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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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No end in sight for Nam, Botswana borderline feud

27th July 2021
Namibian-report

Despite the President Dr Mokgweetsi Masisi and his Namibian counterpart, Hage Geingob giving an impression that the borderline security disputes are a thing of the past and that diplomatic ties remain tight, fresh developments from Namibia suggest otherwise, following Geingod’s close confidante’s attack on Botswana and its army.

Giving a Zambezi region state of the affairs last week, a Geingob-appointed governor of Zambezi region, Colonel Lawrence Ampofu, a retired Colonel in the Namibian Defence Force, former plan combatant during the liberation struggle of Namibia, in a written speech, charged at the BDF and condemned their killings of the Namibians as unacceptable.

“The security situation within our borders remains calm. The incidence of the Botswana Defence Force shootings and wanton killings on the Nchindo Brothers on 05 November 2020 and other 37 Namibian lives lost since independence remain a serious challenge with our neighbor, Botswana.

Our residents living along the Chobe, Linyanti and Kwandu rivers are living under constant threats, harassment, fear, intimidation and killings and such activities are condemned and not acceptable,” he said under the safety and security title.

The attack suggests that Namibia has not bought Botswana’s story. Ampofu was part of the entourage that accompanied Geingob to the three Nchindo brothers and their cousin who were gunned down by the BDF, and is reported to be privy to the details of the unpublished Botswana-Namibia joint investigations report about the killings as a governor or political head of the region which has eight electoral constituencies.

The report contains the sensitive details of how the three Namibians referred as poachers by the BDF – and Fisherman by the Namibian government were gunned down on 5 November last year along the Chobe River.  They were Tommy (48), Martin (40) and Wamunyima Nchindo (36), and their cousin Sinvula Muyeme (44).

His views are not really in contrast to his President’s views who also described the BDF as trigger happy in a scripted report to his cabinet.

The Zambezi region is located in the extreme north east part of Namibia and covers a total of 14,667.6 square kilometres. “We share borders with Angola, Zambia to the north, Zimbabwe to the east and Botswana to the South,” he said.

Sampofu was first appointed governor of the former Caprive Region in 2010 by the former Namibian president, Hifikepunye Pohamba and was reappointed as Zambezi governor by President Dr.Hage Geingob in 2015, a term running to 2025.

37 Namibia residents killed by Botswana army so far

Sampofu is a man who continues to insist that Botswana has killed 37 residents of his region. A video posted by the Namibian Broadcasting Corporation (NBC) shows him alleging that at least 37 Namibians were killed by the BDF, after he met with the community at Impalila.

“It is true, the BDF started long ago. As we speak 37 lives have been lost here in Impalila along the Chobe river going to Linyanti and Kwado rivers up to Lizauli. All those families lost their loved ones,” Ampofu said in the video posted by NBC.

It is not known how the BDF, which has maintained their position that the Namibians were engaging in illegal activities of poaching, treats the constant attacks by the Namibian authorities, but they have repeatedly vowed to continue protecting the country’s sovereignty and natural resources.

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Masisi gives KBL the “middle finger”

27th July 2021
President Masisi

Botswana’s premier brewer and leading distributor of beer, Kgalagadi Breweries Limited (KBL), this month dragged the government of Botswana to court after President Mokgweetsi Masisi imposed an alcohol ban with immediate effect. KBL labelled the decision as unjustifiable, irrational and that it overrides the rights that are enshrined in the constitution.

This week, Masisi through attorneys representing the government disparaged the case in his written affidavit of KBL’s application, referring to it as frivolous and that it ought to be dismissed with costs on a punitive scale.

In his court papers, Masisi reminded KBL that Botswana is a Republic whose laws find validity from the constitution, and in terms of Section 17 of the constitution the President is empowered to declare a State of Emergency and that it is a common cause that Botswana is under such state.

“It is common course that there is in existence emergency powers (Covid-19) Regulations 2020 as amended from time to time which is solely designed to regulate the Covid-19 pandemic,” he said.

Masisi pointed out that he denies that the application before Court is proper such as to challenge the lawfulness and validity of a regulation made and a notice published in the exercise of a legislative function in accordance with the Emergency Powers Act which empowers the President to make regulations as appear to him to be necessary and expedient for securing public safety.

