Member of Parliament for Gaborone Bonnington South, Ndaba Gaolathe has slammed government’s misuse of public funds, saying that the state at which public funds are being thrown around willy-nilly has reached a ‘tragedy.’
Gaolathe made the remarks in parliament following a Ministry of Finance and Economic Development request before parliament, for a supplementary budget for a strange second time in a single financial year. Gaolathe who resigned from the Finance and Estimates Committee due to its ‘lack of integrity’ has expressed his disappointment with a continued pattern of throwing away money willy-nilly with little regard to prudent financial management required by the constitution.
“I put it to you as Parliament that there is no process at all. In a progressive Parliament and in a progressive system, a parliamentary committee is supposed to have an objective process by which not only do they evaluate these projects but they actually score them on a number of criteria,” he said.
“One of these criteria may include the feasibility of what is being proposed. It could be the capacity of those ministries to actually manage the funds that they are being asked for. It could be the test against which the requirements of the Constitution whether these are indeed emergency requests, but there has to be a scoring process.”
Farmed and nurtured in United States (US) universities, Gaolathe hinted that in a progressive parliament with a proper budgeting system, some requests as presented by Minister Nonofo Molefhi who was standing in for Kenneth Matambo would not have seen the light of the day. Gaolathe said it is irresponsible for parliament as elected representatives of the people to be deliberating over billions, millions and hundreds of funds without a proper process and a proper personnel infrastructure.
“It is very strange. I have seen governments and companies where assessments are done by experts. In this Parliament we have a Committee that does not have the machinery and the infrastructure to give a technical assessment about whether what we are receiving from the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development or from the Executive of our Government system has merits,” he said.
“When you look at the request to pay Government mail P5.7 million of outstanding invoices, the report simply says this request has been acceded to. No reasons why this should have been agreed. This is not an emergency request.” Gaolathe further said the request by the Directorate of Intelligence and Security (DIS) of P15.5 million which was relating to the expanded security, management of security system platforms for the BOT50 celebrations was uncalled for.
“I really fail to understand how one can justify such a quantum for something that has been planned for in any case. Everyone had known that there would be BOT50 and I do not understand how that would jack up DIS expenditure by P15, 5 million,” Gaolathe questioned. “We have already indicated from the National Development Plan 11, the annual expenditures, that the amounts of monies that are being channelled to the DIS are very difficult to justify. This is just an extension, indication, a pattern that every excuse and avenue to give more money to this parasitic and rogue institution is exploited.”
Gaolathe said the path which parliament has taken is “a tragedy, a travesty in the affairs of our nation.” “I think it would be remiss, it would be irresponsible of me if I do not sound the alarm to this House that we cannot continue like this as an institution. We cannot continue to have a committee that is nothing but a rubberstamp,” he warned. “These committees are intended to be the framers of the Constitution. The founders of this country had the intent to create a robust system, through which and by which our public funds should be managed.”
According to him, the way to create a robust system is by creating an exquisite system of checks and balances. “I was looking at the specific expenditure for the Public Officers Medical Aid had additional expenditure of P70 million, again this cannot be an emergency. We do know that premiums normally do increase every year. These are figures that should have been anticipated. These are figures that should have been projected. I see no reason why they should appear as supplementary expenditures,” he said.
“When I look at the specific expenditure requested by the Tourism Ministry for the Tourism Organisation, P10 million additional requested to cater for the international travel vote. Again these cannot reasonably be deemed to be figures that would have been unanticipated.” Since being elected to parliament in 2014, the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) Vice President has advocated for Parliament to establish a budget office, with the infrastructure, capabilities and the capacity to be able to make its own assessment. Gaolathe has also advocated for parliament to have its own lawyers for MPs to be able to draft private members’ bills.
The Directorate of Public Prosecutions (DPP)’s decision to reject and appeal the High Court’s verdict on a case involving High Court Judge, Dr Zein Kebonang has frustrated the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) and Judge Kebonang’s back to work discussions.
JSC and Kebonang have been in constant discussions over the latter’s return to work following a ruling by a High Court panel of judges clearing him of any wrong doing in the National Petroleum Fund criminal case filed by the DPP. However the finalization of the matter has been hanged on whether the DPP will appeal the matter or not – the prosecution body has since appealed.
Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) top brass has declined a request by Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) to negotiate the legal fees occasioned by 2019 general elections petition in which the latter disputed in court the outcome of the elections.
This publication is made aware that UDC Vice President Dumelang Saleshando was left with an egg on his face after the BDP big wigs, comprising of party Chairman Slumber Tsogwane and Secretary General Mpho Balopi rejected his plea.
“He was told that this is a legal matter and therefore their (UDC) lawyer should engage ours (BDP) for negotiations because it is way far from our jurisdiction,” BDP Head of Communications, Kagelelo Kentse, told this publication.
This spelt doom for the main opposition party and Saleshando who seems not to have confidence and that the UDC lawyers have the dexterity to negotiate these kind of matters. It is not clear whether Saleshando requested UDC lawyer Boingotlo Toteng to sit at the table with Bogopa Manewe, Tobedza and Co, who are representing the BDP to strike a deal as per the BDP top echelons suggested.
“From my understanding, the matter is dealt with politically as the two parties are negotiating how to resolve it, but by far nothing has come to me on the matter. So I believe they are still substantively engaging each other,” Toteng said briefly in an interview on Thursday.
UDC petitioners saddled with costs after mounting an unprecedented legal suit before the court to try and overturn BDP’s October 2019 victory. The participants in the legal matter involves 15 parliamentary candidates’ and nine councillors. The UDC petitioned the court and contested the outcome of the elections citing “irregularities in some of the constituencies”.
In a brief ruling in January 2020, Judge President Ian Kirby on behalf of a five-member panel said: “We have no jurisdiction to entertain these appeals. These appeals must be struck out each with costs including costs of counsel”. This was a second blow to the UDC in about a month after their 2019 appeals were dismissed by the High Court a day before Christmas Day.
This week BDP attorneys decided to attach UDC petitioners’ property in a bid to settle the debts. UDC President Duma Boko is among those that will see their property being attached with 14 of his party members. “We have attached some and we are on course. So far, Dr. Mpho Pheko (who contested Gaborone Central) and that of Dr, Micus Chimbombi (who contested Kgalagadi South) will have their assets being sold on the 5th of February 2021,” BDP attorney Basimane Bogopa said.
Asked whether they met with UDC lawyers to try solve the matter, Bogopa said no and added. “Remember we are trying to raise the client’s funds, so after these two others will follow. Right now we are just prioritising those from Court of Appeal, as soon as the high court is done with taxation we will attach.”
Saleshando, when contacted about the outcomes of the meeting with the BDP, told WeekendPost that: “It would not be proper and procedural for me to tell you about the meeting outcomes before I share with UDC National Executive Committee (NEC), so I will have to brief them first.”
UDC NEC will meet on the 20th of next month to deal with a number of thorny issues including settling the legal fees. Negotiations with other opposition parties- Alliance for Progressives and Botswana Patriotic Front (BPF) are also on the agenda.
Currently, UDC has raised P44 238 of the P565 000 needed to cover bills from the Court of Appeal (CoA). This is the amount in a UDC trust account which is paltry funds equating 7.8 per cent of the overall required money. In the past despite the petitioners maintaining that there was promise to assist them to settle legal fees, UDC Spokesperson, Moeti Mohwasa then said the party has never agreed in no way to help them.
“We have just been put in debt by someone,” one of the petitioners told this publication in the past. “President’s (Duma Boko) message was clear at the beginning that money has been sourced somewhere to help with the whole process but now we are here there is nothing and we are just running around trying to make ends meet and pay,” added the petitioner in an interview UDC NEC has in December last year directed all the 57 constituencies to each raise a minimum of P10, 000. The funds will be used to settle debts that are currently engulfing the petitioners with Sheriffs, who are already hovering around ready to attach their assets.
The petitioners, despite the party intervention, have every right to worry. “This is so because ‘the deadline for this initiative (P10, 000 per constituency) is the end of the first quarter of this year (2021),” a period in which the sheriffs would have long auctioned the properties.
President of the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) Duma Boko’s alliance with former President Lt Gen Ian Khama continues to unsettle some quarters within the opposition collective, who believe the duo, if not managed, will once again result in an unsuccessful bid for government in 2024.
While Khama has denied that he has undeclared preference to have Boko remaining as leader of UDC, many believe that the two have a common programme, while other opposition leaders remain on the side-lines.