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FNBB CEO orders probe into Itsose business competition

FNBB Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Steven Bogatsu

First National Bank of Botswana (FNBB) Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Steven Bogatsu has instructed the bank to investigate the fracas relating to Itsose business competition through which the bank was to finance some business projects to enhance the spirit of entrepreneurship in Botswana.

The aim of FNB Itsose business competition was to “fast track the start-up and growth of businesses with great potential and support their long term success” and to “facilitate the provision of funding to entrepreneurs who meet the criteria of the competition’s funding partners.”

The projects who were expected to be funded emanated from the last 10 front-runners with the business plans out of 2 800 applicants who have thrown their hats in the ring for the then seemingly lucrative and promising competition.

Itsose business competition was initiated under the tenure of the then bank CEO, Danny Zandamela who then passed the baton to Lorato Boakgomo and lately Bogatsu. Bogatsu is said to be unversed on how the competition ravelled since its inception as he was yet to rise to the helm of the bank when it started.

Bogatsu orders a full investigation onto the matter following a Weekend Post exposé earlier in February where there were complaints from some competition winners to the effect that they had not received funding as promised.

It is understood that he has instructed his subordinate to lead the investigation and report back to management.

“Bogatsu gave a directive to the Director of Business to investigate what exactly transpired with the Itsose business project that has led to the current hullabaloo; leading to some of our clients not being assisted according to client specifications,” a highly placed source who preferred anonymity hinted.

Through the inception of the project in 2008, initially close to 2 800 participants had entered the competition and out of that number only 100 were selected and taken through training and development. They were then allocated 3 weeks to craft their business proposals which were later presented before a panel of judges in which only 10 winners with the best proposals emerged.

The ten winners were Thabo Ntshinogang, Setaung Setaung, Moagi Kelerile, Tumo Kgopo, Thomas Bika, Elliot Phindela, Eric Malefu, Kefentse Masimolole, Tiroyaone  Barungwi and Darryl Ellitson.

Information reaching this publication also suggests that there was a secretive 40 million pula which may have been set aside by the bank for the funding of the 10 winners. It is understood that at the time, the money was reserved to finance those proposals as they were regarded as “special projects” that needed to be pursued and be supported.

At the time, FNBB Head of Business Banking, Tsholofelo Kokorwe had stated that 21% of the finalists entered business ideas in the field of Agriculture, 6% in Tourism, 19% in Services, 19% in Manufacturing and the rest in other sector, and that more than half the entrants came from places outside Gaborone.

Projects that could not receive funding through the competition include a condom dispenser, beekeeping, waste management, a piggery business, advertising, a sports academy, a driving school and safari and toll gates among others.

One of the 10 winners, Thabo Ntshinogang could not hide his disappointment with the FNBB and stated, “yes I was one of the last 10 winners. Owaii! Indeed they (FNBB) reneged on their promise. We only received laptops, cell phones and P10 000.”

According to Ntshinogang, even Local Enterprise Authority (LEA) was supposed to assist them find mentors and funding, but they failed dismally.

“I don't mind being part of this story because I believe all the organisations which were involved in the competitions didn't seem serious about the whole thing,” he further lamented.

Another competition winner, Tumo Kgopo, who FNB claimed to have funded was allegedly harassed after he got the money which was “way below” what his business needed.

However, just this week, FNBB Director of Marketing and Communications, Obonye Malope told WeekendPost in an e-mail enquiry that, “two citizen-owned companies that participated in the competition were funded; however, in compliance with our standard banking regulations and responsible practice, we cannot disclose private details of our customers. As a responsible organisation, we uphold the confidentiality of our customers’ information in utmost regard.”

That notwithstanding, this publication has it on good authority that, Tumo Kgopo was the only one funded albeit with a little amount. He was apparently funded with P167 000 while his project of waste management needed close to 3 million pula to take off and sustain itself.  

Another winner that FNBB claims to have funded is Tiroyaone Barungwi who it turns out was never funded.

Malope also insisted that LEA may be a better place to seek such data as this (Itsose competition) was a LEA Programme. She pointed out that “as previously stated, the remaining eight contestants were referred to LEA for advice and alternative funding opportunities.”

When efforts were made to solicit a comment from LEA Chief Executive Officer, Tebogo Matome, he was said to be in a meeting. Matome has been steering the ship at LEA since its inception in 2007.

In the FNB Itsose business competition, LEA provided mentoring and monitoring of the projects. The University of Botswana Business Clinic also participated to ensure business coaching and Sunday Standard also assisted with promotion and publicity for the business competition. FNB was said to be tasked with financing the projects.  