Furthermore, the President revealed that the decision to ban alcohol sales was not arrived at willy-nilly, but rather that there had been careful considerations that the risks posed by Covid-19 had increased and therefore it was expedient and necessary to suspend all liquor licenses.

Moreover, Masisi denied that the decision to reinstate the ban should be made by the Director of Health Services as indicated by KBL in their nature of the application, “the Director is to cause the notice to be published in the Gazette after consultation with the President.”

Masisi indicated that the role of the Director of Health Services is to publish a regulation made by the President.

He further, reminded KBL that the power to make regulations in a State of Public Emergency in accordance with the EPA lies with the President, “such power includes the amendment of any enactment, suspending the operation of any enactment or modification of an enactment.”

According to Masisi, his decision to ban alcohol sales was based on evidence provided by the Director of Health Services who indicated to him that there was a sudden spike in the transmission of the Covid-19 virus following the reinstatement of liquor licenses.

Another piece of advice tendered by the Director of Health to Masisi was that bars and other liquor outlets were some of the major hotspots in the sense of such being high-risk areas at which the virus spread rapidly.

“Alcohol was one of the major causes of non-compliance with the health protocols that were put in place to control the spread of the Covid-19 virus. Further, there was an indication that more arrests were made on people failing to adhere to Covid-19 protocols more particularly at places where there were gatherings,” he contended.

He pointed out that therefore, it was expedient and or necessary to preserve lives and to reduce the risks of transmissions of the virus to reinstate the suspension of liquor licenses.

Moreover, the President says that it must be noted that he avers that the Director of Health Services is a credible source on matters of public health of which he also accordingly gave due weight to the Director’s advice on deciding to reinstate the ban through the impugned notice.

“I am aware and was always aware at the time of promulgating the regulation complained of that it shall negatively affect some sectors of the economy. However, after due consideration and receipt of advice, I decided to give priority to the safety and health of the nation,” Masisi said.

He presaged KBL that it would not be prudent and in the best interest of the nation to ignore a health emergency such as Covid-19 and gave preference to trading and making of profits by the applicant. “The results would only be catastrophic to the extent that when we emerge from the scourge we would be left with a depleted and ailing nation from Covid-19 and its side effects.”

Furthermore, his written affidavit further pointed out that the decision to reinstate the ban on alcohol was taken notwithstanding understanding and appreciation of the economic hardships that would befall the country.

However, he said he deliberately made the decision based on the evidence provided to him by the Director of Health, whose evidence he believes to be credible to give public/safety and health priority over economic considerations in some sectors.

In making the decision, Masisi states that he was and considered different options including allowing for sale of alcohol consumption off premises, however the evidence he had been provided with suggested that such other alternatives would not achieve the overall objective of securing public safety and health by reducing the risk of the spread of the virus.

“By the time I imposed the ban, alcohol was already being sold for consumption off-premises. This did not work. The information provided to me by the Director and the Presidential Task-Force team demonstrated that consumers purchased alcohol and then loitered and consumed it within the peripheries of bars and other liquor outlets,” he said.

Attached to the affidavit as emphasis, were photographs and videos of Gaborone West, Phase 4 in mid-June 2021, which he explains circulated on social media and was brought to his attention.

“I need not say much about the photos as they depict a crowd exceeding 50 gathered at the parking area of a bar. There is little or no regard to Covid-19 protocols. It was clear to me and my advisors, including the Director of Health Services and members of the Presidential Task-Force team that the total ban of alcohol was necessary to manage the risk of increase in infections, to understand what seems to have led to an increase in the risk of infection when alcohol is present I was advised by the Presidential Task-Force team that scientifically there has been evidence that alcohol narrows physical distance,” he argued.

Masisi says that allegations made by KBL are serious allegations of infringement of fundamental rights yet they fail to state how imposition and reinstatement of the suspension of liquor licenses out of necessity and expediency of the health of the nation infringes on the rights as alleged.

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Gov’t gives parallel statements on COVAX

27th July 2021
COVAX---lelatisitswe

In  an embarrassing turn of events that depicts disintegration in government communication on the fight against COVID-19, President Mokgweetsi Masisi and Assistant Minister of Health & Wellness, Sethomo Lelatisitswe gave two conflicting statements on the same matter, same day, just minutes apart.

The Commander-in-Chef told health practitioners and residents in Ramotswa that the COVAX facility has scammed African countries after billions were paid in a crowd funding effort to procure COVID-19 vaccines in bulk.

