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Friday, 19 April 2024

Khama leaves Public Enterprises bleeding

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President Lt Gen Dr Ian Khama will leave in his trail at the end of his term in March, scores of public enterprising battling sustainability, ironically some which were profit making entities prior to his presidency.

The Botswana Meat Commission (BMC); Water Utilities Corporation (WUC), and Botswana Corporation (BPC) are among vital public enterprises that have been experiencing perennial losses for the past decade.  In 2006, WUC, BMC and BPC made a combined net profit of P371.9 million while, in the latest budget speech, the three entities recorded a worrisome combined loss of P507. 5 million.  

 The average net profit ratio, which is profit after tax as a percentage of gross sales, of the twelve commercial public enterprises was 21 percent during the 2008 budget speech. The financial performance of the entities ranged from a net loss of P3.5 million, for the Botswana Agricultural Marketing Board (BAMB), to a net profit of P714.8 million, recorded by the Botswana Development Corporation (BDC) during that year.

The Dead alive Botswana Meat Commission

BMC which recorded a P34 million profit in 2006, stumbled along the way, with corruption and maladministration being detected. In this week’s Budget Speech, Kenneth Matambo revealed that BMC has again made  a net loss of P229.7 loss, this is despite the fact that in 2015 government injected P600 million to help resuscitate the drowning government entity.

BMC which enjoys monopoly as the sole exporter of beef in Botswana has gone from a profit making entity to a massive lost making corporation in the last seven years with  a total losses amounting to over a P1 billion. In 2013, parliament agreed to set-up a Parliamentary Select Committee to investigate the BMC owing to scandals, poor performances and other excesses that bedevilling the organisation.  

The Committee had found that BMC CEOs, with few exceptions, have been chosen from the ranks of retired civil servants not based on merit or their commercial experience. The MPs had also pointed out that the BMC management practiced poor governance and there were bad relations between the board and management. It discovered productions inefficiencies caused by over staffing, declining productivity, and high marketing costs. There was no proper and efficient system of financial controls. The BMC became financially insolvent over the 2009-2012 period.

The Parliamentary Select Committee at the time picked on the issue of BMC marketing, pointing out that “At present BMC’s marketing agent, Global Protein Solutions (GPS) provides for a legal monopoly on exports. The BMC should seek to revise the contract and segments of the global beef export market to hedge against a monopoly of the marketing of the Botswana beef produce.”

Interestingly the Committee also declared that an investigation be undertaken by the Directorate on Corruption and economic Crime (DCEC) into the award of the marketing contract by BMC in favour of GPS and consideration be made for a review and renegotiation of the contract terms to ensure residual contract of the beef export marketing by the BMC. The Committee also discovered a “strong circumstantial evidence of under-pricing of beef to the EU, South Africa, and domestic markets over the period. The recommendations by the committee were never considered. The Parliamentary Select Committee also decided that Feedlot activities should be undertaken by the Botswana private sector and not by the BMC.

The Debt riddled Water Utilities Corporation


The WUC was established in 1970 initially to manage a water supply and distribution in the cities of Gaborone and Francistown and the towns of Lobatse, Jwaneng, Selebi-Phikwe and Sowa.  Since formation, WUC has been economically self-sufficient, raising enough revenue from billing and subsidies to cover operational costs.

Over the years, there have been several water suppliers in Botswana. WUC has been supplying only towns and cities, but also supplied the Department of Water Affairs and District Councils with bulk water for further distribution to the remaining areas in the country.

However, in 2009, a year after Khama become president, Ministry of Minerals, Energy and Water Resources started implementing the Water Sector Reforms which saw water supplies being transferred from Water Affairs, which was under the authority of councils to Water Utilities Corporation.

The Water Sector Reforms Project (WSRP) was aimed at streamlining this somewhat cumbersome arrangement and therefore to improve water supply service delivery. The National Water Master Plan Review (NWMPR) of 2005-2006 recommended a major restructuring of the water sector which includes, amongst others, the separation of water resources management from water service delivery.

Following this, the Government engaged the World Bank to work with the Ministry of Minerals, Energy and Water Resources to rationalize the water sector. It was from this study that the Water Utilities Corporation was expected to take over all water and wastewater service delivery in the country.

Evers since the takeover, Water Utilities has been experiencing financial problems, and at times looked to government for rescue, in 2012, the corporation made a staggering P541 million loss, followed by p191 million the following year. This week, Matambo announced in the budget speech that Water Utilities made P137.6 loss in 2017.

Matambo has contended however, that Water Utilities as well as another perennial loss making Utility Corporation, BPC are encountering financial quagmire as a result of misalignment between the levels of tariffs charged relative to their mandates.
“To address this, the current water tariffs charged by Water Utilities are gradually being aligned with water treatment and distribution expenses,” he said. Water Utilities have seen Godfrey Mudanga who presided over the period of loss making, leaving the organisation. He has since been replaced by a determined Mmetla Masire.