The FNBB Director of Marketing and Communications explained that they are in the business of responsible lending and thus do not prescribe to providing loans that would potentially cripple a beneficiary.

“This would be irresponsible of us to do so and further more would be irresponsible in the eyes of our shareholders and, most importantly, to those we lend to,” she maintained.

According to Malope, it is rather regrettable that WeekendPost would suggest that FNBB has created a “Fiasco” when in fact the opposite is true. “We stood up when LEA asked us to get involved, as we believe it is important to help SMMEs in Botswana grow,” she highlighted in the response.

Conversely Malope stated ambiguously that, “we wish to clarify that this competition was not a donation, but was simply meant to provide Small, Medium and Micro-sized Enterprises (SMME’s) with the correct framework to have a fair chance at success.”

The adjudication processes, according to her was made clear in their terms and conditions which all participants were furnished with-that winners would still need to undergo the normal credit application for funding.

Section 8 of the competition terms and conditions stated that, “I accept and agree that funding is not guaranteed even if I win the competition. And while FNBB will endeavour to fund my proposal, any such funding is subject to satisfactorily conclusion of a due diligence investigation or any other investigation which FNBB may deem necessary; furthermore any funding shall be subject to the negotiation and conclusion of an agreement between myself/ourselves and FNBB.”

The FNBB spokesperson maintained that they want SMME’s to succeed so they are able to contribute to the economy and most importantly, to service the loans they take out without undue stress to their businesses. She said they are also big believers that financial institutions should not be too quick to put SMMEs into debt.

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DIS blasted for cruelty – UN report

26th July 2022
DIS BOSS: Magosi

Botswana has made improvements on preventing and ending arbitrary deprivation of liberty, but significant challenges remain in further developing and implementing a legal framework, the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention said at the end of a visit recently.

Head of the delegation, Elina Steinerte, appreciated the transparency of Botswana for opening her doors to them. Having had full and unimpeded access and visited 19 places of deprivation of liberty and confidentiality interviewing over 100 persons deprived of their liberty.

She mentioned “We commend Botswana for its openness in inviting the Working Group to conduct this visit which is the first visit of the Working Group to the Southern African region in over a decade. This is a further extension of the commitment to uphold international human rights obligations undertaken by Botswana through its ratification of international human rights treaties.”

Another good act Botswana has been praised for is the remission of sentences. Steinerte echoed that the Prisons Act grants remission of one third of the sentence to anyone who has been imprisoned for more than one month unless the person has been sentenced to life imprisonment or detained at the President’s Pleasure or if the remission would result in the discharge of any prisoner before serving a term of imprisonment of one month.

On the other side; The Group received testimonies about the police using excessive force, including beatings, electrocution, and suffocation of suspects to extract confessions. Of which when the suspects raised the matter with the magistrates, medical examinations would be ordered but often not carried out and the consideration of cases would proceed.

“The Group recall that any such treatment may amount to torture and ill-treatment absolutely prohibited in international law and also lead to arbitrary detention. Judicial authorities must ensure that the Government has met its obligation of demonstrating that confessions were given without coercion, including through any direct or indirect physical or undue psychological pressure. Judges should consider inadmissible any statement obtained through torture or ill-treatment and should order prompt and effective investigations into such allegations,” said Steinerte.

One of the group’s main concern was the DIS held suspects for over 48 hours for interviews. Established under the Intelligence and Security Service Act, the Directorate of Intelligence and Security (DIS) has powers to arrest with or without a warrant.

The group said the “DIS usually requests individuals to come in for an interview and has no powers to detain anyone beyond 48 hours; any overnight detention would take place in regular police stations.”

The Group was able to visit the DIS facilities in Sebele and received numerous testimonies from persons who have been taken there for interviewing, making it evident that individuals can be detained in the facility even if the detention does not last more than few hours.

Moreover, while arrest without a warrant is permissible only when there is a reasonable suspicion of a crime being committed, the evidence received indicates that arrests without a warrant are a rule rather than an exception, in contravention to article 9 of the Covenant.

Even short periods of detention constitute deprivation of liberty when a person is not free to leave at will and in all those instances when safeguards against arbitrary detention are violated, also such short periods may amount to arbitrary deprivation of liberty.

The group also learned of instances when persons were taken to DIS for interviewing without being given the possibility to notify their next of kin and that while individuals are allowed to consult their lawyers prior to being interviewed, lawyers are not allowed to be present during the interviews.

The UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention mentioned they will continue engaging in the constructive dialogue with the Government of Botswana over the following months while they determine their final conclusions in relation to the country visit.

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Stan Chart halts civil servants property loan facility

26th July 2022
Stan-Chart

Standard Chartered Bank Botswana (SCBB) has informed the government that it will not be accepting new loan applications for the Government Employees Motor Vehicle and Residential Property Advance Scheme (GEMVAS and LAMVAS) facility.

This emerges in a correspondence between Acting Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Finance Boniface Mphetlhe and some government departments. In a letter he wrote recently to government departments informing them of the decision, Mphetlhe indicated that the Ministry received a request from the Bank to consider reviewing GEMVAS and LAMVAS agreement.

He said: “In summary SCBB requested the following; Government should consider reviewing GEMVAS and LAMVAS interest rate from prime plus 0.5% to prime plus 2%.” The Bank indicated that the review should be both for existing GEMVAS and LAMVAS clients and potential customers going forward.

Mphetlhe said the Bank informed the Ministry that the current GEMVAS and LAMVAS interest rate structure results into them making losses, “as the cost of loa disbursements is higher that their end collections.”

He said it also requested that the loan tenure for the residential property loans to be increased from 20 to 25 years and the loan tenure for new motor vehicles loans to be increased from 60 months to 72 months.

Mphetlhe indicated that the Bank’s request has been duly forwarded to the Directorate of Public Service Management for consideration, since GEMVAS and LAMVAS is a Condition of Service Scheme. He saidthe Bank did also inform the Ministry that if the matter is not resolved by the 6th June, 2022, they would cease receipt of new GEMVAS and LAMVAS loan applications.

“A follow up virtual meeting was held to discuss their resolution and SCB did confirm that they will not be accepting any new loans from GEMVAS and LAMVAS. The decision includes top-up advances,” said Mphetlhe. He advised civil servants to consider applying for loans from other banks.

In a letter addressed to the Ministry, SCBB Chief Executive Officer Mpho Masupe informed theministry that, “Reference is made to your letter dated 18th March 2022 wherein the Ministry had indicated that feedback to our proposal on the above subject is being sought.”

In thesame letter dated 10 May 2022, Masupe stated that the Bank was requesting for an update on the Ministry’s engagements with the relevant stakeholder (Directorate of Public Service Management) and provide an indicative timeline for conclusion.

He said the “SCBB informs the Ministry of its intention to cease issuance of new loans to applicants from 6th June 2022 in absence of any feedback on the matter and closure of the discussions between the two parties.”  Previously, Masupe had also had requested the Ministry to consider a review of clause 3 of the agreement which speaks to the interest rate charged on the facilities.

Masupe indicated in the letter dated 21 December 2021 that although all the Banks in the market had signed a similar agreement, subject to amendments that each may have requested. “We would like to suggest that our review be considered individually as opposed to being an industry position as we are cognisant of the requirements of section 25 of the Competition Act of 2018 which discourages fixing of pricing set for consumers,” he said.

He added that,“In this way,clients would still have the opportunity to shop around for more favourable pricing and the other Banks, may if they wish to, similarly, individually approach your office for a review of their pricing to the extent that they deem suitable for their respective organisations.”

Masupe also stated that: “On the issue of our request for the revision of the Interest Rate, we kindly request for an increase from the current rate of prime plus 0.5% to prime plus 2%, with no other increases during the loan period.” The Bank CEO said the rationale for the request to review pricing is due to the current construct of the GEMVAS scheme which is currently structured in a way that is resulting in the Bank making a loss.

“The greater part of the GEMVAS portfolio is the mortgage boo which constitutes 40% of the Bank’s total mortgage portfolio,” said Masupe. He saidthe losses that the Bank is incurring are as a result of the legacy pricing of prime plus 0% as the 1995 agreement which a slight increase in the August 2018 agreement to prime plus 0.5%.

“With this pricing, the GEMVAS portfolio has not been profitable to the Bank, causing distress and impeding its ability to continue to support government employees to buy houses and cars. The portfolio is currently priced at 5.25%,” he said.  Masupe said the performance of both the GEMVAS home loan and auto loan portfolios in terms of profitability have become unsustainable for the Bank.

Healso said, when the agreement was signed in August 2018, the prime lending rate was 6.75% which made the pricing in effect at the time sufficient from a profitable perspective. “It has since dropped by a total 1.5%. The funds that are loaned to customers are sourced at a high rate, which now leaves the Bank with marginal profits on the portfolio before factoring in other operational expenses associated with administration of the scheme and after sales care of the portfolio,” said the CEO.

