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Top Govt officials disrespect Ombudsman

The office of the public protector, the Ombudsman, is having a hard time resolving cases of maladministration and abuse of office in the public service because accounting officers generally show contempt for the processes.

Parliament heard this week that there is a backlog of 949 cases, with only 48 percent of the cases having been resolved while the rest remain unresolved. In a desperate bid to resolve the impasse, Assistant Minister of Presidential Affairs Thato Kwerepe has told parliament that the Ombudsman intends on introducing several initiatives among them “closer engagement with Accounting Officers to deepen understanding of the process of complaints resolution”.

The Ombudsman Act provides that where the Ombudsman proposes to conduct an investigation the office shall afford to the principal officer of any department or authority concerned, and to any other person who is alleged to have taken or authorized the action in question, an opportunity to comment on any allegations made to the Ombudsman.

The reported failure by accounting officers to comply with the Ombudsman did not impress Specially Elected Member of Parliament Bogolo Kenewendo, who suggested that the Ombudsman should be given powers to deal decisively with the rampant corruption which has become prevalent in recent years. “I am worried by the delay and backlog that the office of Ombudsman is currently facing but I acknowledge that this is not out of their own doing but the ministries that are asked to appear before them, and fail to do so and I find it disrespectful,” she said.

“We are experiencing a lot of corruption and we should be seeing less of it. We do not need to wait for people to report [before instituting investigations], but the office should be able to take initiative.” The Ombudsman’s office which was allocated only P45 million from the national budget has been accused of being toothless, a perception which Kenewendo concurs with.

Kenewendo said the Ombudsman is required by law to report to parliament, but that has not been the case, at least in a satisfactory manner according her expectation. Kenewendo wants the Ombudsman to regularly report to parliament so that the legislative house acts on the recommendations  

Section 8 (b) of the Ombudsman Act empowers the Office to take the matter to parliament if his or her recommendation are not implemented within a reasonable time.  The Act states: “Where the Ombudsman has made a recommendation under subsection (1) and within a reasonable time thereafter no action has been taken which appears to him adequately to remedy the injustice: he may lay before the National Assembly a special report.”

There have been various cases in the past where the senior public servants disregarded the recommendations of the Ombudmsman. The most famous one was in 2000 when it was ruled that then Vice President Lt Gen Ian Khama should stop flying BDF aeroplanes because it constituted abuse of public resources. Festus Mogae, then president, disregarded the recommendations and further backed his deputy to continue flying the aircraft.

Recently, the new Ombudsman Augustine Makgonatsotlhe ruled in a complaint brought by Botswana National Front (BNF) Vice President Dr Rev. Prince Dibeela, that BTV was unfairly giving opposition a raw deal in news coverage. The BTV has yet to act in accordance with the recommendations. 

Debating the Office of Ombudsman’s budget, Major General Pius Mokgware said the money that was allocated to the institution is too insignificant to enable to office to carry out its mandate effectively without compromising its role. He said as one of the nation’s oversight institutions, it is necessary to be well resourced to enable it to fight abuse, maladministration and corruption in the public office. “This small budget will limit the Ombudsman in investigating cases of nepotism and corruption cases that are currently affecting the country,” said the Gabane-Mankgodi legislator.

Mokgware proposed that the budget for the DIS be reduced, in favour of increasing the ombudsman’s budget three times.  Legislator for Serowe South, who is also Minister of International Affairs and Cooperation, Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi, agreed with Mokgware on increment of the Ombudsman’s budget, arguing that if the office is allowed to do its job with enough resources it will be able to produce well informed reports.

She said this in the wake of corruption scandals that have hit the ruling party, of which Moitoi believes some are falsely being accused, and that an oversight institution like the Ombudsman will be able to clear them(falsely accused) if allowed to do its job effectively.  
The Ombudsman together with the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC) came into being in the mid 1990s in the wake of corruption scandals that had marred the public service.

The Kgabo Commission and Christie Report, which investigated land dealings in Mogoditshane and other peri-urban, areas as well as the dealings of Botswana Housing Corporation (BHC) found unprecedented levels of maladministration, abuse of office and corruption scandals in the public service.

The office of the Ombudsman is often compared with that of the neighbouring South Africa’s equivalent, known as the Public Protector. Under the leadership of immediate former head, Thuli Mandosela, the institution showed its resilience against all forces, taking to task government ministries, including then president, Jacob Zuma.

The public protector in South Africa, like other Chapter 9 institutions, is independent and subject only to the constitution and reports only to parliament. The Public Protector is given the power to investigate any conduct in state affairs, or in the public administration in any sphere of government, that is alleged or suspected to be improper or to result in any impropriety or prejudice. As part of its mandate the Public Protector is also empowered to report on that conduct as well as taking appropriate remedial action.

The institution of the ombudsman, was first created in Sweden more than 200 years ago, and designed to provide protection for the individuals where there is a substantial imbalance of power.

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Local tennis team upbeat ahead of Billie Jean King cup

29th May 2023

With almost two weeks until the 2023 Billie Jean King Cup, which will be staged in Kenya from June 12-17, 2023, the Botswana Tennis Association (BTA) ladies’ team coach, Ernest Seleke, is optimistic about reaching greater heights.

Billie Jean King Cup, or the BJK Cup, is a premier international team competition in women’s tennis, launched as the Federation Cup to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the International Tennis Federation (ITF). The BJK Cup is the world’s largest annual women’s international team sports competition in terms of the number of nations that compete.

