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Inside Masitara’s double bid

Former Gaborone North West legislator, Robert Masitara this week revealed his intention to take head on, incumbent Mokgweetsi Masisi and cabinet minister, Nonofo Molefhi for the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) chairmanship bid at the July Congress because he harbours a strong ambition of being the country’s next president.

The businessman-cum-philanthropist told this publication in an exclusive interview at his home this week that he has taken the decision to run for chairmanship and also the presidency of the party in order to carry on the legacy of President Ian Khama and also fight corruption in government departments and public enterprises.

He said he should be elected to the party top post because unlike Masisi and Molefhi, he is the only chairmanship candidate who does not belong to any faction because it is necessary to have a united BDP in 2019. “After what President Khama [Ian] has done for this country in terms of coming up with initiatives and internal control systems, I think I am the only person with the expertise  to take over reins to sustain his legacy,” he said.

“I will be tapping on what Khama has done and taking it further. Every country has internal control systems and there is a need to look at them. We need someone well versed with issues of corruption, maladministration, nepotism and all sorts of manifestation of corruption,” he boasted. Masitara who has been alleging that government departments and parastatals are infested with corruption has however praised Khama’s fight for corruption noting that most of the corruption did not emanate during Khama’s presidency.

“They have long been there during the previous administrations. We are starting to feel the effects of decisions which were made 10 or 15 years ago,” he argued. “I recently told a Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC) workshop that most of the problems that we are facing now including those of Air Botswana, Botswana Meat Commission (BMC), Botswana Development Corporation (BDC) and others are results of decision which were made years ago before Khama became the president. We are only starting to feel the effects now.”

Masitara is of the view that most of the laws relating to institutions like DCEC, Financial Intelligence Agency, Directorate on Intelligence Security Services (DISS) need to be recalled and taken back to parliament to be strengthened. “Now we have other manifestations of corruption which are not covered by our DCEC Act. DCEC should be equipped with vast expertise and equipment. There is likelihood in any organisation that people can be corrupted. People holding investigative powers can be corrupted. We have to make sure that these people they investigative equitably and fairly without skewing investigation because of other influences of corruption.”

Masitara revealed part of his ambition to become president is motivated by desire to uproot rot within government and parastatals. “We can only solve issues of corruption if we solve greed. We should start with elements of greed because they are precipitates for corruption. As long as we have got human elements, we will always have those characters,” he noted.

“We can solve greed by having internal controls, life skills audits within government. Some people are misplaced. They are not supposed to be where they are because they have got no expertise and experience. But through nepotism, a form of corruption they have been hired. We need skills audit in all parastatals.”

He said there is nowhere government machinery can be expected to be effective if it is led by people who are not qualified for the positions they are holding. He further contended that many ascended to those posts because of nepotism ahead of deserving individuals who can do the job better. Among the proposed reforms by Masitara is establishing a BDP committee at which quasi-government institutions will be hauled before the committee to account for financial use and their operations.

“We need to do this as a party because people are there for themselves, not to serve. BDP should start debating policies that shape government. We are people who are at the helm of government and we should own these initiatives,” he said. Masitara said corruption is the biggest threat to the country’s economic and socio progress given that fact that all other factors of progress hang on the government’s ability to have a clean and effective government.

“Issue of corruption is at the nucleus. You look at government like a matrix.  Issues of unemployment will come in, issues of diversification will come. All of them hang on the ability to fight corruption,” he said
Masitara further mentioned that a perfect example is the tertiary education sector where government continue to pump money year-in-year out on unaccredited courses because there are people who are benefiting from such arrangements, but government is losing big time.

“Students are graduating from schools which do not offer quality accredited courses but government continue to pump money into these institutions. Students are being taught by teachers who are not qualified, at the end of the day graduates cannot fit within the bucket because they were not trained properly,” he said.

Policy makers must use Schools, Hospitals

Masitara said one of the injustices facing the citizenship is being given poor services by the very same people whom they have chosen to govern their affairs. He said it is necessary through a piece of legislation for policy makers to use public services like schools and hospitals.

“I once stood up in parliament, it is captured even in the hansard, and said the reason why public schools are performing badly is because our (leaders) children do not attend public schools. If the laws could be passed forcing us to take our children to these schools; forcing us to use public clinics and hospitals, we will learn that things are not right, things will change drastically,” he contended.  He said public schools are in a dire state because majority of the people who lead institutions are for themselves and are not committed to delivering quality services for the benefit of the ordinary citizens.

On parastatals and funding institutions

The biggest problem facing parastatals is placing of unqualified people at the helm, as well as greed and corruption, Masitara observed.  He insists that the mandates of these institutions are clear but people at the helm are serving their interests. “Instead of them bringing investors for the benefit of the country, people go there to position themselves.  We need to have people with the right calibre and who are qualified,” he contended.  

“When I applied funding for my forensic investigation company, I got my application rejected. Because they didn’t understand the business, they said it was not feasible. That is the problem, I had to appeal. Now the company has multi-million contracts with big organisations. South Africans are also running around establishing the same business,” Masitara stated and added that, “That is the calibre of the people who sit behind the tables. We need people who are more versed with business and versed with business evaluation. Most of youth bring good ideas; they get rejected because the officers do not understand these ideas.”

Masitara said with his background as a businessman he will lead a new generation of young entrepreneurs with sustainable ideas. He said it is necessary for government to provide proper mentoring and serious partnership with youth owned companies.

Land ownership is a time ticking bomb  

The former legislator has warned that one day, the country will go up in smoke if nothing is done to rectify land allocation in urban and semi-urban areas. “One day the young people will riot and take by force land which is possessed by certain people. We cannot afford to have one person owning 300 plots in Gaborone regardless he has the money and the resources. The system should cut him off.”

 “Free market economy or laissez faire does not preclude us from coming up with our own laws to guard against issues of exploitation. Even if free market tells if you have money you can buy, the system should cut you off. Otherwise the money which is being laundered can be brought here to capture the whole government.”

Investigation of the politically exposed

Masitara said people will be shocked about how people who are politically exposed amassed their wealth at the detriment of the ordinary people. He said while the Declaration of Assets law is a good thing, Lifestyle Audit law is more important because it can unearth all rot because people will be forced to explain how they accumulated their wealth against their income.

“With declaration of assets, people can hide behind relatives and other people you cannot suspect such as their drivers and their maids. With the lifestyle audit there is nowhere to run to,” he said.  “Politically exposed persons should be the subjects of lifestyle audit. Anyone who has political exposure can benefit wrongly from corruption activities; CEOs, ambassadors, Permanent Secretaries, Bank CEOs, MPs, Ministers and everyone who fit among that category.”

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Botswana’s development agenda in jeopardy

21st September 2020

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

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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