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Accountants’ oversight body in questionable deals

Skeletons have started to tumble out of the Botswana Accountancy Oversight Authority (BAOA) closet, as the newly established regulator tasked with reviewing the public sector audits is embroiled in corruption and flouting of procurement procedures practices, Weekend Post has been informed.

 
According to highly placed sources within BAOA, this came to light recently when there was a tender in relation to partitioning of their new offices at Central Business District (CBD). It is understood that the said tender was flouted resulting in other companies querying the outcomes of the tendering processes. This is believed to have brought into question whether BAOA is complying with set tendering processes. Further, it came to light that the organisation was operating without a procurement officer. According to an immaculate source close to developments, this has resulted in tenders being awarded willy-nilly.

“Everyone who wants a tender is allocated willy-nilly. An Information Technologist (IT specialist) is currently acting as a stop gap procurement officer. And it appears they are not ready to hire a qualified procurement officer as they may be benefiting out of the deal,” the source told this publication.   She also added: “there are also many unanswered questions hovering of how the tender of partitioning the new office was handled. “It is understood that, as such the same companies which are linked to the authority’s executives are dominant in providing services such as catering to the organization from time to time.

However when queried about the concern, BAOA Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Duncan Majinda downplayed the scenario saying they came up with Procurement and Tender procedures approved by the Board and vetted by PPADB and the procedures are being followed.  “Any non-compliance is enforced accordingly through the normal enforcement procedures of the Authority.” The office is undergoing a new partitioning exercise which has been dragging on for months now; meanwhile the organization is occupying another office and paying high rental fees.

In essence, this means the authority is paying rental for both offices, the one they are occupying at Finance Park and the one under renovation at the CBD. According to sources, the CBD office is BAOA’s new office and they should have already moved in by now. According to the minutes of the last recent meeting the organisation held, passed to this publication, the Director of Finance and Administration reported that the Authority had been occupying the current offices (in Finance Park) for the past four and a half years despite having endured problems such as being stuck in lifts; air conditioners not working and awful rest room smells.

“He reported that the current lease would be coming to an end in December 2017 but with the approval of the Board, the Authority has been able to secure a place in the CBD, behind Masa hotel for its new offices. He stated that if everything goes according to plan some employees would be moving by mid-June 2017 and that by end of June 2017 all employees would have vacated the current premises.” The BAOA CEO played his cards close to his chest when questioned about the costly exercise while falling short of confirming it.

Although they have been renting both buildings for long now, he said that BAOA is only renting only one office at Finance Park but that “we will be moving to Central Business District (CBD) at the end of September 2017”. He added that “the offices at CBD are being prepared for occupation.  As the new building does not belong to BAOA, the costs of partitioning being incurred are a capital cost intended to bring the office to the condition that it can be occupied. Because of the requirements of the City Council and the tendering processes involved this takes a bit of time.”    

Information further reaching Weekend Post suggests that the authority has also been spending irresponsibly by “leasing” a printer for close to 4 years which raises questions of financial management and acumen. The Toshiba printer is estimated to cost P58 000 – the amount that they easily surpassed while they were hiring it. At the moment this publication can confirm that the authority has since bought a new printer last week replacing the one which has been rented, despite costs already incurred while leasing the Toshiba printer.

When justifying the spending, Majinda said a decision to lease or rent any asset in an organization is a function of many variables including availability of funds at the time to make a cash purchase. “Most organizations prefer leasing to outright purchase so it is not a bad thing to lease,” he said.For BAOA, Majinda revealed that with cash savings from the past, it has become possible to acquire some assets for cash this year. “It is important to clarify at this stage that the Authority reviews its business decisions all the time to ensure their continued relevance and business suitability.”

Strong issues of Nepotism and favouritism at BAOA

While Minister of Finance and Economic Planning Kenneth Matambo appointed the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Majinda to the lucrative post, other Executives’ portfolios are said to be marred with controversies of allegations of nepotism and favouritism.
In the web of nepotism and preferential treatment of staff members, it is alleged that the CEO is a long time friend to the Director of Finance and Administration, Limited Nkani. The IT Manager, who acts as a procurement officer, is also said to be linked to one of the senior managers and that they have previously worked together before joining BAOA.

Insiders say three Accountants were poached from Delloitte, and most of the staff employed are also said to be having a background of association (with each other) somehow. “The CEO and PA to CEO as well as an Accountant are all from Botswana Institute of Chartered Accountants (BICA),” the source highlighted.      

Ex-DIS officer bullying staff members

An ex Directorate of Intelligence and Security Services (DISS) officer who is now a Human Resource Manager at the BAOA (names withheld), is said to be maltreating staff members. It is understood that she comes with cases hanging on her head from her previous employer, DISS. “In the web of associates she also came to BAOA through the Director of Finance and Administration.” While at DIS, sources at the BAOA said she left many cases unresolved involving millions as back pays for staff. “She intimidates staff members. She boasts of how she hires and fires staff members,” the source alleged.  

