President Lt Gen Ian Khama has told residents of Sefhophe Village that five different manufacturing companies will set up in Selebi Phikwe in due course and will in two years’ time employ more people that the numbers that were employed by BCL Mine.
The president was addressing residents of Sefhophe on Thursday at the village kgotla where dozens of people had gathered to share with number one citizen their various challenges and needs in their village. He told residents that there are about five companies in manufacturing that have shown interest to invest and set shop in Selebi Phikwe in the next few months.
“In the next two years, the companies will employ more people than BCL,” he said. President Khama explained that the companies are in different manufacturing industries without specifying the type of manufacturing industries that will be established in the embattled town. He further explained that Government has come up with an incentive scheme to attract investors to Selebi Phikwe.
Khama said people must not be surprised that BCL was closed in 2016 as it had many problems. He said SPEDU was not formed in 2016 but way before the BCL liquidation because its closure was long anticipated. He reiterated assertions that BCL was bleeding the Government coffers dry and he drove his point home by giving an example, saying BCL one billion pula from Government which was granted, only for the mine to request another billion the following month.
Khama pointed out that Government spent around 16 million pula to pay BCL employees’ last salaries as the mine had failed to do so. He noted that Government continues to make efforts to revitalise the economy of Selebi Phikwe, pointing out that the former Bank of Botswana Governor, Linah Mohohlo has since been appointed coordinator looking into the revitalisation of the town and the region.
The president was responding to Thatayaone Mogale who had asked him to explain what the future holds for the SPEDU region after the closure of the mine which was the economic mainstay of the region. The president did not mention anything regarding BCL re-opening as some would have expected following reports of a Dubai based company’s interest in buying shares in BCL.
In a recent memorandum to Care and Maintenance teams of both BCL and Tati Nickel Mining Company, BCL Provisional Liquidator, Nigel Dixon-Warren, explained that the provisional liquidation order was extended to June 15, 2017. He noted that the justification of the extension was that the interested party had not yet completed its assessment and Government had allowed for some extra time to complete the assessment.
He also explained that another party had also submitted an expression of interest in all or part of the business of the BCL Group. The memorandum noted that “this offer was of sufficient seriousness to warrant a request for a limited further extension.” Perhaps the chilling part of the memorandum which also circulated in the Social Media, is the part that reads, “Although I have not received any formal notification to the effect, it now appears that the interested party that came to site in March and April 2017 will not be making an offer.”
The third party is question is a company from the United Arab Emirates which was reported to have put forward an offer for the three companies under the BCL group. Dixon-Warren clarified in this memorandum that the media reports that alluded to Government having signed a memorandum of understanding with the interest company for the purchase of BCL was actually an agreement to allow the said company to conduct due diligence but not a share purchase agreement.
“I am now in the process of writing to all parties that have expressed an interest in buying all or the majority of the assets of the BCL Group to see if any party wants to do so with the intention of recommencing operations. If not the companies will go into final liquidation and the assets will then be sold,” reads part of the memorandum from the Provisional Liquidator.
Government is currently sitting on 4 400 vacant posts that remain unfilled in the civil service. This is notwithstanding the high unemployment rate in Botswana which has been exacerbated by the recent outbreak of the deadly COVID-19 pandemic.
Just before the burst of COVID-19, official data released by Statistics Botswana in January 2020, indicate that unemployment in Botswana has increased from 17.6 percent three years ago to 20.7 percent. “Unemployment rate went up by 3.1 percentage between the two periods, from 17.6 to 20.7 percent,” statistics point out.
Leading commercial bank, First National Bank Botswana (FNBB), expects the central bank to sharpen its monetary policy knife and cut the Bank Rate twice in the last quarter of 2020.
The bank expects a 25 basis point (bps) in the beginning of the last quarter, which is next month, and another shed by the same bps in December, making a total of 50 bps cut in the last quarter. According to the bank’s researchers, the central bank is now holding on to 4.25 percent for the time being pending for more informed data on the economic climate.
