Government is failing to pay a whooping 320 million pula that it owes to Water Utilities Corporation (WUC) in water bills. The water corporation is now threatening to disconnect government offices from water supply. The utility is a government-owned corporation that provides water and waste water management services in Botswana.
In a normal instance, WUC is economically self-sufficient and competent in revenue management raising enough takings from the water billing and subsidies to cover operational costs, investments and debt servicing. However the corporation finds itself with debt from one of its main shareholder, government, which has been assisting to spread messages of wise water usage and timely payment of bills to domestic users though it is yet to pay theirs.
The debts portion by government is part of the sum unpaid to the corporation which includes the domestic and businesses, the funds that would otherwise have been channeled elsewhere to improve the performance of the organisation. WUC Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Mmetla Masire confirmed to Weekend Post in an interview this week that “yes it is true that government owes us around 320 million pula in unpaid water bill. The domestic or the public owes us 340 million pula. The other one is business which owes us about 120 million pula.”
The corporation has made it public that they will immediately embark on massive disconnections for unpaid bills to all owing adding that their strategy for collecting the balance due is effective. “Even with government although a key critical stakeholder we will be disconnecting at some ministry headquarters even health headquarters as an example although of course excluding some critical departments like hospitals,” Masire warned.
In 2016, a legislator for Francistown South Wynter Mmolotsi had in parliament asked the Minister of Land, Water and Sanitation Services Prince Maele if indeed government owes WUC millions in which he also answered to the affirmation. On behalf of Maele, his assistant minister Itumeleng Moipisi said that the Ministry is liaising with other Ministries in order to encourage them to pay their outstanding bills to the Corporation.
He also said then that every quarter, his Ministry would be submitting the government water bills status to Cabinet in an effort to improve the situation. However Moipisi then told Parliament that though the government owes huge amount of money to the utility, they do not believe that could affect the corporation negatively.
Meanwhile when presenting the budget speech of 2018 on Monday, Minister of Finance and Development Planning Kenneth Mathambo highlighted that the Utility Corporation is amongst parastatals that are under-performing. According to Mathambo, state-owned enterprises that made losses during the period under review includes Water Utilities which recorded a net loss of P137.6 million in 2017, from a net profit of P119.4 million in 2016.
This, notwithstanding, that the utility is owed over 800 million pula – part of it by government. Instead the Finance Minister highlighted that Water Utilities has been allocated an amount of P562.00 million to cover only operational costs and restructuring of the Corporation.
The National Assembly recently passed the Financial Intelligence Bill, 2021 (Bill No. 34 of 2021) during an Emergency Parliament Meeting. The Bill was first published on 23rd December, 2021 by the Minister of Finance and Economic Development, Honourable Peggy Serame.
The Act aims to re-enact with amendments the Financial Intelligence Act; to continue the establishment of the Financial Intelligence Agency and to re-constitute the National Financial Intelligence Coordinating Committee as a high level committee; to provide for third parties to perform certain customer due diligence measures on behalf of specified parties; to enable the Financial Intelligence Agency to initiate an analysis of information based on information in its on possession or information received from other sources to establish a suspicious transaction, and for matters connected therewith and incidental thereto. The Financial Intelligence Bill has eight parts with a total of 63 clauses.
Serame highlighted that these laws are drawn because they are in line with international agreements the country has signed upon. Although implementation of the laws passed in parliament is a still a challenge. She urged public institutions to introspect if there are grievances within the community and deal with them. Emphasising that the perceptions people have about public servants and institutions are often based on a certain form of truth.
By way of background; the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) has 40 Recommendations which countries have to comply with in order to tackle money laundering, terrorist financing and the financing proliferation.
During 2017 assessment; Botswana was found to have serious strategic deficiencies in her anti money laundering and combating the financing of terrorism and proliferation framework. No recommendation was rated Compliant, 23 of the recommendations were non-compliant resulting in the country being grey listed by the FATF in 2018 and blacklisted by the European Union in 2020.
The country went right ahead into remedial actions towards being removed from the grey list, passing 25 pieces of legislation in 2018 and a further six in 2019. Resulting in the country being removed from the grey list in October 2021.
To address the deficiencies identified during assessments carried out by the Eastern and Southern Africa Anti Money Laundering Group (ESAAMLG) and Financial Action Task Force (FATF). There was a proposal to overhaul the Financial Intelligence Act and consequential amendments to several other laws.
