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Gov’t amends Public Service Act

President Lt. Gen. Dr Seretse Khama Ian Khama’s administration is moving swiftly with pace and strong intentions to amend the contentious Public Service Act of 2008 following a resolution from cabinet recently.


The executive is said to have given the move a nod, and plans are underway to take it to the parliament floor for debating. Indications suggest that the goal is to present the bill at the national assembly’s next sitting (July). It is said that the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) legislators are expected to knock down opposition party lawmakers in numbers in a move to rubber stamp the amendment bill into law. The said controversial bill (re-enactment) was gazetted on the 5th May 2017.


Some sections which leave a lot to be desired in the contentious bill include section 72 which states that the Directorate of Public Service Management (DPSM) shall be the Secretariat of the Public Service Bargaining Council (PSBC). The section is a departure from the previous arrangement where the Secretariat was appointed by independent bodies appointed by the Council so that it too remains autonomous.


Another controversial section is 73 (1) which posits “the Commissioner may, on application by an interested party, and on reasonable cause being shown, cancel the registration of the Council. (2) Any interested party aggrieved by a decision of the Commissioner to cancel registration of the Council, may appeal against that decision, to the Industrial Court.


In addition, section 74 (3) says: “representatives of both the trade unions and employer under subsections (1) and (2) shall be public officers” together with subsection (4) which mentions that “the Minister shall, from amongst persons who are not representatives, appoint a chairperson and a deputy chairperson” were also said to have been done in bad faith. Still on section 74, subsection (7b) states that 50 percent of the members, excluding the Chairperson and deputy Chairperson, shall constitute a quorum.


Moreover, some debatable sections to be amended also include section 79 (1) which says every trade union recognised under the Act shall be entitled to be a party in the Council and shall be entitled to have only one union representative at the Council. The section continues at subsection (2) citing that every trade union recognised under the Act shall be entitled to appoint public officers as representatives from among its members for purposes of (a) bargaining in good faith with government and b) representing its members in respect of disciplinary proceedings involving acts of serious misconduct.     


In terms of subscriptions “government shall not be required to deduct any trade union dues or levies from employees wages on behalf of any trade union save for union membership subscriptions,” reads section 79 (5) another section deemed as part of the controversial amendments to the Public Service Act of 2008. The Act which is being amended, (Public Service Act No 30 of 2008) is said to be a direct result of the ratification of three ILO Conventions by the Botswana Government ratified in 1997.


It was in 2010 that the objective of the 2008 Public Service Act was to provide for a single legislation governing employment of all employees of Government.  The Act also was to provide for the establishment of Public Service Bargaining Structures and recognized Public Service trade unions to engage in negotiations and bargaining over issues which have been identified and are matters for negotiation. The Act commenced on the 1st May 2010 and was published in the Botswana Gazette No. 11 of March 2010.


Previously it is understood that there were four pieces of legislation governing employment in the Public Service and these were the Public Service Act CAP 26:01, Unified Local Government Service Act, Teaching Service Act and Tribal Land Act Part II (a) to II (f). It was said then that the use of these separate laws resulted in inconsistencies in the conditions of service and uncoordinated relationships between Government as an employer and some civil servants.


“The Act thus establishes a single public service; ensures consistent terms and conditions of employment for all government employees; and installs systematic collective bargaining processes.” Meanwhile, it remains a mystery on what the government is trying to achieve by the impending amendment to the Act. Some say they are trying to climb down on the workers’ rights to bargain effectively. The new imminent amendments to the Act are seen as a target to the Bargaining Council which gives the government of the day sleepless nights.


Some say it is a drawback also to the current legislatures as it is moving away from the spirit of ILO in terms of standards and conventions of giving power to workers. When reached for comment concerning the amendments, a negotiating partner at the PSBC and part of the tripartite arrangement at ILO, Botswana Federation of Public, Private and Parastatal Sectors Union (BOFEPUSU) Secretary General Tobokani Rari said they were never consulted when the amendments were being made and as such don’t approve of them.