That notwithstanding, Majinda told this publication that the authority is not aware of any nepotism and favouritism in human resource issues. “The Authority condemns such practices in the strongest possible sense and if it exists, as you allege, it would be uprooted at the earliest notification,” he emphasized.  

Salary structure questionable

According insiders, there is also no salary structure and the top executive management gets lucrative salaries while the lower band gets very low salaries. In terms of the salaries, some staff members with Association of Accounting Technicians (AAT) qualification are said to be getting less than an employee with Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA).  In addition salary bands of drivers are said to be almost equivalent to qualified accountants who are employed on temporary basis.

However the BAOA CEO said they have gone through an elaborate salary grading exercise approved by experts (Tsa Badiri) and based on the Hay Grading System.  Every position at BAOA, he added, has been graded and hay points have been attached which determine the positioning of individuals based on their skills and expertise. “All entrants are scrutinized and placed accordingly in their respective grades and promotions then follow in the normal course of events.” According to Majinda the Authority is a parastatal and as such complies with Government policy on salaries and wages.

“The Authority’s salary structure is tagged to the Government salaries and was appropriately approved. Allowances are paid when applicable and no staff is disadvantaged. A salary structure is, therefore, available and applies to all members of staff,” he explained.  

Anti-media tactics at organisation

The Public Relations Unit is said to be placed under the auspices of the HR department and not as an independent entity – an anomaly which staff also make an issue with. The authority is said to have censored the staff members from engaging with the media or leaking information that may help the organisation with governance and transparency issues. To buttress the speculation, this week upon Weekend Post inquiries on the state of affairs at the organisation, the management moved swiftly to induce staff members to sign Secrecy forms to compel them not to leak information.

The secrecy clause which has also been passed to this publication states that: “all information obtained during the course of employment with the Authority is confidential, and the strictest secrecy shall be observed by a staff member in regard to confidential information acquired during the course of his duties. A staff member shall not communicate or allow being communicated to any un-authorized person, any information made available to them in their capacity as staff members of the authority unless instructed to do so by the authority’s management, or a court of law.”

It continues: “any breach in terms of this section shall be treated as a serious offence and a staff member concerned is liable for dismissal without notice (summary dismissal), and in addition may be charged with an offence in terms of the Employment Act.” In addition, following this publication’s inquiries (which they later responded to), the organization also re-scheduled a planned staff meeting at the eleventh hour which was to address some staff grievances.

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Opposition talks: Conveners ditched, experts engaged

13th October 2021

The much-anticipated opposition unity talks that will see Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) engage Botswana Patriotic Front (BPF), and Alliance for Progressives (AP) are expected to kick off any time from now.

According to informants, the talks, which were preceded by-elections negotiations, aim to be as inclusive as possible. As the talks start, the UDC, composed of Botswana National Front (BNF), Botswana Congress Party (BCP) and Botswana People’s Party (BPP), insist on retaining its preferred model of Umbrella; on the other hand, the BPF is proposing a PACT; and AP is in favour of an alliance model.

BPF is reportedly sceptical on the umbrella model and wants cooperation with the flexibility to allow other parties to join hands with UDC but without necessarily contesting elections using UDC symbols and colours.

BPF, which is currently the fastest-growing party, seems to be focused on self-actualization, self-preservation and securing institutional capacity in case of any political calamity. Although often profitable, cooperation politics can often leave individual political parties battered by political events and weakened beyond meaningful survival.

Discussions with some BPF members suggest that the party has big ambitions and harbour serious intentions of taking the BDP by its horns-all by itself-one day. “The position by some of our leaders is that the future of the UDC remains uncertain. The position and advice are that we should not put all our eggs in one basket. And the party elders think the pact model of cooperation is the safest under prevailing circumstances. Some, however, are worried that we should not overestimate our worth despite being the fastest-growing party in the country.

However, the matter is yet to be concluded once we receive the official invite,” revealed a BPF member of the NEC. Asked about the specifics of the pact idea, another high ranking party official revealed that the party Patron, Lt Gen Ian Khama and his brother Tshekedi Khama are among those who are for the election pact model.

BPF Spokesperson Lawrence Ookeditse has earlier this year told this publication that: “We have not settled on a model yet.” He also added that as a party, they are ready and willing to work with UDC, “but we will have our thoughts on how the cooperation or the talks should transpire, and they too will tell us their preference, and we will sit on the table to see how best to work together”.

AP heads into these negotiations with proposals of its own. On the model part, AP has expressed flexibility but want its partners to consider other models. AP believes that beyond the umbrella model, the coalition could also have a matrix to ensure that opposition parties select the best candidates for parliamentary and council seats.

