The Ministry of Tertiary Education, Research, Science and Technology has instituted a forensic audit on the University of Botswana (UB) following financial and administration crisis that have marred the country’s highest learning institution in the past few years.
Dr Alfred Madigele, Minister of Tertiary Education, Research, Science and Technology told this publication this week that his ministry, with the assistance of Auditor General, has assembled a team that would come up with terms of reference for the firm that the ministry will be engaging for the job. “There are some irregularities which we believe have contributed to UB not functioning to optimal capacity; financial irregularities and there are alleged administrative irregularities,” said the youthful minister.
“We will very shortly be instituting a forensic audit on UB. This audit will have a wide scope; it will be looking at administrative, financial, human resource, student affairs, campus and infrastructure and all other things.” Dr Madigele hinted that the forensic audit will have recommendations as well, on what the university and government should do moving forward.
“We cannot just pour monies into an institution that we do not have an idea of what is going on with regard to its operations. We need a definite idea of what is going on, and what should be done to rectify any problem that is there,” he said. Dr Madigele revealed that he expects the forensic audit to take between 8-12 weeks, and the ministry will then meet to study its findings. The UB financial crisis led to the resignation of Professor Thabo Fako amid frustration resulting also from deteriorating relations with government enclave.
Fako tendered his resignation in February 2017, few months after making a daring statement before the Parliamentary Committee on Statutory Bodies and Enterprises that government should be bold enough to state whether it wants to shut down UB or not, and even said whatever decision government wants to take, it should do so openly, boldly and honestly.
The first hint of Professor Fako’s aggravation with how things are turning out for UB was 2015 when he summoned all political parties to a forum at the institution. It is not common that the strategic issues of institutions such as UB could be discussed through such a forum. But Professor Fako, having run out patience and desperate for a solution was convinced it was the most perfect thing to do.
Present at the meeting were Mpho Balopi, the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) then Secretary General; Dr Phenyo Butale of the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) and also Member of Parliament for the area and Dr Kesitegile Gobotswang representing Botswana Congress Party (BCP).
Fako’s revelations signalled that the UB was facing a crisis in future and pleaded for an honest apolitical debate on the future of the institution fearing that in the absence of such, the institution would fold, as result of mushrooming private institutions. Prof Fako was not impressed by the discriminatory gesture of offering Botswana International University of Science and Technology (BIUST) preferential treatment at the detriment of UB.
One of the major problems that the university is facing is the dwindling number of students being enrolled at UB as a result of the sponsorship cessation by government for some courses, Ministry of Tertiary Education has also failed to pay University of Botswana tuition fees for three consecutive financial years.
In the last few years, it was revealed that the institution requires over P1 billion to cover operational costs, but in the last few years the institution has received less than what they have requested forcing it to exhaust its reserves. Between 2014 and 2016, the university received P776 million, 714 million and 703 million respectively. Under the financial year under review, the university was bailed out with P231 million to meet its financial obligations.
However, Dr Madigele has no sympathy UB, as he urged that the university should not be “cry baby” since it has capacity to generate money from other source of revenues, including its sporting facilities as well as conference facilities. “They should expect competition, and they should adapt to changing environments. If BIUST is offering better packages to its academic staff, UB should also offer attractive packages,” he said.
“I do not think they should be cry babies and say, do not send students to private institutions, send only to UB, or do not send student to BIUST send only to UB.” Dr Madigele said while his ministry is ultimately responsible to UB, the institution has necessary tools, including learned academics who are able to help to come up with viable money generating models as well as position the university to be attractive.
“Lately UB has been struggling to attract students. Even the numbers that we allocated to them in form of a quota were not fully used. We are not to blame as a ministry, UB has to look within and see where they are falling short,” he said. “They should have a SWOT analysis to see where their weaknesses are and come up with solutions.”