“We are surprised that the bill has now been gazetted contrary to all the promises. We would like to state for the record that there has not been any meaningful consultation,” he told Weekend Post in an interview this week. Rari narrated that they wrote to government requesting that they be given reasons for the intended amendment, but the employer never replied. He added that they nevertheless proceeded to write, providing their views on the intended amendments “hoping for further physical engagement on the same”.


“We then met Director of DPSM in March 2017 where we asked about the engagement on the proposed amendments. At this meeting the Director intimated to us that the amendments were about to be gazetted, but however stated that she would engage the Minister on the possibility of halting the process for further engagements,” the unionist pointed out.


Rari continued: “we then met Minister Mabeo recently during the month of April. We raised the same matter of consultation. At this meeting we came to a common ground that with the assistance of an ILO team of experts, the amendment of all the labour laws would be harmonised and as such we were assured of further engagement.”


During the month of the same month of April, Rari said they also met Assistant Minister in the Office of the President Thato Kwerepe whereat the very issue was raised yet again. According to Rari, Minister Kwerepe assured the delegation that BOFEPUSU would be consulted before gazetting the bill.


The BOFEPUSU SG stressed that the courts have on several occasions dealt with the concept of meaningful consultation or engagement. He said it involves parties exchanging views over a matter. “In this case our view is that there has not been any meaningful consultation,” he said of the Public Service Act pending amendments. What the union federation says about the bill


In a letter to DPSM Director Ruth Maphorisa, BOFEPUSU say they want her to share their reasons for seeking to depart from the existing practice, as per the 2008 Act, in appointing the PSBC Secretariat. In light of this the union stated: “the selection of the secretary of the council has since the inception of the PSBC been the joint responsibility of both government as well as Trade Unions sitting at the PSBC. Additionally, the discharge of the role has never been restricted to public servants.”
 


In another issue, the union says PSBC has been functioning effectively as a forum for dispute resolution, and it assists with evenly distributing the workload of dispute resolution. “The PSBC is especially the more ideal forum for public servants with grievances against the government as the officers presiding over the disputes are not public servants. It is furthermore open to everyone regardless of whether they are unionised or not and regardless of whether their union forms part of the PSBC,” they contended.

 
The union asked Maphorisa to shed more light in terms of the rationale for proposing the change so that they may make meaningful representations in respect of the same. “The aforementioned proposed amendment runs contrary to the spirit of negotiating in good faith. The hallmark of negotiating in good faith is that an employer must not take any steps averse to the party negotiating on behalf of its members.” They also asked the DPSM Director to confer a benefit on employees whilst negotiations are ongoing saying it makes a complete mockery of the entire bargaining process and it automatically tilts the scales in favour of government.


They continued: “clause 79 (1) provides that recognition will entitle a union to one seat at the PSBC. The implication of this provision is simply that a union like the National Amalgamated Local, Central Government and Parastatal Workers Union (NALCGPWU”) which has more than 20,000 members will have the same voice as a union like Trainers and Allied Workers Union (“TAWU”) which has less than 200 members.”


With this in mind, BOFEPUSU explained that they failed to appreciate the rationale behind granting a union whose members represent a negligible percentage of the entire workforce the opportunity to speak on behalf of everyone else. They also pointed out that clause 74 incorporates a proviso restricting representatives of trade unions admitted to the PSBC to public officers. “We would like to understand why there has been a drastic departure from ILO standards as well as local case law which has authoritatively pronounced on this issue,” the union highlighted.


They emphasised that the ILO position is to encourage collective bargaining as well as its autonomy. Article 3 of the ILO of 98, they said, provides as follows: Article 3. (1)   “Workers' and employers' organisations shall have the right to draw up their constitutions and rules, to elect their representatives in full freedom, to organise their administration and activities and to formulate their programmes. 3. (2)   the public authorities shall refrain from any interference which would restrict this right or impede the lawful exercise thereof.”