AP, a splinter party of the beleaguered Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD), asks for the constituencies allocated to BMD in the previous talks before it was kicked out on the eve of the 2019 elections.

AP, which garnered a popular vote of under 40 000 in the 2019 general elections, is confident that it brings tremendous value to the UDC, and state power could be within reach in 2024.
To reconcile the various interest of political parties, the leaders have agreed to engage political experts in a bid to arrive at the best decisions.

“There will be no conveners because parties in the past believed that they (conveners) took decisions on behalf of the constituent parties, though they are not representing any. So, the idea is to rope in political experts to direct UDC and the negotiating parties as to which path of cooperation model to follow,” a highly placed informant said this week.

UDC convener Lebang Mpotokwane has also defended the umbrella model in the past, noting that it creates fewer problems for the participants. The negotiations will be the fourth opposition cooperation talks since the 2009 elections. The opposition has held talks in 2011, 2012 and 2017. The 2012 talks resulted in Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC), which has been anchoring negotiations since then.

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‘Dingake’ name spoils Botswana’s interest in ILO top post

13th October 2021

When the Chairperson of the International Labour Organization (ILO) Governing Body invited member states to submit candidates for the vacant Director-General post for consideration, Botswana developed a keen interest.

It swiftly mobilized to beat the deadline, but the unions, upon consultation, nominated Justice Key Dingake as their preferred candidate, much to the government’s disappointment, who then decided to dump the whole issue altogether.

In accordance with the Rules governing the appointment of the Director-General and the decisions made by the Governing Body at its 341st and 342nd Sessions, the Chairperson of the Governing Body calls for candidates for appointment to the office of Director-General of the ILO through communication to all Governing Body members and all ILO Member States and candidatures must be submitted by a Member State of the ILO or by a regular or deputy member of the Governing Body.

The deadline for submission was on Friday, 1 October 2021, and candidatures were to be sent by postal or electronic mail to the following address to the Chairperson of the Governing Body.
This publication had established that when Cabinet sat to discuss the issue, it was resolved that the unions as key stakeholders should be consulted and requested to submit a name for consideration. They did and offered Justice Oagile Key Dingake-a distinguished scholar and labour law expert whose contribution to the country’s labour fraternity is unparalleled.

When asked this week to share their side of the story, the unions said they were first invited to partake in the process by the government but never got a response after they nominated judge Dingake as an ideal candidate.

“We sent our correspondence to the Minister of Employment, Labour and productivity, Mpho Balopi, with our suggested name being Justice Oagile Key Dingake, but since then we never got a response,” said unionist, Tobokani Rari who further expressed disappointment at how the government has handled the matter.

Rari said that while he would not want to impute any improper motives to anyone, the developments rekindled memories of the government’s hostility towards Judge Dingake, who has been forced by circumstances to take his skills and wealth of experience to the benefit of other countries. Balopi did not respond to questions sent to him and did not pick this publication’s calls at the time of going to press.

Cabinet insiders say Dingake’s name spoilt the party and dampened the spirits. “In the list of nominated names, he was the leading candidate, but I guess the powers that be could not imagine themselves campaigning for him and doing all they did for the Executive Secretary of SADC Secretariat, Elias Magosi.”

Dingake’s sin, observers say, has always been his progressive, independent mind and family’s political background, all of which have always stood in his way to progress to the country’s judicial ladder’s ends.

It is understood that also in the mix and preferred by the state was former Attorney General, judge, and now Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Botswana to the United Nations and other international organizations, Dr Athaliah Molokomme, who also has a background in human rights advocacy.

But insiders say many believed that the country should export Dingake to represent the country given his decorated experience and background. As a lawyer, Dingake represented 90% of Trade Unions in Botswana, drafted numerous Collective Labour Agreements, later presided overall trade disputes, including Collective Labour Agreements, and made determinations as Judge of the Industrial Court of Botswana.

Dingake has also written and lectured widely on trade, labour and human rights and holds numerous citations and awards for his work regarding peace, human rights, and social development. Had he contested and won, he would have been the first African to lead the ILO.

The ILO is built on the constitutional principle that universal and lasting peace can be established only if based on social justice. The ILO has been the source of such hallmarks of industrial society as the 8-hour day, maternity protection, child labour laws and a whole range of policies promoting workplace safety and peaceful industrial relations. Unique among UN organizations, the ILO has a tripartite structure involving governments, employers and workers.

ILO Director-General elections events lineup…

At its 341st (March 2021) and 342nd (June 2021) Sessions, the ILO Governing Body approved the following timetable for the appointment of the Director-General because the current term of office of the Director-General will come to an end on 30 September 2022:

1 July 2021: The Chairperson of the Governing Body calls for candidatures
1 October 2021: Last date for the reception of candidatures
A week in January 2022: The Chairperson of the Governing Body conducts interviews with candidates for the position of Director-General based on the format and principles contained in document GB.342/INS/6 and the guidance provided by the Governing Body at its 342nd Session
14-15 March 2022 (344th Session of the Governing Body): The Governing Body conducts candidate(s) hearings
25 March 2022 (344th Session of the Governing Body): The Governing Body conducts the ballot for the election of the Director-General
1 October 2022: The term of office of the Director-General commences.