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Botswana ranked 129 in female MPs representation

26th July 2022
Minister of Finance & Economic Development Peggy Serame

The Global Gender Gap Index, a report published by the World Economic Forum annually, has indicated that Botswana is among countries that fare badly when it comes to representation of women in legislative bodies.

The latest Global Gender Gap Index, published last week, benchmarks the current state and evolution of gender parity across four key dimensions (Economic Participation and Opportunity, Educational Attainment, Health and Survival, and Political Empowerment). It is the longest-standing index which tracks progress towards closing these gaps over time since its inception in 2006.

This year, the Global Gender Gap Index benchmarked 146 countries. Of these, a subset of 102 countries have been represented in every edition of the index since 2006, further providing a large constant sample for time series analysis.

Botswana ranks number 66 overall (out of 146 countries), with good rankings in most of the pillars. Botswana ranks 1st in Health and Survival, 7th in the Economic Participation and Opportunity, 22nd in Educational Attainment, and 129th in Political Empowerment.

The Global Gender Gap Index measures scores on a 0 to 100 scale and scores can be interpreted as the distance covered towards parity (i.e. the percentage of the gender gap that has been closed). The cross-country comparisons aim to support the identification of the most effective policies to close gender gaps.

The Economic Participation and Opportunity sub-index contains three concepts: the participation gap, the remuneration gap and the advancement gap. The participation gap is captured using the difference between women and men in labour-force participation rates. The remuneration gap is captured through a hard data indicator (ratio of estimated female-to-male earned income) and a qualitative indicator gathered through the World Economic Forum’s annual Executive Opinion Survey (wage equality for similar work).

Finally, the gap between the advancement of women and men is captured through two hard data statistics (the ratio of women to men among legislators, senior officials and managers, and the ratio of women to men among technical and professional workers).

The Educational Attainment sub-index captures the gap between women’s and men’s current access to education through the enrolment ratios of women to men in primary-, secondary- and tertiary-level education. A longer-term view of the country’s ability to educate women and men in equal numbers is captured through the ratio of women’s literacy rate to men’s literacy rate.

Health and Survival sub-index provides an overview of the differences between women’s and men’s health using two indicators. The first is the sex ratio at birth, which aims specifically to capture the phenomenon of “missing women”, prevalent in countries with a strong son preference. Second, the index uses the gap between women’s and men’s healthy life expectancy.

This measure provides an estimate of the number of years that women and men can expect to live in good health by accounting for the years lost to violence, disease, malnutrition and other factors.
Political Empowerment sub-index measures the gap between men and women at the highest level of political decision-making through the ratio of women to men in ministerial positions and the ratio of women to men in parliamentary positions. In addition, the reported included the ratio of women to men in terms of years in executive office (prime minister or president) for the last 50 years.

In the last general elections, only three women won elections, compared to 54 males. The three women are; Nnaniki Makwinja (Lentsweletau-Mmopane), Talita Monnakgotla (Kgalagadi North), and Anna Mokgethi (Gaborone Bonnington North). Four women were elected through Specially Elected dispensation; Peggy Serame, Dr Unity Dow, Phildah Kereng and Beauty Manake. All female MPs — save Dow, who resigned — are members of the executive.

Overall, Botswana has 63 seats, all 57 elected by the electorates, and six elected by parliament. Early this year, Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) secretary general and Gaborone North MP, Mpho Balopi, successfully moved a motion in parliament calling for increment of elective seats from 57 to 61. Balopi contented that population growth demands the country respond by increasing the number of MPs.

In Africa, Botswana play second fiddle to countries like Rwanda, Namibia, South Africa, Burundi, and Zimbabwe who have better representation of women, with Rwanda being the only country with more than 50 percent of women in parliament.

The low number of women in parliament is attributed to Botswana’s current, electoral system, First-Past-the-Post. During the 9th parliament, then MP for Mahalapye East tabled a motion in parliament in which she sort to increase the number of Specially Elected MPs in parliament to augment female representation in the National Assembly.

The motion was opposed famously, by then Specially Elected MP, Botsalo Ntuane, who said the citizens were not in favour of such a move since it dilute democracy, instead suggesting the Botswana should switch to Proportional-Representation-System. Botswana is currently undergoing Constitutional Review process, with the commission, appointed in December, expected to deliver the report to President Mokgweetsi Masisi by September this year.

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