The cash strapped Botswana Power Corporation

In 2006, BPC registered a net profit of P162 million, followed by another profit of P121. million in 2007. Fast forward to 2017, BCP no longer a profit making entity with a loss of 140.2 million. In 2016, BPC loss stood at P99.6 million. Among the worst losses incurred by the troubled utility giant was a net loss of P1.3 billion in 2013, having recorded another loss of P1.1 billion the previous year. As the norm the continued losses have been blamed on power generation, transmission and distribution expenses.

The Minister has again hinted that BPC tariffs will be reviewed in order to meet the corporation’s operational costs. One of the lowest scandals was the failure of Morupule B, following the defect that marred the power station after its completion. Morupule B, was financed by government and World Bank at the tune of P11 billion. Government is currently considering selling the plant to Chinese state owned company China National Electric Equipment Corporation (CNEEC), which was the constructor of the plant.

The fading National Development Bank

Another entity which has experienced losses in recent years is the National Development Bank (NDB). Under the tutelage of Lorato Morapedi, which has been considered for commercialisation, has not been having a good balance sheet in the last three years. In 2008, NDB increased its profit by P11 million from the previous year to P33.6 million.

Last year, owing to recent troubles, NDB made another loss of P168.2 million, a development which would likely disturb its commercialisation plan as well as its ambition to become a commercial bank. In 2016, NDB requested government to inject capital amounting to about P1 billion in the next three years in order to transform the bank and prepare it for commercialisation.  

Chief Executive Officer of the Bank, Morapedi wanted government to inject P400 million in the next financial year, followed by two governments guaranteed loans of P165 million and P250 million in subsequent years, of which it was granted. NDB was established under an act of parliament in 1963 with its main objective lying in providing a varied range of financial services to Botswana’s business sector and the public at large while aiming to earn satisfactory returns on shareholder’s funds.

As a Development Financial Institution (DFI), NDB is expected to be viable and self-sustaining and also to contribute immensely to the growth of the local economy. Other parastatal that has continued to make losses is Air Botswana. Over the past 15 years Air Botswana has sparingly made profits, while the recent years have been marred by losses and issues of maladministration.

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Nigerians, Zimbabweans apply for Chema Chema Fund

16th April 2024

Fronting activities, where locals are used as a front for foreign-owned businesses, have been a long-standing issue in Botswana. These activities not only undermine the government’s efforts to promote local businesses but also deprive Batswana of opportunities for economic empowerment, officials say. The Ministry of Trade and Industry has warned of heavy penalties for those involved in fronting activities especially in relation to the latest popular government initiative dubbed Chema Chema.

According to the Ministry, the Industrial Development Act of 2019 clearly outlines the consequences of engaging in fronting activities. The fines of up to P50,000 for first-time offenders and P20,000 plus a two-year jail term for repeat offenders send a strong message that the government is serious about cracking down on this illegal practice. These penalties are meant to deter individuals from participating in fronting activities and to protect the integrity of local industries.

“It is disheartening to hear reports of collaboration between foreigners and locals to exploit government initiatives such as the Chema Chema Fund. This fund, administered by CEDA and LEA, is meant to support informal traders and low-income earners in Botswana. However, when fronting activities come into play, the intended beneficiaries are sidelined, and the funds are misused for personal gain.” It has been discovered that foreign nationals predominantly of Zimbabwean and Nigerian origin use unsuspecting Batswana to attempt to access the Chema Chema Fund. It is understood that they approach these Batswana under the guise of drafting business plans for them or simply coming up with ‘bankable business ideas that qualify for Chema Chema.’

Observers say the Chema Chema Fund has the potential to uplift the lives of many Batswana who are struggling to make ends meet. They argue that it is crucial that these funds are used for their intended purpose and not siphoned off through illegal activities such as fronting. The Ministry says the warning it issued serves as a reminder to all stakeholders involved in the administration of these funds to ensure transparency and accountability in their disbursement.

One local commentator said it is important to highlight the impact of fronting activities on the local economy and the livelihoods of Batswana. He said by using locals as a front for foreign-owned businesses, opportunities for local entrepreneurs are stifled, and the economic empowerment of Batswana is hindered. The Ministry’s warning of heavy penalties is a call to action for all stakeholders to work together to eliminate fronting activities and promote a level playing field for local businesses.

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Trade and Industry’s warning of heavy penalties for fronting activities is a necessary step to protect the integrity of local industries and promote economic empowerment for Batswana. “It is imperative that all stakeholders comply with regulations and work towards a transparent and accountable business environment. By upholding the law and cracking down on illegal activities, we can ensure a fair and prosperous future for all Batswana.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Merck Foundation and African First Ladies mark World Health Day 2024

15th April 2024

Merck Foundation, the philanthropic arm of Merck KGaA Germany marks “World Health Day” 2024 together with Africa’s First Ladies who are also Ambassadors of MerckFoundation “More Than a Mother” Campaign through their Scholarship and Capacity Building Program. Senator, Dr. Rasha Kelej, CEO of Merck Foundation emphasized, “At Merck Foundation, we mark World Health Day every single day of the year over the past 12 years, by building healthcare capacity and transforming patient care across Africa, Asia and beyond.

