is to do that. And we just had an important Supreme Court case that upheld the right of the states to impose and to enforce this restriction”

There are 538 electors at the Electoral College, 270 is the magic number, the candidate who gets 270 or more becomes President of the United States.

If however there are more candidates, and  this  happens  extremely  rarely,  and  a  third  candidate  got  some electors  to  the  Electoral  College  denying  the  two  major  party  candidates,  either  one  getting  a majority, nobody gets 270 or more, then the election goes to the House of Representatives and the House of Representatives votes among the top three vote getters as to who should be the next President.

“You’d have to go back to the early 19th century to have such a scenario, and that’s not going to happen this year unless there is a statistical oddity, which would be a perfect statistical tie of 269 to 269 which could happen but you can just imagine how incredibly unlikely that is,” stated Dr Rozell.

BLUE STATES vs RED STATES

Since the 2000 United States presidential election, red states and blue states have referred to states of the United States whose voters predominantly choose either the Republican Party (red) or Democratic Party (blue) presidential candidates.

Many  states  have  populations  that  are  so  heavily  concentrated  in  the  Democratic party or the Republican party that there is really no competition in those states.

California is a heavily Democratic State, so is New York and Maryland. It is given that Joe Biden will win those states. Meanwhile Texas, Florida and Alabama are republicans. So, the candidates will spent no time campaigning in those states because it is already a given.

However there are swing  states, where  there is a competition between about five and 10 states total in each election cycle that make a difference, and that is where the candidates end up spending almost all of their time.

“So  it  ends  up  making  a  national  contest  for  the  presidency  actually  look  like  several  state-wide contests with candidates spending a lot of time talking about State and local issues in those parts of the country,” said Dr Rozell.

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Masisi to make things right with Dangote

26th October 2020

High Commissioner of the Federal Government of Nigeria to Botswana, His Excellency Umar Zainab Salisu, has challenged President Dr Mokgweetsi Masisi to move swiftly and lobby Africa’s richest man, Nigerian Billionaire, Aliko Dangote to invest in Botswana.

Speaking during a meeting with President Masisi at Office of President on Thursday Zainab Salisu said Dangote has expressed massive interest in setting up billion dollar industries in Botswana.  “We have a lot of investors who wish to come and invest in Botswana , when we look at Botswana we don’t see Botswana itself , but we are lured by its geographic location , being in the centre of Southern Africa presents a good opportunity for strategic penetration into other markets of the region,” said Salisu.

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Dow wants GBV culprits isolated

26th October 2020
Unity Dow

As murder cases and violent incidents involving couples and or lovers continue to be recorded daily, Specially Elected Member of Parliament, Dr Unity Dow has called for more funding of non-governmental organizations and accelerated action from government to come up with laws that could inhibit would-be perpetrators of crimes related to Gender Based Violence (GBV).

Just after Dr Dow had deposited her views on this subject with this reporter, a young man in Molepolole opened fire on a married woman he was having an affair with; and ended her life instantly. While it is this heinous cases that get projected to the public space, the former minister argues that the secrecy culture is keeping other real GBV cases under wraps in many spaces in the country.

The former Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation said there is GBV all the time in all kinds of places. “We have become accustomed to stories of rapes, marital rapes, defilement of children, beatings and psychological violence and even killings,” she said.

Gender-based violence is a phenomenon deeply rooted in gender inequality, Dow is worried that there is absolutely no social punishment for perpetrators; they will continue to have the same friends, jobs, wives, homes, as before. Yet another factor, she said, is that there is little or no “justice” for victims of GBV.

The renowned activist said justice for GBV victims is not just the jailing of the perpetrator. “Justice for victims means an agile, victim-friendly, accessible (time, money and procedures) and restorative justice system.”

Asked what could be leading to a spike in Gender Based Violence cases or incidents, she observed that there is no one factor to which this spike can be attributed. “The most obvious factor is stress as a result of economic distress and or poverty. Poverty makes one vulnerable and open to compromises that they would otherwise not make. For perpetrators with anger management issues, economic stress leads to lashing out to those closest to them. Another factor is the disintegration of families and family values,” she opined.

According to Dow, no government anywhere in the world is doing enough, period. “We know the places and spaces where women and girls are unsafe. We know the challenges they face in their attempts to exit those spaces and places.” The former Judge of the High Court said GBV undermines the health, dignity, security and autonomy of its victims, yet it remains shrouded in the culture of silence.

Asked what could be done to arrest GBV cases, Dow said it is critical to involve and fund civil society organizations. She observed that much of the progress done in the area of women’s human rights was during the time when Botswana had strong and funded civil society organizations.

“The funding dried up when Botswana was declared a middle-income country but unfortunately external funding was not replaced by local funding,” she acknowledged.

Further Dow said relevant government institutions must be funded and strengthened.

“Thirdly, create a society in which it is not okay to humiliate, rape, beat or kill women. You create this by responding to GBV the same way we have responded to livestock theft. We need to create agile mechanisms that hear cases quickly and allow for the removal of suspected perpetrators from their homes, work places, boards, committees, etc.”

The former Minister said the much anticipated Inter-Ministerial Task Force on Gender Based Violence will have its work cut out for it. According to Dow, GBV is not just a justice issue, it’s not just a gender issue, but rather an issue that cuts across health, education, labour, economic, housing and politics. “As long as any one believes it is someone else’s problem, we will all have the problem,” she said.

In her view, Dow said every work, educational and other place must have a GBV Policy and/or Code of Conduct. “It is important that we acknowledge that the majority of men are law-abiding. The problem is their silence, in the face of injustice,” she observed.

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