“We have pumped money as developing countries of the African continent into the COVAX Facility but the returns were not satisfactory, they cheated us,” the President said in Ramotswa.

According to President Masisi, the COVAX facility Vaccine only came in bits and pieces, frustrating the continent ‘s head immunity targets amid rapidly spreading Delta Variant which is currently reversing all progress made by Africa in containing the contagious virus.

“What we are getting is very small portions of the vaccine, they keep telling us that there is shortage of supply, this is not fair, but we have paid in advance, however what can we do, we have no choice but to spend more  money and look for other avenues of securing other available vaccines,” he said.

Meanwhile in Gaborone, Assistant Minister of Health and Wellness told Parliament that vaccine from COVAX facility is anchoring Botswana’s vaccination program.

“I am not aware of such information that COVAX facility is not delivering as expected, we are actually bolstered by COVAX facility in this country,” he said responding to a question from Mahalapye West Member of Parliament David Tshere who is also Chairman of Parliament Committee On Health and HIV/AIDS.

“We have received doses as ordered from the COVAX facility, and we are still receiving more, I have not seen that information which is purported to have been revealed by the President, unless its new information, we as the Ministry we are not aware of any frustrations by the COVAX facility,” he said.

COVAX is co-led by the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), Gavi and the World Health Organization (WHO), alongside key delivery partner UNICEF.

Its aim is to accelerate the development and manufacture of COVID-19 vaccines, and to guarantee fair and equitable access for every country in the world.

The facility is a global coalition that works to ensure fair and equitable access of COVID-19 vaccines around the world. So far, 190 countries have joined the COVAX initiative, including all 22 countries in the Eastern Mediterranean Region.

The COVAX Facility aims to have 2 billion doses of COVID-19 vaccines available for distribution across the globe by the end of 2021, targeting those most at risk (e.g. frontline health workers) and most vulnerable severe diseases and death (e.g. elderly and people with co-morbidities).

On other vaccination issues President Masisi revealed, still in Greater Gaborone vaccination centre visits, that Botswana has placed orders with Pfizer, a United States vaccine producer noting that they have promised to deliver next year.

Meanwhile, government kick-started phase two of the Covid-19 vaccination program this week, opening up for ages between 30 and 54.

President Masisi revealed that this was done because some elderly were reluctant to be inculcated.

“We can’t take forever trying to convince people to take vaccine, we moved to the next age segments because we cannot afford to have vaccines-which are already in shortage supply to just lie there,” he said.

On Friday, Ministry of Health revealed that it was receiving large numbers of people below the age of 55 lining up to be vaccinated.

In a statement the Ministry of Health said it, “acknowledges the huge turnout that marked the commencement of the Phase two COVID-19 vaccination program”.

Given this high turnout, especially in the Greater Gaborone region, the ministry announced an extension of operation hours in order to serve the huge crowds that had come for vaccination.

Of the nearly 85 000 doses that were being doled across the country as first doses, the majority of the Greater Gaborone vaccination sites were already getting depleted by 1800hrs on 22 July 2021.

As a result of this development, the ministry took a decision to discontinue the extended hours of operation announced yesterday for vaccination sites in Gaborone.

This means that vaccination sites in Gaborone and elsewhere in the country which still have some vaccines, will offer them in the normal working hours and days of the week.

The Ministry says it appreciates the great desire to be vaccinated shown by thousands of citizens and residents of this country and wishes to assure them that it will continue to expedite their vaccination every time vaccines become available. As has been communicated in various fora, more vaccines are expected in August 2021.

As at July 2021, Botswana has so far received 62, 400 doses of AstraZeneca/COVISHIELD bought through the Covax facility, 30,000 doses of AstraZeneca vaccine donated by the Republic of India, 19, 890 doses of the Pfizer vaccine bought through the COVAX facility, 200, 000 doses of the Sinovac vaccine, donated by the Peoples Republic of China and another 200, 000 doses of the Sinovac vaccine bought through bilateral negotiations with Sinovac company in China.

“We encourage Batswana to remain hopeful that although it’s taking longer than anticipated, enough COVID-19 vaccines will eventually arrive in our country. We urge them to always strictly abide by all COVID-19 protocols so that they protect themselves and others from this deadly virus,” the ministry said.

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