I am proud to share that Merck Foundation has provided over 1740 scholarships to aspiring young doctors from 52 countries, in 44 critical and underserved medical specialties such as Oncology, Diabetes, Preventative Cardiovascular Medicine, Endocrinology, Sexual and Reproductive Medicine, Acute Medicine, Respiratory Medicine, Embryology & Fertility specialty, Gastroenterology, Dermatology, Psychiatry, Emergency and Resuscitation Medicine, Critical Care, Pediatric Emergency Medicine, Neonatal Medicine, Advanced Surgical Practice, Pain Management, General Surgery, Clinical Microbiology and infectious diseases, Internal Medicine, Trauma & Orthopedics, Neurosurgery, Neurology, Cardiology, Stroke Medicine, Care of the Older Person, Family Medicine, Pediatrics and Child Health, Obesity & Weight Management, Women’s Health, Biotechnology in ART and many more”.

As per the available data, Africa has only 34.6% of the required doctors, nurses, and midwives. It is projected that by 2030, Africa would need additional 6.1 million doctors, nurses, and midwives*. “For Example, before the start of the Merck Foundation programs in 2012; there was not a single Oncologist, Fertility or Reproductive care specialists, Diabetologist, Respiratory or ICU specialist in many countries such as The Gambia, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Central African Republic, Guinea, Burundi, Niger, Chad, Ethiopia, Namibia among others. We are certainly creating historic legacy in Africa, and also beyond. Together with our partners like Africa’s First Ladies, Ministries of Health, Gender, Education and Communication, we are impacting the lives of people in the most disadvantaged communities in Africa and beyond.”, added Senator Dr. Kelej. Merck Foundation works closely with their Ambassadors, the African First Ladies and local partners such as; Ministries of Health, Education, Information & Communication, Gender, Academia, Research Institutions, Media and Art in building healthcare capacity and addressing health, social & economic challenges in developing countries and under-served communities. “I strongly believe that training healthcare providers and building professional healthcare capacity is the right strategy to improve access to equitable and quality at health care in Africa.

Therefore, I am happy to announce the Call for Applications for 2024 Scholarships for young doctors with special focus on female doctors for our online one-year diploma and two year master degree in 44 critical and underserved medical specialties, which includes both Online Diploma programs and On-Site Fellowship and clinical training programs. The applications are invited through the Office of our Ambassadors and long-term partners, The First Ladies of Africa and Ministry of Health of each country.” shared Dr . Kelej. “Our aim is to improve the overall health and wellbeing of people by building healthcare capacity across Africa, Asia and other developing countries. We are strongly committed to transforming patientcare landscape through our scholarships program”, concluded Senator Kelej.

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Interpol fugitive escapes from Botswana

15th April 2024

John Isaak Ndovi, a Tanzanian national embroiled in controversy and pursued under a red notice by the International Criminal Police Organization (Interpol), has mysteriously vanished, bypassing a scheduled bail hearing at the Extension 2 Magistrate Court in Gaborone. Previously apprehended by Botswana law enforcement at the Tlokweng border post several months earlier, his escape has ignited serious concerns.

Accused of pilfering assets worth in excess of P1 million, an amount translating to roughly 30,000 Omani Riyals, Ndovi has become a figure of paramount interest, especially to the authorities in the Sultanate of Oman, nestled in the far reaches of Asia.

The unsettling news of his disappearance surfaced following his failure to present himself at the Extension 2 Magistrate Court the preceding week. Speculation abounds that Ndovi may have sought refuge in South Africa in a bid to elude capture, prompting a widespread mobilization of law enforcement agencies to ascertain his current location.

In an official communiqué, Detective Senior Assistant Police Commissioner Selebatso Mokgosi of Interpol Gaborone disclosed Ndovi’s apprehension last September at the Tlokweng border, a capture made possible through the vigilant issuance of the Interpol red notice.

At 36, Ndovi is implicated in a case of alleged home invasion in Oman. Despite the non-existence of an extradition treaty between Botswana and Oman, Nomsa Moatswi, the Director of the Directorate of Public Prosecution (DPP), emphasized that the lack of formal extradition agreements does not hinder her office’s ability to entertain extradition requests. She highlighted the adoption of international cooperation norms, advocating for collaboration through the lenses of international comity and reciprocity.

Moatswi disclosed the intensified effort by law enforcement to locate Ndovi following his no-show in court, and pointed to Botswana’s track record of extraditing two international fugitives from France and Zimbabwe in the previous year as evidence of the country’s relentless pursuit of legal integrity.

When probed about the potential implications of Ndovi’s case on Botswana’s forthcoming evaluation by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), Moatswi reserved her speculations. She acknowledged the criticality of steering clear of blacklisting, suggesting that this singular case is unlikely to feature prominently in the FATF’s assessment criteria.

 

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