The amendments of these laws aim to strengthen the Anti-Money laundering, countering Financing of Terrorism and proliferation efforts in Botswana and will also put the country in a good position during the next Mutual Evaluation in 2024.
In her presentation’ Peggy Serame enunciated that; “the procedure at ESAAMLG is that after a country has amended its legislation, they are allowed to request for rerating of FATF Recommendations that are still rated Non-Compliant and partially compliant. “
Adding that “the request for re-rating has to be made at least six months in advance of the ESAAMLG Task Force Plenary meetings. This means for Botswana, the request for re-rating can only be considered during the September meeting of ESAAMLG. In its request for re-rating, the country has to submit all other information supporting the request for re-rating to the ESAAMLG Secretariat.
This supporting information refers to relevant laws, regulations or other AML/CFT/CFP measures that are in force and effect. It is crucial that the FI Bill and others are enacted expeditiously for the country to submit a request for re-rating in February 2022.”
Member of Parliament for Selibe Phikwe West, Dithapelo Keorapetse has expressed concern over the Financial Intelligence Bill stating that; “the discussion of this bill is relevant to what we are trying to do in prevention of financial and economic crimes, that is physical and revenue crimes. However; if virtual assets have value and can be digitally traded; it means that physical and revenue crimes can be committed using cryptocurrencies.
ESAAMLAG and FATF are very clear that money laundering and terrorist financing exist with the purview of virtual assets. What needs to happen is public education surrounding virtual assets and the risks that come with them. Research ought to be done on the implications surrounding virtual assets, this in turn will help guide in drawing laws and regulations. Without established regulation and oversight, the virtual assets space will become the wild west of the financial industry.”
The re-enactment of the Financial Intelligence Act has caused consequential amendments to 13 other pieces of legislation which have already caused an uproar in the country, these are; Companies Act, Trust Property Control Act, Counter Terrorism Act, Criminal procedure and Evidence Act, Criminal Procedure and Evidence Act, Extradition Act, Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters Act, Biological and Toxin Weapons (Prohibition) Act, Nuclear Weapons (Prohibition) Act, Precious and Semi-Precious Stones (Protection) Act and the Real estate Professionals Act.
Chief of Staff at the Office of the President, Lephimotswe Boyce Sebetela has addressed Councillors of Gaborone City Council (G.C.C) on the Reset Agenda, at their retreat in Palapye.
A number of resource persons facilitated on different topics of importance. The retreat is said to have been aimed at appreciating the role of Councillors in governance, leadership development, promoting team work and sharing better ways on how they could improve service delivery to their constituents.
The retreat comes at a time when Councillors country wide demands clarity on their roles and responsibilities to their electorates, Sebetlela emphasized the need for G.C.C Councillors, as other leaders to board-in the drive of reset agenda. Noting that, it is people-centric. It is said at the meeting Sebetela explained to councillors that Reset agenda, should be understood, as an action plan that seeks primarily, to ameliorate the status-quo in Botswana. Further imploring the councillors to link their priorities with those of the government.
Sebetlela whose key responsibility is to direct and oversee implementation of national priorities, in alignment with political pronouncements made by President Masisi, reportedly told Councillors that they are an important stakeholders in this reform. He further noted that, the rest agenda is nothing short of Batswana’s needs and desires. Therefore as leaders, they should be cognizant of the priorities set by their own government.
Other resource persons were from the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development and Botswana National Productivity Centre (BNPC).
For his part, Boseja Ward, Block 6 and Block 7 Councillor Khumo Sebereko applauded and revealed the significance of this retreat, noting that it was long overdue. “This is of utmost importance for community leaders, as we get time to imbibe knowledge at each other’s knee” he said. He further explained that they get to assess their own productivity versus efficiency on public service which really help them improve as public servants.
On the other hand, G.C.C Town Clerk, Lebuile Israel told Weekend Post that prior to the retreat, they had a special full council in Gaborone. The special full council was characterized by consultation of different Community Constituency Plans. “That was basically to identify real issues on the ground, which at Ministerial level culminates into National Key issues that guides the direction of money allotted to the Council for the coming financial year” he said. He explained that, this council ensures that their Community plans are in sync with Urban Development Plan 5 (UDP 5) and National Development Plan 12 (NDP 12).