With the arrival of Professor David Norris, who is took over the reins from Prof Fako, Dr Madigele believes the institution will once again return to its glory days. “We should be having a paradigm shift in a near future because of the new Vice Chancellor, who is upbeat about what he wants to do. Of course he cannot do it alone. We have to give him 101 percent as a ministry. We should also expect UB council to give him 100 percent support."
While there is no hard-and-fast rule in politics, former Molepolole North Member of Parliament, Mohamed Khan says populism acts in the body politic have forced him to quit active partisan politics. He brands this ancient ascription of politics as fake and says it lowers the moral compass of the society.
Khan who finally tasted political victory in the 2014 elections after numerous failed attempts, has decided to leave the ‘dirty game’, and on his way out he characteristically lashed at the current political leaders; including his own party president, Advocate Duma Boko. “I arrived at this decision because I have noticed that there are no genuine politics and politicians. The current leaders, Boko and President Dr Mokgweetsi Masisi are fake politicians who are just practicing populist politics to feed their egos,” he said.
Former Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) parliamentary hopeful, Lawrence Ookeditse has rejected the idea of taking up a crucial role in the Botswana Patriotic Front (BPF) Central Committee following his arrival in the party this week. According to sources close to development, BPF power brokers are coaxing Ookeditse to take up the secretary general position, left vacant by death of Roseline Panzirah-Matshome in November 2020.
Ookeditse’s arrival at BPF is projected to cause conflicts, as some believe they are being overlooked, in favour of a new arrival. The former ruling party strategist has however ruled out the possibility of serving in the party central committee as secretary general, and committed that he will turn down the overture if availed to him by party leadership.
Ookeditse, nevertheless, has indicated that if offered another opportunity to serve in a different capacity, he will gladly accept. “I still need to learn the party, how it functions and all its structures; I must be guided, but given any responsibility I will serve the party as long as it is not the SG position.”
“I joined the BPF with a clear conscious, to further advance my voice and the interests of the constituents of Nata/Gweta which I believe the BDP is no longer capable to execute.” Ookeditse speaks of abject poverty in his constituency and prevalent unemployment among the youth, issues he hopes his new home will prioritise.
He dismissed further allegations that he resigned from the BDP because he was not rewarded for his efforts towards the 2019 general elections. After losing in the BDP primaries in 2018, Ookeditse said, he was offered a job in government but declined to take the post due to his political ambitions. Ookeditse stated that he rejected the offer because, working for government clashed with his political journey.
He insists there are many activists who are more deserving than him; he could have chosen to take up the opportunity that was before him but his conscious for the entire populace’s wellbeing held him back. Ookeditse said there many people in the party who also contributed towards party success, asserting that he only left the BDP because he was concerned about the greater good of the majority not individualism purposes.
According to observers, Ookeditse has been enticed by the prospects of contesting Nata/Gweta constituency in the 2024 general election, following the party’s impressive performance in the last general elections. Nata/Gweta which is a traditional BDP stronghold saw its numbers shrinking to a margin of 1568. BDP represented by Polson Majaga garnered 4754, while BPF which had fielded Joe Linga received 3186 with UDC coming a distant with 1442 votes.
There are reports that Linga will pave way for Ookeditse to contest the constituency in 2024 and the latter is upbeat about the prospects of being elected to parliament. Despite Ookeditse dismissing reports that he is eying the secretary general position, insiders argue that the position will be availed to him nevertheless.
Alternative favourite for the position is Vuyo Notha who is the party Deputy Secretary General. Notha has since assumed duties of the secretariat office on the interim basis. BPF politburo is expected to meet on 25th of January 2020, where the vacancy will be filled.
Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) big wigs have decided to cancel a retreat with the party legislators this weekend owing to increasing numbers of Covid-19 cases. The meeting was billed for this weekend at a place that was to be confirmed, however a communique from the party this past Tuesday reversed the highly anticipated meeting.
“We received a communication this week that the meeting will not go as planned because of rapid spread of Covid-19,” one member of the party Central Committee confirmed to this publication. The gathering was to follow the first of its kind held late last year at party Treasurer Satar Dada’s place.