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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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UDC founder warns against merger

19th October 2020
Ex UDC Convener: Mpotokwane

Lebang Mpotokwane, one of the conveners who presided over the opposition cooperation talks that resulted in the formation of the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC), has advised against changing the current umbrella model in favour of a merger as proposed by others.

The Botswana Congress Party (BCP) leader, Dumelang Saleshando recently went public to propose that UDC should consider merging of all opposition parties, including Alliance for Progressives (AP) and Botswana Patriotic Front (BNF).

Saleshando has been vehemently opposed by Botswana National Front (BNF), which is in favour of maintaining the current model.  BNF’s position has been favoured by the founding father of UDC, who warned that it will be too early to ditch the current model.

“UDC should be well developed to promote the spirit of togetherness on members and the members should be taught so that the merger is developed gradually. They should approach it cautiously. If they feel they are ready, they can, but it would not be a good idea,” Mpotokwane told WeekendPost this week.

Mpotokwane and Emang Maphanyane are the two men who have since 2003 began a long journey of uniting opposition parties in a bid to dethrone the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BCP) as they felt it needed a strong opposition to avoid complacency.

Tonota born Mpotokwane is however disappointed on how they have been ejected from participating in the last edition of talks ahead of the 2019 general elections in which BCP was brought on board.  However, despite the ejection, Mpotokwane is not resentful to the opposition collective.

He said the vision of opposition unity was to ultimately merge the opposition parties but he believes time has not arrived yet to pursue that path. “The bigger picture was a total merger and we agreed that with three independent parties, members might be against merger eventuality so the current model should be used until a point where they are now together for as long as possible,” he said.

“UDC should gradually perform better in elections and gain confidence. They should not rush the merger. We have been meeting since 2003, but if they rush it might cause endless problems. If they are ready they can anyway,” he advised. For now the constituent parties of the umbrella have been exchanging salvos with others (BCP and BNF).

“There are good reasons for and against merging the parties. Personally, I am in favour of merging the parties (including AP and BPF) into a single formation but I know it’s a complex mission that will have its own challenges,” Saleshando said when he made his position known a week ago.

“Good luck to those advocating for a merger, it will be interesting to observe the tactics they will use to lure the BPF into a merger,” former BNF councillor for Borakalalo Ward and former BNF Youth League Secretary General, Arafat Khan, opined in relation to BCP’s proposed position.

Mpotokwane, who is currently out in the cold from the UDC since he was ejected from the party’s NEC in 2017, said the current bickering and the expected negotiations with other parties need the presence of conveners.

“We did not belong to any party as conveners so we were objective in our submissions. If party propose any progressive idea we will support, if it is not we will not, so I would agree that even now conveners might be key for neutrality to avoid biasness,” he observed. Despite being abandoned, Mpotokwane said he will always be around to assist if at all he is needed.

“If they want help I will be there, I have always been clear about it, but surely I will ask few questions before accepting that role,” he said. UDC is expected to begin cooperation talks with both AP and BPF either this week or next weekend for both upcoming bye-elections (halted by Covid-19) and 2024 general elections and it is revealed that there will be no conveners this time around.

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BDP attaches Boko’s property

19th October 2020
DUMA BOKO

The Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) moved through its lawyers to attach the property of Umbrella for Democratic (UDC) President Duma Boko and other former parliamentary contestants who failed in their court bid to overturn the 2019 general elections in 14 constituencies.

WeekendPost has established that this week, Deputy Sheriffs were commissioned by Bogopa Manewe Tobedza and Company who represented the BDP, to attach the properties of UDC elections contents in a bid to recover costs.  High Court has issued a writ of execution against all petitioners, a process that has set in motion the cost recovery measures.

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COVID-19 exposes decay in the education system

19th October 2020
Education Systm

Botswana Sectors of Teachers Union (BOSETU) says COVID-19 as a pandemic has negatively affected the education sector by deeply disrupting the education system. The intermittent lockdowns have resulted in the halting of teaching and learning in schools.

The union indicated that the education system was caught napping and badly exposed when it came to the use of Information System (IT), technological platforms and issues of digitalisation.

“COVID-19 exposed glaring inefficiencies and deficiencies when it came to the use of ITC in schools. In view of the foregoing, we challenge government as BOSETU to invest in school ITC, technology and digitalization,” says BOSETU President Kinston Radikolo during a press conference on Tuesday.

As a consequence, the union is calling on government to prioritise education in her budgeting to provide technological infrastructure and equipment including provision of tablets to students and teachers.

“Government should invest vigorously in internet connectivity in schools and teacher’s residences if the concept of flexi-hours and virtual learning were to be achieved and have desired results,” Radikolo said.

Radikolo told journalists that COVID-19 is likely to negatively affect final year results saying that the students would sit for the final examinations having not covered enough ground in terms of curriculum coverage.

“This is so because there wasn’t any catch up plan that was put in place to recover the lost time by students. We warn that this year’s final examination results would dwindle,” he said.

The Union, which is an affiliate of Botswana Federation of Public, Private and Parastatal Union (BOFEPUSU), also indicated that COVID-19’s presence as a pandemic has complicated the role of a teacher in a school environment, saying a teacher’s role has not only transcended beyond just facilitating teaching and learning, but rather, a teacher in this COVID-19 era, is also called upon to enforce the COVID-19 preventative protocols in the school environment.

“This is an additional role in the duty of a teacher that needs to be recognized by the employers. Teachers by virtue of working in a congested school environment have become highly exposed and vulnerable to COVID-19, hence the reason why BOSETU would like teachers to be regarded as the frontline workers with respect to COVID-19,” says Radikolo.

BOSETU noted that the pandemic has in large scales found its way into most of the school environments, as in thus far more than 50 schools have been affected by COVID-19. The Union says this is quite a worrying phenomenon.

“As we indicated before when we queried that schools were not ready for re-opening, it has now come to pass that our fears were not far-fetched. This goes out to tell that there is deficiency in our schools when it comes to putting in place preventative protocols. In our schools, hygiene is compromised by mere absence of sanitizers, few hand-washing stations, absence of social distancing in classes,” the Union leader said.

Furthermore, Radikolo stressed that the shifting system drastically increased the workload for teachers especially in secondary schools. He says teachers in these schools experience very high loads to an extent that some of them end up teaching up to sixty four periods per week, adding that this has not only fatigued teachers, but has also negatively affected their performance and the quality of teaching.

In what the Union sees as failure to uphold and honour collective agreements by government, owing to the shift system introduced at primary schools, government is still in some instances refusing to honour an agreement with the Unions to hire more teachers to take up the extra classes.

“BOSETU notes with disgruntlement the use of pre-school teachers to teach in the mainstream schools with due regard for their specific areas of training and their job descriptions. This in our view is a variation of the terms of employment of the said teachers,” says Radikolo.

The Union has called on government to forthwith remedy this situation and hire more teachers to alleviate this otherwise unhealthy situation. BOSETU also expressed concerns of some school administrators who continuously run institutions with iron fists and in a totalitarian way.

“We have a few such hot spot schools which the Union has brought to attention the Ministry officials such as Maoka JSS, Artesia JSS, and Dukwi JSS. We are worried that the Ministry becomes sluggish in taking action against such errant school administration. In instances where action is taken, such school administrators are transferred and rotated around schools.”

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