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Botswana, EU clash over human rights issues 

13th October 2021
human-rights

Botswana and the European Union (EU) appear to have been at each other’s throats behind the scenes since last year, with the EU saying it held several meetings with Botswana to convince her to address human rights issues. 

This is contained in a 2020 Human Rights Report that reveals broad divisions in contentious issues boiling behind the scenes between Gaborone and the Union. According to the report, which was released recently, the EU says it “continues to follow closely three main human rights issues in Botswana: the application of the death penalty; the rights of LGBTI persons; and gender equality.”

“Botswana remains part of a small group of countries – in Africa and globally – which continue to retain the death penalty both in law and in practice. Three executions were recorded in 2020,” the report says. According to the report, the Botswana Government indicated that a public debate on the application of the death penalty should be part of its ongoing work towards developing a Comprehensive Human Rights Strategy and the related National Action Plan.

The report says further progress on the rights of LGBTI persons’ seen in 2019, when Botswana’s High Court decriminalised same-sex consensual relations, is still pending, subject to a final court decision over a government appeal.

“Finally, gender-based violence and the need to advance gender equality and women’s rights in society remain another challenge for the country. In response to the high incidence of gender-based violence – which has intensified in many countries during the current COVID-19 pandemic – the President and the First Lady launched a public campaign to fight gender-based violence and to promote equality,” the report says.

The report says the EU did not fold its arms and watch from the sidelines the human rights issues in question are concerned but confronted Botswana to have the contentious issue addressed. “The EU continued to engage with the Botswana Government, multilateral organisations, non-governmental organisations and the broader society in Botswana in three main areas: the death penalty, gender-based violence and empowerment of women, and rights of LGBTI persons, as well as on the support of media and implementation of Universal Periodic Review recommendations,” the report says.

The report says that in addition to ad hoc consultations and human rights-oriented outreach efforts, the EU engaged with the Botswana Government on human rights formally in the context of the Article 8 Political Dialogue, which took place in February 2020.

“The dialogue offered an opportunity to exchange views on EU’s and Botswana’s experiences concerning the three EU priority areas in Botswana (capital punishment, gender-based violence and rights of LGBTI persons) as well as other human rights challenges, while also exploring opportunities for EU-Botswana cooperation on human rights issues in the context of the EU-Africa partnership and at the multilateral level,” the report says.

In parallel to engagement with the government, the EU said it continued to maintain dialogue with representatives of civil society focusing on human rights and with UN organisations and other partners of the country.

“The EU continues to be the driving force behind the Gender Dialogue (in principle co-chaired with UN Women and the Gender Affairs Department in the Ministry of Immigration, Nationality and Gender), which brings together various stakeholders to discuss gender issues to chart a way forward regarding partnerships. The EU has also used public diplomacy efforts to stimulate broader dialogue in the country on human rights issues,” the report says.

The EU said it continued to provide financial support to projects funded through the European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights, with activities focused primarily on helping Botswana tackle gender-based violence, strengthen the notion of gender equality in the country, and promote participation in political processes.

“With six projects already underway, the EU signed two new programmes, in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, to support victims of gender-based and domestic violence and defend the rights of marginalised people, with a combined budget of EUR 430,000,” the report says. It says one of the projects is designed to offer care services to victims of gender-based violence and provide clinical services, counselling, shelter, and a referral system for legal and social assistance. Another project provides legal, medical and psychosocial support to refugees, undocumented migrants and indigenous people.

It says Botswana remains an important like-minded partner for the EU on the human rights agenda at a multilateral level. “The country’s positive role on human rights in the multilateral context would be further strengthened by initiating a domestic process of reflection about the signature and ratification of several pending core human rights conventions and/or optional protocols (e.g. the Convention for the Protection of all Persons from Enforced Disappearances, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, the Optional Protocol of the Convention against Torture, etc.)” the report says.

But the report acknowledged that Botswana is a stable and well-established democracy with a legal framework and institutions designed to guarantee respect for human rights in society. It says human rights complaints are addressed by the courts, with the government accepting decisions and implementing relevant rulings.

“Although the media scene in the country is relatively undeveloped, the World Press Freedom Index has noted a further positive trend concerning the role of the media in society (as was also the case in 2019) and has improved Botswana’s ranking from 44th to 39th place (out of 180 countries),” the report says.  Meanwhile, this week, President Dr Mokgweetsi Masisi met with the EU delegation led by the managing director for Africa of the European External Action Services, Ms Rita Laranjinha.

 

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