The finals will feature 12 teams (Botswana, Burundi, Ghana, Kenya, Seychelles, Morocco, Namibia, Nigeria, Tunisia, Mauritius, Zimbabwe, and the Democratic Republic of Congo) competing in the four round-robin groups of three. The four group winners will qualify for the semifinals, and the 2023 Billie Jean King Cup will be crowned after the completion of the knockout phase.

Closer to home, the BW Tennis team is comprised of Thato Madikwe, Leungo Monnayoo, Chelsea Chakanyuka, and Kelebogile Monnayoo. However, according to Seleke, they have not assembled the team yet as some of the players are still engaged.

“At the moment, we are depending on the players and their respective coaches in terms of training. However, I will meet up with Botswana-based players in the coming week, while the United States of America (USA) based player Madikwe will probably meet us in Kenya. Furthermore, Ekua Youri and Naledi Raguin, who are based in Spain and France respectively, will not be joining us as they will be writing their examinations,” said Seleke.

Seleke further highlighted the significance of this competition and how competitive it is. “It is a massive platform for our players to showcase their talent in tennis, and it is very competitive as countries target to get promoted to the world categories where they get to face big nations such as Spain, France, USA, and Italy. Though we are going to this tournament as underdogs because it is our second time participating, I’m confident that the girls will put in a good showing and emerge with results despite the odds,” highlighted Seleke.

Quizzed about their debut performance at the BJK Cup, he said, “I think our performance was fair considering the fact that we were newbies. We came third in our group after losing to North Macedonia and South Africa. We went on to beat Uganda, then Kenya in the playoffs. Unfortunately, we couldn’t play Burundi due to heavy rainfall and settled for the position 9/10,” he said.

For her part, team representative Leungo Monnayoo said they are working hard as they aim to do well at the tourney. “The preparations for the tourney have long begun because we practice each and every day. We want to do well, hence we need to be motivated. Furthermore, I believe in my team as we have set ourselves a big target of coming home with the trophy,” she said.

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Pep Stores donates sanitary towels to Popagano JSS

26th May 2023

The Guidance and Counseling unit at Popagano Junior Secondary School received a donation of 790 sanitary towels from Pep stores on Thursday.

When presenting the donation, Mareledi Thebeng, the Dinokaneng Area Manager, highlighted their belief in giving back to the community, as their existence depends on the communities they serve. Thebeng pointed out that research indicates one in four girls miss school every day due to the lack of basic necessities like sanitary towels. Therefore, as a company, they strive to assist in alleviating this situation. She expressed hope that this donation would help ensure uninterrupted learning for girls.

Upon receiving the donation on behalf of the students, Charity Sambire, the President of the Student Representative Council, expressed her gratitude. Sambire specifically thanked Pep Store for their generous gift, speaking on behalf of the students, especially the girl child.

She conveyed their sincere appreciation for Pep Store’s compassion and quoted the adage, “Blessed is the hand that gives.” Sambire expressed the students’ hope for Pep Stores’ prosperity, enabling them to continue supporting the students. As a gesture of gratitude, the students pledged to excel academically.

During her speech, Motlalepula Madome, the Senior Teacher in Guidance and Counseling, highlighted that many students at the school come from disadvantaged backgrounds where parents struggle to provide basic necessities. Consequently, some students miss school when they experience menstruation due to this lack.
Madome emphasized the significance of the donation in preventing the girl child from missing lessons and its potential to improve the school’s overall results. She expressed the school’s gratitude and expressed a desire for continued support from Pep Stores.

Popagano Junior Secondary School, situated in the Okavango District, holds the second position academically in the North West region. Despite its location, the school has been dedicated to achieving excellence since 2017

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Botswana misses out critical PAP committee meeting

23rd May 2023

The Pan African Parliament (PAP) committee on gender, family, youth and people with disability in its sitting considered, adopted and recommended to the plenary session the preliminary report on the framework for the model law on gender equality.

According to the last week’s media release from PAP which is sitting with its various committees until June 2nd,  the committee is following up the PAP initiative to draw up a model law on gender equality to enable national governments to harmonize, modernize and standardize their legislations to address local needs is set to be discussed in Plenary.

However, what is concerning is the fact that Botswana which is a member state missed the deliberations. Kgosi Mosadi Seboko who sat in the committee representing Botswana has since been ejected by parliament and this is a huge blow for a nation that is still battling equity and gender balance.

“Although PAP has no legislative powers it makes model laws for member states to adopt. PAP also develops protocols to be ratified by countries. The input of countries at Committee state is extremely critical. It now means the voice of Botswana is missing the discussions leading up to development of protocols or model laws,” said one of Botswana’s representative at PAP Dr. Kesitegile Gobotswang who is attending the current session.

While Botswana is missing, the committee meeting took place on the sidelines of the Sixth PAP second ordinary Session being held under the African Union Theme of the Year for 2023, “The Year of AfCFTA: Accelerating the Implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Area” in Midrand, South Africa and will run up to 2 June 2023. Chairperson of the Committee, Hon Mariam Dao-Gabala expressed satisfaction with preliminary processes undertaken so far towards the formulation of the Model Law,” a release from the PAP website reads.

“The law should be suitable to all countries whatever the predominant culture or religion is. The aim is to give an opportunity to women to participate in the economic, political and social development of the continent. Women are not well positioned and face a lot of obstacles. We are introducing the idea of equity in the Law because we cannot talk about equality without equity,” said Hon Mariam Dao-Gabala in the press statement.

The release has stated that among issues to be covered by the Model Law is the migratory movements of women. The Committee proffered that this has to be addressed at the continental level to ensure that migrant women enjoy all their rights and live with dignity in their destination country. The members of the Gender Committee undertook consultations to consolidate the contributions of the various stakeholders that will be the logical framework format for the Model Law.

 

 

 

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