The alignment of these Community plans with both UDP 5 and NDP 12 puts each constituency in a good position to be taken to form part of G.C.C Project Memorandum. He further explained that, projects proposed by Councillors sometimes get to be relegated to least critical projects by the order of importance or urgency. “Over the years there weren’t many projects, relegated into peripheral categories or rejected by the Council for not being in sync with either of UDP 5 or NDP 12”.
When closing Sebetlela said Botswana’s ability and potential to transform rests incumbent upon each citizen’s effort particularly those in leadership. Noting that, implementation of priorities put forth by the reset agenda requires collaborative effort.
The 2021 Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) released by Transparency International has shown that corruption levels remain at a standstill worldwide while it is on the rise in Sub Saharan Africa.
The results at a glance; The Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) ranks of countries around the world, based on how corrupt their public sectors are perceived to be. The results are given on a scale of 0 to 100, where 0 is highly corrupt and 100 is very clean. This year’s CPI paints a grim picture of the state of corruption worldwide.
According to the report; this year the global average remains unchanged for the tenth year in a row, at just 43 out of a possible 100 points. Despite multiple commitments, 131 countries have made no significant progress against corruption in the last decade. More than two-thirds of countries score below 50 indicating that they have serious corruption problems, while 27 countries are at their lowest score ever.
And despite some progress, nearly half of all countries have been stagnant on the CPI for almost a decade. These countries have failed to move the needle in any significant way to improve their score and combat public sector corruption.”
Western Europe and European Union are the highest scoring region with 66 points. The top countries are Denmark, Finland and New Zealand, each with a score of 88. Norway, Singapore, Sweden, Switzerland, the Netherlands, Luxembourg and Germany complete the top 10.
49 countries were assessed in the Sub Saharan African region. With an average score of 33, Sub Saharan Africa is the lowest performing region in the CPI, showing little improvement from previous years and underscoring a need for urgent action. The report puts forth the concern that the gains made by top scorers are overshadowed by the region’s poor performance. This reinforces the urgent need for African governments to implement existing anticorruption commitments if they are to alleviate the devastating effect of corruption on millions of citizens living in extreme poverty.
With a score of 66, Seychelles consistently earns top marks in the region. Botswana is also regarded as a top scorer in the region with a score of 60/100 and a domestic score 55/100. Bottom of the index are Somalia with a score of 12 and South Sudan coming in with 11.
“Although Botswana is regarded a top performer. It has hit a historic low in 2021, recording a significant 10 point decline from a score of 65 in 2012. The result corroborates the findings of Transparency International’s 2019 Global Corruption Barometer survey, which showed that most people in Botswana thought corruption had increased. Concerns over impunity such as in the case of the alleged looting of the National Petroleum Fund which implicated senior government officials-underscore the need to increase accountability for high-level corruption in the continent’s oldest” Revealed the report.
The research also shows that corruption is more pervasive in countries least equipped to handle the Covid-19 pandemic and other global crises. The global pandemic has been used in many countries as an excuse to curtail basic freedoms.
Local media in Botswana reported that the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC) recorded 47 cases of corruption in relation to COVID-19 tendering processes. With 32 from the Gaborone region; 12 from Greater Francistown region and 3 in Maun region.
In regards to case backlog, the directorate had a backlog of 182 cases pending with the Directorate of Public Prosecutions (DPP) , this is in addition to cases that were still under investigation and corruption allegation reports that had been received. The corruption allegations included 69 COVID-19 reports which were received between April 2020 and May 2021. Out of the 69 cases, 27 were being investigated while most of the remaining cases were referred to the different ministries.
Generally, Bribery continues to impede access to basic services. In 2019, the Global corruption Barometer – Africa revealed that more than one out of four people or approximately 130 million citizens in 35 African countries surveyed paid a bribe to access public services like health care.
Unless these corruption challenges are addressed, many countries in sub Saharan Africa risk missing their sustainable development goal targets by 2030. Transparency International calls on governments to act on their anti-corruption and human rights commitments and for people across the globe to come together in demanding change.
Chief Executive Officer of Transparency International, highlighted that Daniel Eriksson; “In authoritarian context where control over government, business and the media rests with a few, social movements remain the last check on power. It is the power held by teachers, shopkeepers, students and ordinary people from all walks of life that will ultimately deliver accountability.”