According to BOFEPUSU, the issues they raised constitute some of concerns in relation to the proposed bill. In light of the foregoing, he said it is critical that government shares what informed the proposed change.

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Botswana’s development agenda in jeopardy

21st September 2020
Botswana’s-development-agenda-in-jeopardy--water-construction

Stanbic Bank Botswana Quarterly Economic Review indicates that Botswana will fail to meet some of its Vision 2036 targets, particularly unemployment reduction and reaching high-income status.

The report says this is mainly due to the slow economic growth that the country is currently experiencing. This Quarterly Economic Review focuses on the 2020 Budget Speech.

The first paper reviews the entire budget with its key observations being that this budget is prepared as prescribed by the Public Finance Management Act; the priorities it seeks to address are drawn from Vision 2036 and the eleventh

The 2020 budget Speech, which was the maiden speech by the Minister of Finance and Economic Development, Dr. Thapelo Matsheka, and the first after the 2019 general elections, was delivered to Parliament on the 4th of February 2020.

It has been well received by the labour unions, business community, and the public at large as well as international organisations such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

It mainly derived its support from key facets including, emphasis on changing the business-as-usual approach to development; outlining the transformation agenda; fiscal reform that minimizes the negative impact on economic development and human welfare, competiveness and the decision to implement the 2019 negotiated and agreed public sector.

The budget’s progress review shows that economic growth was consistent with the NDP 11 projections, with growth of around 4 percent. At this growth rate, the country would neither ascend to a high-income status nor reduce unemployment towards the Vision 2036 target of a single digit.

Simple calculations of this review confirm that the economy will need to grow the Vision 2036’s target of 6 percent over the next 16 years for per capita income to increase from around USD 8,000.00 to above USD 12,000.00 in current prices.

Further, the population is anticipated to grow by only 2 percent per annum.

For this reason, the focal areas for the forthcoming FY’s budget include measures to increase economic growth towards an average of 6 percent per annum.

Economic diversification is reportedly progressing fairly well. The report says, the share of the non-mining private sector in value added has risen to 66 percent in 2018 from to 63 percent in 2015.

The sectoral pattern of growth showed that the performance of services sector (particularly transport & communications, trade, hotels & restaurants, and finance & business services) has been the silver lining and that of mining sector was subdued whilst the utility sector disappointed.

The drive towards the service sector of the economy, especially to low-productivity activities (tourism, public administration, wholesaling and retailing) does not bode well for the country’s development aspirations.

In the previous versions of this Quarterly Review, it was noted that there is need for the rethinking of economic diversification. Since the country’s domestic market is small, it is inevitable that economic diversification not only focus on broadening the product mix, but also the composition of exports and markets.

This understanding of economic diversification has not been embraced by this year’s budget. Consequently, Botswana’s exports are still overwhelmingly diamonds, which means that the rest of economic sectors are still highly dependent on foreign-exchange earnings from diamonds. Thus, “the transformation programme requires a review of the country’s entire ecosystem”.

The budget review of the economic context also depicts that an economy with positive medium-term prospects, with growth expected to recover to 4.4 percent in 2020 from the expected growth of 36 percent in 2019 largely due to faster growth of services sectors and, thereafter, to slow-down to 4 percent in 2021.

These projected growth rates are comparable to those of the IMF staff’s baseline scenario of 4.2 percent in 2020 and 4 percent in 2021. Thus, the business-as-usual scenario produces growth rates that are still too low to achieve Botswana’s development objectives and create enough jobs to absorb the new entrants into the labour market.

Trade tensions between the two major markets for diamond exports, viz., the United States of America and China, is one of the factors that are cited as contributing to, indeed, undermining not only the domestic growth, but also the fiscal position.

Another notable downside risk to both global and domestic growth is outbreak of the coronavirus in China around January 2020. This has been declared as a global health emergency. In an attempt to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus pneumonia, the Chinese authorities have ordered city lockdowns and extended holidays, of course, at the expense of near- term economic growth, according to the new Stanbic Bank Botswana report.