An audit of the accounts and records for the supply of food rations to the institutions in the Northern Region for the financial year-ended 31 March 2019 was carried out. According to Auditor General’s report and observations, there are weaknesses and shortcomings that were somehow addressed to the Accounting Officer for comments.
Auditor General, Pulane Letebele indicated on the report that, across all depots in the region that there had been instances where food items were short for periods ranging from 1 to 7 months in the institutions for a variety of reasons, including absence of regular contracts and supplier failures. The success of this programme is dependent on regular and reliable availability of the supplies to achieve its objective, the report said.
There would be instances where food items were returned from the feeding centers to the depots for reasons of spoilage or any other cause. In these cases, instances had been noted where these returns were not supported by any documentation, which could lead to these items being lost without trace.
The report further stressed that large quantities of various food items valued at over P772 thousand from different depots were damaged by rodents, and written off.Included in the write off were 13 538 (340ml) cartons of milk valued at P75 745. In this connection, the Auditor General says it is important that the warehouses be maintained to a standard where they would not be infested by rodents and other pests.
Still in the Northern region, the report noted that there is an outstanding matter relating to the supply of stewed steak (283×3.1kg cans) to the Maun depot which was allegedly defective. The steak had been supplied by Botswana Meat Commission to the depot in November 2016.
In March 2017 part of the consignment was reported to the supplier as defective, and was to be replaced. Even as there was no agreement reached between the parties regarding replacement, in 51 October 2018 the items in question were disposed of by destruction. This disposal represented a loss as the whole consignment had been paid for, according to the report.
“In my view, the loss resulted directly from failure by the depot managers to deal with the matter immediately upon receipt of the consignment and detection of the defects. Audit inspections during visits to Selibe Phikwe, Maun, Shakawe, Ghanzi and Francistown depots had raised a number of observations on points of detail related to the maintenance of records, reconciliations of stocks and related matters, which I drew to the attention of the Accounting Officer for comments,” Letebele said in her report.
In the Southern region, a scrutiny of the records for the control of stocks of food items in the Southern Region had indicated intermittent shortages of the various items, principally Tsabana, Malutu, Sunflower Oil and Milk which was mainly due to absence of subsisting contracts for the supply of these items.
“The contract for the supply of Tsabana to all depots expired in September 2018 and was not replaced by a substantive contract. The supplier contracts for these stocks should be so managed that the expiry of one contract is immediately followed by the commencement of the next.”
Suppliers who had been contracted to supply foodstuffs had failed to do so and no timely action had been taken to redress the situation to ensure continuity of supply of the food items, the report noted.
In one case, the report highlighted that the supplier was to manufacture and supply 1 136 metric tonnes of Malutu for a 4-months period from March 2019 to June 2019, but had been unable to honour the obligation. The situation was relieved by inter-depot transfers, at additional cost in transportation and subsistence expenses.
In another case, the contract was for the supply of Sunflower Oil to Mabutsane, where the supplier had also failed to deliver. Examination of the Molepolole depot Food Issues Register had indicated a number of instances where food items consigned to the various feeding centres had been returned for a variety of reasons, including food item available; no storage space; and in other cases the whole consignments were returned, and reasons not stated.
This is an indication of lack of proper management and monitoring of the affairs of the depot, which could result in losses from frequent movements of the food items concerned.The maintenance of accounting records in the region, typically in Letlhakeng, Tsabong, and Mabutsane was less than satisfactory, according to Auditor General’s report.
In these depots a number of instances had been noted where receipts and issues had not been recorded over long periods, resulting in incorrect balances reflected in the accounting records. This is a serious weakness which could lead to or result in losses without trace or detection, and is a contravention of Supplies Regulations and Procedures, Letebele said.
Similarly, consignments of a total of 892 bags of Malutu and 3 bags of beans from Tsabong depot to different feeding centres had not been received in those centres, and are considered lost. These are also not reflected in the Statement of Losses in the Annual Statements of Accounts for the same periods.