New BERA given vast powers over licence holders
The Botswana Energy Regulatory Authority (BERA) has been given more powers in line with the new law to crack the whip on license defaulters.
The parastatal was formed two months ago subsequent to the passing of the Botswana Energy Regulatory Act of 2016 by parliament. BERA is responsible for the economic regulation of the energy sector being; electricity, petroleum products, coal, natural gas, solar energy and other forms of renewable energies. The parastatal is tasked with issuance of licences to the five (5) multinational oil companies (Botswana Oil Ltd., Vivo Energy, Puma Energy, Engen Oil Marketing, Chevron Botswana and Total Oil Botswana) including a number of citizen based companies (Excess Petroleum, Stol, Afritech, Tswana Petroleum).
This extends also to a number of international and local Gas Supply and Distribution Companies (Total, Afrox Botswana, Easigas Botswana, Pula Energy, Airliquide, and Simsagas). BERA Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Rose Seretse told the press this week in the inaugural media pitso since the instigation of the organisation that “the parastatal may amend, suspend or revoke a licence and impose such fines as it may consider appropriate at the end of the investigations – if the Authority is satisfied that there is a contravention of the Act.”
She emphasized that in terms of Section 53 (1) of the Act, the Authority is conferred with powers to initiate or receive and investigate any complaint from any person against a licensee. She said the investigation should be based on the existence of reasonable grounds that a contravention of any of the provisions of the Act has occurred or that the conditions of a licence are not adhered to.
According to the ex-Director of Directorate of Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC) the Authority has the power to enter and search the premises of any licensee it intends to investigate (give a licensee four (4) days’ notice of the intended search and reasons for searching the premises). She stated that however if the Authority decides to investigate it shall inform the licensee or affected person in writing of its intention to investigate. “Before the search, the Authority shall obtain a search warrant from the Magistrate Court. Notwithstanding, the Authority may enter and search any premises, other than a private dwelling, without a warrant (followed by an ex post notice),” Seretse pointed out to the pack of journalists at the briefing.
The BERA CEO warned that the authority has power to require information from any person that it considers necessary to enable it to carry out its functions under the Act, and it is an offence to unreasonably refuse to furnish the Authority with information when required to do so under Section 66 of the Act. According to Seretse, it is important to note that an application for a licence may if the authority considers necessary be done through a tendering method determined by the authority.
“Additionally, it is worth noting that licences will be issued at a fee which includes application fees and annual licence fees among others. However, these fees should be reasonable, justifiable and appropriate for the type of activity. The annual licence fees in aggregate should not exceed one and half percent of the combined gross turnover of the licence or regulated entity,” she said.
BERA is also mandated to ensure that there is competition in the energy sector and that there is energy security in Botswana. Nonetheless, Seretse highlighted that in terms of Section 62, the Authority shall refer all issues relating to competition to the Competition Authority.
In terms of their responsibilities on the tariffs, Seretse said the authority may review a tariff where it considers it necessary to do so in the interest of customers, consumers and other users and where the tariff is due for periodic review as determined by the authority from time to time.
“The Authority shall, from time to time and by notice in the gazette publish the tariff review methodology and considerations that the Authority apply when reviewing a tariff. The Authority shall, when reviewing tariffs, take into account any direct subsidies by government to support energy or cross subsidies between different consumer classes.” Already it was reported that BERA is inundated with reports on mishandling and smuggling of fuel out of the country. It is said that consumers and other informal fuel resellers purchase fuel from various fuel filling points with containers not recommended for safe handling and transportation of fuel.
“Containers used include, 20 litres and 25 litres plastic containers, 200/210 litres drums and in certain instances; worn out jerry cans. It has been observed that this practice is particularly rife in the northern part of the country; Francistown, Kasane and the surrounding areas.” It has also been noted that the fuel being smuggled outside the country is for re-sale in the neighbouring countries to the northern part of Botswana, and that BERA will continue to put such unwanted conduct on line. The Ministry of Minerals Resources, Green Technology and Energy Security (MMGE) through the Department of Energy is responsible for the formulation, development and coordination of the National Energy Policy.
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ENVIRONMENT ISSUES: Masisi asks Virginia for help
President Mokgweetsi Masisi says the issue of sustainable natural resources management has always been an important part of Botswana’s national development agenda.
Masisi was speaking this week on the occasion of a public lecture at Virginia Polytechnic, under theme, “Merging Conservation, Democracy and Sustainable Development in Botswana.”
Botswana, according to Masisi, holds the view that the environment is fragile and as such, must be managed and given the utmost protection to enable the achievement of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
“It is necessary that we engage one another in the interchange of ideas, perspectives, visualizations of social futures, and considerations of possible strategies and courses of action for sustainable development,” said Masisi.
On the other hand, dialogue, in the form of rigorous democratic discourse among stakeholders presents another basis for reconfiguring how people act on their environments, with a view to conserving its resources that “we require to meet our socio-economic development needs on a sustainable basis,” Masisi told attendees at the public lecture.
He said government has a keen interest in understanding the epidemiology and ecology of diseases of both domestic and wild animals. “It is our national interest to forestall the dire consequences of animal diseases on our communities livelihoods.”
President Masisi hoped that both Botswana and Virginia could help each other in curbing contagious diseases of wildlife.
“We believe that Virginia Tech can reasonably share their experiences, research insights and advances in veterinary sciences and medicines, to help us build capacity for knowledge creation and improve efforts of managing and containing contagious diseases of wildlife. The ground is fertile for entering into such a mutually beneficial partnership.”
When explaining environmental issues further, Masisi said efforts of conservation and sustainable development might at times be hampered by the emergence and recurrence of diseases when pathogens mutate and take host of more than one species.