According to Nomura Holdings Inc., fewer migrant workers returned for work than in previous years and business activities have been slow to pick up. The havoc wreaked by the virus on the world’s second largest economy is likely to spill over to the global economy. In fact, it has resulted in a glut in crude oil and, thereby placed oil markets into a contango, i.e., a market structure where near-term prices trade at a discount to future contracts.

It also presents significant risks one of Botswana’s main drivers of economic growth, diversification and foreign exchange earnings. According to the Financial Times (February 13, 2020), Chinese tourists spent $130 billion overseas in 2018. Regardless of whether the growth materializes, the projected domestic growth rate would not transform the economy to a high-income one.

Progress towards reduction of unemployment, to a target of single digit, and poverty and achieving inclusive growth has also been relatively slow, the Stanbic Bank Botswana Review says.

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OP leases Orapa House

21st September 2020
Orapa House

Ministry of Presidential Affairs, Governance and Public Administration (MOPAGPA) has through the Office of the President (OP) proposed to avail Orapa House for use by private training institutions as well as research institutions involved in the area of technology development.

For a very long time the monumental building located in the heart of the city has been a white elephant, despite government purchasing it for nearly P80 million from De Beers in 2012.

However, government has now identified a productive use for the iconic building. “The overall vision is for the building to be transformed into a hub for digital technology research and development to be carried-out by institutions, such as; Limkokwing University, BIUST, BITRI and other relevant stakeholders.”

The decision was taken as government traverse a new path of transforming the economy from a mineral led economy to a knowledge based economy through the promotion of research and innovation. However, the facility will need major maintenance to be carried-out in order to meet the requirements of the proposed change in use.

“The work will include provision of laboratories, work stations, production areas and seminar rooms; audio visual centre, high speed internet connectivity, exhibition areas and offices,” reads the proposal note for the development.

These developments will be done through the refurbishment and maintenance of the main building, workshop, and ablution block, gate house, parking area, grounds, and access control and security service.

“There will be minimal modifications to the structure as it stands. The project is estimated to cost approximately P50, 000, 000,” says the report. In this regard, it is said, the initial scope of the OP facility will be modified to accommodate the envisaged digital technology research and development hub.

With funds needed to improve the building, OP has requested that; “the 2020/21 annual budget provision for Orapa House will need to be increased by P37,500,000 from P2,500,000 to P40,000,000 to kick start the maintenance works.” Funds will be sourced from the projects that have been delayed due to Covid-19 protocols during the 2020/21 financial year.

The building has been a thorny issue for government for years. Initially, OP was expected to move there but the move never materialised. At one point it was a question of whether the Office of the President and the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development were planning to override a decision by Parliament which rejected the proposal to buy Orapa House under the belief that government may be buying its own property. The building was to be bought at a negotiated cost of P79 million.

Again in 2012, Government had wanted to buy Orapa House for a negotiated P79m but the Finance and Estimates Committee of Parliament had rejected the request because of the inconsistencies realised in the supporting documents of the proposed procurement. The valuation of the building was put at P74 million.

The Ministry of Lands and Housing had initially offered De Beers P73, 000,000 as the purchase price. However, De Beers countered with P85, 000,000. On negotiation and converging of the minds, the selling price was finally agreed at P79, 000,000.

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Sad state of Brigades: dumped and ignored!

21st September 2020
Brigades

Auditor General, Pulane Letebele, has expressed discontentment at the worrying and deteriorating state of brigades in the country.

In an audit inspection which was carried out at Tshwaragano Brigade in Gabane, a number of observations showed weaknesses and shortcomings in the conduct of the financial affairs of the institution.

According to Letebele’s report, former students of the brigade had been engaged to carry out maintenance works on the school premises, comprising of painting, tiling, plumbing and electrical works, which covered the period from July 2017 to June 2018.

