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Khama leaves Public Enterprises bleeding

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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Botswana records rise in corruption – Report

28th January 2022
President Masisi

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.”

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Major public services shake-up looms

24th January 2022
Emmah

Public Servants should brace themselves for some changes as the government is in an overdrive mode to overhaul the public sector. The government has also set the tone for the looming changes as it has added the public sector to its looming list of major and sweeping reforms.

This is contained in a savingram from the Permanent Secretary to the President (PSP) Emmah Peloetletse’s office showing how the government intends to “take stock” of all reforms in the public sector through the establishment of an inventory.  Peloetletse’s savingram addressed to various ministries and the Directorate of Public Service Management (DPSM) reveals that the government is working around the clock to implement some changes in the Public Service.

The savingram reminded Permanent Secretaries of various ministries and DPSM that the public sector reforms unit (PSRU) at the Office of the President is mandated with Coordinating Reforms across the Public Service.  “This essentially entails providing the strategic guidance and facilitation in the implementation of reforms across the Public Service. In this endeavour the Unit has in the past with Technical Assistance from European Union developed a template for documenting Reforms in the Public Service and documented ten (10) major reforms across the Public Service,” reads the savingram in part. It added that “The Unit has lately rolled out the Change Management Framework in an effort to facilitate effective and efficient management of change in the Public Service.”

According to the savingram, it has been noted that for a variety of reasons the use of the template for documenting reforms has not been universally used across the Botswana Public Service.  It further states that to facilitate the documentation of the reforms it is essential that an inventory of the various reforms across the Public Service (Central Government, Local Government and State Owned Entities) is established.

“By this correspondent we are seeking your assistance in populating the attached template to provide basic information on the various reforms. The PSRU will, through the various Coordination of focal Persons facilitate the full documentation of the reforms once the inventory is established,” the savingram further stated. The copy of the template among others calls on the focal persons to fill out them form under several headings; they include title of reform, start date, reform objectives, reform components, reform components, progress status.

The savingram echoes President Mokgweetsi Masisi’s announcement last year during his state of the nation address that as a nation Botswana has set itself a lofty goal of becoming a high income country by 2036 and has come up with a list of reforms among them digitisation of government infrastructure. He said the path to achieving this goal dictates that, Botswana takes deliberate steps that will transform its institutions; the way Batswana think and the way they act.

“It is with this in mind, that I presented a Reset Agenda in May 2021, with the following priorities: Save Botswana‘s population from COVID-19, by implementing a series of life saving measures that include a successful and timely vaccination programme, Adherence to COVID-19 health protocols remains key and align Botswana Government’s machinery to the Presidential Agenda, to ensure that the national transformation agenda will be embodied in the public service of the day,” said Masisi. He added that, “this will come with significant Government reforms in all public institutions. We need greater agility and responsiveness like never before in the delivery of public services.”

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Covid-19 Task Force meddled in tenders-report

24th January 2022
Dr. Kereng Masupu

The Presidential COVID-19 Task Force reportedly meddled in the awarding of tenders for COVID-19, a new Public Accounts Committee (PAC) report has revealed.

The Committee expressed concern that it has noted that there are two centres for covid procurement being the Ministry of Health and the Covid Task team in the Office of the President. The report says the Committee questioned the Accounting Officer on why the COVID 19 task team is usurping the powers of the Ministry of Health by engaging in covid procurement when the Ministry of Health is the one which has the experience and mandate of dealing with the pandemic. The report says clarification was also sought on why direct appointment is the preferred method for covid procurement.

“In her response the Accounting Officer stated that the task team was mainly engaged in the procuring of quarantine facilities and was assisting the Ministry of Health due to the heavy workload brought about by the COVID 19 pandemic,” the report says. The report says the Accounting Officer further stated that direct procurement was used because COVID 19 was treated as an emergency and that procurement was mainly from companies that have been traditionally used by the Ministry of Health.

“This however, is not the case as there has been report of new companies being awarded COVID -19 contracts. The use of direct procurement method should only be used in exceptional cases as it’s a non-competitive method which increases the risk of inflated pricing and close relations with particular suppliers to the detriment of others,” the report says.

It says since most covid procurement fell under emergency, there is need for openness and transparency regarding the procurement.  The PAC recommended that in order to ensure transparency and accountability all COVID 19 related procurement should be periodically published in the PPADB website giving full details of the companies receiving procurement contracts and the beneficial owners of the companies.

It says with the passage of time the impact of covid is no longer unexpected so direct awards should gradually be abandoned as the medium and long-term needs of the pandemic can now be predicted. “Judgement should be used even during direct awards to ensure that prices are not higher than the market prices,” the report says.

In a related matter, the report says the Central Medical Stores (CMS) was unable to cater for the required quantities of medical supplies with order fulfilments of about 35% resulting in shortages and insufficient drugs to Athlone Hospital and the surrounding clinics.
“In his submission the Accounting Officer had indicated that CMS was unable to supply the exact quantities required by the hospital and surrounding clinics due to the fact that supplies from CMS have to be rationed in order to cover other facilities around the country,” says the report.

The committee expressed concern about the inadequate supply of drugs to government facilities which puts the lives of patients at risk due to non- availability of essential supplies. It recommended that the Ministry identifies and prioritise measures that need to be taken to ensure that there is adequate supply of essential medicines which are needed in the public health system.

Meanwhile the report says the Ministry of Health and Wellness coordinates the operations and functions of some institutions which receive government subventions and secondment of staff from the government. These institutions include 10 NGO’s, two mission Hospitals, three mission clinics and two schools of Nursing.

It says in its endeavour to enhance efficiency and effectiveness of government support to NGOs the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development developed some Policy Guidelines for Financial Support to Non- Governmental Organisations.  According to the PAC report, the guidelines were meant to ensure that there is consistency, accountability and transparency in administering public funding to NGOs. However, the Ministry of Health did not comply with the very important guidelines.

“The main areas of non-compliance were the following: (i) There was no Evaluation Committee to vet proposals from NGOs, in some instances NGOs had formed part of the evaluation forum when their requests were being considered,” the report says.  It says there was continued funding of NGOs even when they failed to submit narrative and financial progress reports; and (iv) Continued funding of NGOs that failed to submit audited financial statements and management letters as required. The Committee expressed concern at the lapses in the administration of grants by the Ministry despite the large sums of public money awarded to these NGOs.

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