“Water pollution also kills aquatic life, such as fish, which is one of humanity’s much deserved sources of food. In this regard, One Health Approach imposes ecological responsibility upon all of us to care for the environment and the bio-diversity therein.”
He said the production and use of animal vaccines is an important space and tool for conservation, particularly to deal with trans-border animal diseases.
“In Botswana, our 43-year-old national premier pharmaceutical institution called Botswana Vaccine Institute has played its role well. Through its successful production of highly efficacious Foot and Mouth vaccines, the country is able to contain this disease as well as supply vaccines to other countries in the sub-region.:
He has however declared that there is need for more help, saying “We need more capacitation to deal with and contain other types of microbial that affect both animals and human health.”
Masisi saddened by deaths of elephant attacks
President Mokgweetsi Masisi has expressed a strong worry over elephants killing people in Botswana. When speaking in Virginia this week, Masisi said it is unfortunate that Batswana have paid a price with their own blood through being attacked by elephants.
“Communities also suffer unimaginable economic losses yearly when their crops are eaten by the elephants. In spite of such incidents of human-elephant conflict, our people embrace living together with the animals. They fully understand wildlife conservation and its economic benefits in tourism.”
In 2018, Nthobogang Samokwase’s father was attacked by an elephant when travelling from the fields, where he stayed during the cropping season.
It was reported that the man couldn’t run because of his age. He was found trampled by the elephant and was pronounced dead upon arrival at the hospital.
In the same year, in Maun, a 57-year-old British woman was attacked by an elephant at Boro and died upon arrival at the hospital. The woman was with her Motswana partner, and were walking dogs in the evening.
Last month, a Durban woman named Carly Marshall survived an elephant attack while on holiday in the bush in Botswana. She was stabbed by one of the elephant’s tucks through the chest and was left with bruises. Marshall also suffered several fractured ribs from the ordeal.
President Masisi Botswana has the largest population of African elephants in the world, totaling more than 130 000. “This has been possible due to progressive conservation policies, partnerships with the communities, and investment in wildlife management programmes.”
In order to benefit further from wildlife, Masisi indicated that government has re-introduced controlled hunting in 2019 after a four-year pause. “The re-introduction of hunting was done in an open, transparent and democratic way, giving the communities an opportunity to air their views. The funds from the sale of hunting quota goes towards community development and elephant conservation.”
He stressed that for conservation to succeed, the local people must be involved and derive benefits from the natural resources within their localities.
“There must be open and transparent consultations which involve all sectors of the society. It is against this backdrop that as a country, we lead the continent on merging conservation, democracy and sustainable development.”
Masisi stated that Botswana is open to collaborative opportunities, “particularly with identifiable partners such as Virginia Tech, in other essential areas such as conservation, and the study of the interplay among the ecology of diseases of wild animals and plants, and their effects on human health and socio-economic development.”
Gov’t commit to injecting more funds in fighting HIV
Minister for State President Kabo Morwaeng says government will continue to make resources available in terms of financial allocations and human capital to ensure that Botswana achieves the ideal of eradicating HIV and AIDS as a public health threat by 2030.
Morwaeng was speaking this morning in Gaborone at the High-Level Advocacy event to accelerate HIV Prevention in Botswana. He said the National AIDS and Health Promotion Agency (NAPHA), in partnership with UNAIDS, UN agencies, the Global Fund and PEPFAR, have started a process of developing transition readiness plan for sustainability of HIV prevention and treatment programmes.
“It is important for us, as a country that has had a fair share of donor support in the response to an epidemic such as HIV and AIDS, to look beyond the period when the level of assistance would have reduced, or ceased, thus calling for domestic financing for all areas which were on donor support.”
Morwaeng said this is important as the such a plan will guarantee that all the gains accrued from the response with donor support will be sustained until the end when “we reach the elimination of HIV and AIDS as a public health threat by 20230,” he said.
“I commit to continue support efforts towards strengthened HIV prevention, accentuating HIV primary prevention and treatment as prevention towards Zero New Infections, Zero Stigma, Discrimination and Zero AIDS related death, to end AIDS in Botswana.”
He reiterated that government commits to tackle legislative, policy and programming challenges that act as barriers to the achievement of the goal of ending AIDS as a public health threat.
In the financial year 2022/2023, a total of 119 Civil Society Organizations, including Faith Based Organizations, were contracted with an amount of P100 million to implement HIV and NCDs prevention activities throughout the country, and the money was drawn from the Consolidated Fund.
Through an upcoming HIV Prevention Symposium, technical stakeholders will use outcomes to develop the Botswana HIV Prevention Acceleration Road Map for 2023-2025.
Morwaeng stated that government will support and ensure that Botswana plays its part achieving the road map. He said there is need to put hands on the deck to ensure that Botswana sustains progress made so far in the fight against HIV and AIDS.
“There are tremendous achievements thus far to, reach and surpass the UNAIDS fast track targets of 95%- 95%- 95% by the year 2025. As reflected by the BAIS preliminary results of 2021, we now stand at 95- 98- 98 against the set targets.”
“These achievements challenge us to now shift our gears and strive to know who are the remaining 5% for those aware of their HIV status, 2% of enrolment on treatment by those aware of their status and 2% of viral suppression by those on treatment.”
Explaining this further, Morwaeng said shift in gears should extend to coming up with robust strategies of determining where these remaining people are as well as how they will be reached with the necessary services.
“These are just some of the many variables that are required to ensure that as a country, we are well positioned to reaching the last mile of our country’s response to the HIV and AIDS pandemic.”