Although the agreed maintenance period had elapsed, the works had not been completed because of unavailability of funds and this situation had persisted up till the time of inspection in November 2019.

Auditor General says arrangements should have been made in time for funds to be available to complete these relatively minor works even before the works commenced.

Various contractors had been engaged for clearing the bush and for the supply of concrete stones, pit and river sand and hiring equipment for digging the trench towards the construction of an auto mechanics workshop, the report said.

It stated that the cost of services and supplies provided totalled P117 949.80. However, despite the services and the supplies having been paid for, the construction works had not commenced for a long period afterwards, resulting in the trench filling back in.

The audit inquiries had not elicited satisfactory responses as both the institution and the Ministry had not accepted the responsibility for the project, although orders for the provision for the supplies had been made. For their part, the Ministry had stated that they had sub warranted funds for the purchase of porta cabins.

Letebele indicated that it is therefore confusing that a project which is critical to the functioning of an institution such as this one would commence without a well-defined plan.

Furthermore, the accounting and maintenance of records for the supplies items were not of the standard prescribed by the Supplies Regulations and Procedures in that the supplies ledger cards, the main accounting records for Government assets, were not properly maintained for the recording of receipts and issues.

This had resulted in significant discrepancies between physical and ledger balances, while in other instances the supplies items had not been recorded at all.

The report says 24 of the 91 new computers found in the computer laboratory at Kumakwane ABC campus were not recorded anywhere, as were the other computers in the storeroom which could not be counted due to the disorderly storage conditions.

The institution had entered into a contract agreement with a security company for the provision of security services at Tshwaragano Brigade, ABC and Horticulture campuses at Kumakwane for a 2-year period which ended in June 2018, WeekendPost learnt.

After the contract expired in June 2018, an extension was granted till the 30th September 2018. Since then, there has been no security service coverage for the institution to-date. According to Auditor General, in the face of prevailing crimes, it is of paramount importance that government properties be protected by provision of security services at all times.

At Tlokweng Brigade, it was noted that the kitchen staff were working under difficult conditions as the kitchen facilities and equipment, such as the cold room, tilting pot, food warmers and solar power for hot water were dysfunctional. The kitchen roof was leaking and men’s restrooms was not working. All these need to be brought to a reasonable and functional state of repair.

The kitchen staff should use a purpose-designed Rations Ledger for the recording of receipts and issues of foodstuffs to reflect the usage of those items. As far back as 2014 the Department of Buildings and Engineering Services had found that the house occupied by the bursar was uninhabitable on account of structural defects, the report said.

A site visit during the audit had established that the house was indeed unfit for occupation as there were cracks on the walls, power switches were not working and the roof was leaking. On a sadder note, there were a number of finished items of clothing, such as dresses, shirts, and jackets from students’ practical exercises from the Fashion Design Textiles Workshop.

Auditor General shared her take on this, saying: “I have not been able to ascertain the policy on the disposal of products from these practicals. A trace of 103 green acid-proof overalls which had been purchased in August 2018 had indicated that there was no record of these items having been recorded or issued, nor were they available in stock. I was not able to obtain any explanation for this situation.”

Kgatleng brigade was also audited and inspected by Auditor General who observed that the brigade has 26 institutional houses at Bokaa, both old campus and new campus. Some of these houses are very old and dilapidated, with two declared uninhabitable. The condition of the houses is a clear indication of lack of care and maintenance of these properties.

At the time of the audit, there was no contractor engaged for the provision of security guard services at the new campus, after expiry of the previous one in July 2019.  It is hoped that steps would be taken to safeguard the security of the premises and government properties against any acts of hooliganism.

In August 2019, there was a break-in at the electrical and at the plumbing maintenance workshops and a number of high value items, such as drilling machines, bolt cutters, spanners and cables, were stolen. The break-in and theft were reported to the police.

“However, at the time of writing this report I was not aware of the outcome of the police investigation, nor of any loss report submitted in terms of the Supplies Regulations and Procedures,” Letebele said.

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