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Explosive land deal pits Minister against Lobatse Councillors

A plot by Minister of Mineral Resources, Green Technology and Energy Security who doubles as Member of Parliament for Lobatse, Advocate Sadique Kebonang, is allegedly working in cohorts with Lobatse Town Council (LTC) under the mayor-ship of Malebogo Kruger, to influence the leasing of the town bus rank.


At the time of going to print, the lease was at adjudication process, but the political wing of the Council was abuzz with allegations that all stakes were high for one preferred company (name withheld) to undertake the mega project of building the mall at the site. Kebonang is said to be desperately trying to tilt the scales for selfish ends in this matter.


“The project will be allocated to this particular company because of its association with the area MP and Minister. The awarding of the tender is expected any time soon,” Lobatse Town Councillor for Tsopeng North, Gofaone Kedise, leveled the allegations in a recent interview.


The Council has drafted tender notice and invitation to tender, tender data, standardized condition of tender for the development of the mall and already five companies have tendered. Information reaching this publication suggests that the tender is a restricted internal tender to only five companies and other companies are out of bound to tender.


Reasons for considering only the five is said to be that they have applied before, and at the time of going for press the tenders for the five have been submitted and awaiting adjudication results. The restricted companies for the mall include Star Petroleum (Pty) Ltd, EMRE (Pty) Ltd, KIP (Pty) Ltd, DSP (Pty) Ltd, and Botanka and company.


Councillor Kedise mentioned that out of the five restricted companies bidding for the tender, the four others are just used as pawns to appear like there is an element of transparency. Further, information turned down by this publication suggest that in 2014 February, Kebonang announced at a kgotla meeting that they will be a company to be revealed in due process that will construct the shopping center. Allegedly, it was before Civic leaders knew about where the mall will be built.


However, Kebonang has dismissed suggestions that he is a shareholder in one of the companies bidding for the tender and stressed that he also has no influence in the tendering process, but has interest in it in his capacity only as area MP: “The process is fair and transparent. As an MP, I also talk to many people to come invest in Lobatse but I have no personal interest at all to tilt scales in the tender.”   


The Lobatse lawmaker insisted on his support for the erection of the new mall since it will bring developments, create employment, and arouse economic activity to his constituency. He emphasised that there is no alternative plot to construct the mall and hence they used the bus rank space. He did admit however that he is aware about the discontentment by some. He underscored that developments come with inconvenience but at the end the benefits outweighs the inconvenience.


The new shopping centre is said to be enrooted to contradict the grander development plan for the town, dubbed Lobatse Regeneration Scheme. In the scheme the disposition was to upgrade the existing mall as is. Lobatse Regeneration Scheme has already been funded at the tune of 2 billion pula by the government but Lobatse legislator, Kebonang and LTC appears to have bypassed the grand initiative by moving to erect the mall at the bus rank.


The new-fangled mall will be instituted right on the same bus rank plot 333 under supposedly a Public Private Partnership (PPP) agreement. It will be constructed in an open area of approximately 1.2 hectares which contributes to the 3.36 hectares of the area in totality.
According to the Tsopeng North ward Councillor, Kedise, many proposals were submitted to the Council before, with one by Cambridge Investments (Pty) Ltd who possessed the much needed land and just wanted to meet the Council to sign the Memorandum of Understanding, but were made to wait and rejected.


Further, the new development is expected to take its toll on the informal sector and small business people at the existing bus rank as they will be most disadvantaged and displaced. “The informal sector will be seriously affected by this. The mall near the bus rank will also be negatively affected. The PPP takes its toll on the public because it displaces bus rank and the informal sector but only a few will benefit,” Kedise highlighted.  


But, Lobatse Mayor, Malebogo Kruger, confirmed that the Council will indeed lease the land to what she termed “deserving” investors under PPP arrangement through a transparent tendering process. She said as the Council they support the building of the new mall at the earmarked plot at bus rank despite numerous objections. “We initiated and support the project. We are bringing developments in the form of the new mall. Land belongs to the Council and we are leasing it out to serious investors,” she pointed out briefly.


But Councillor Kedise’s concern is that, as far back as 2007, the Council never advised the many applicants who wished to build malls in other areas of the town about the availability of land at the bus rank. The Council had been rejecting such application in recent years.
“We want the developments like the mall, but we want them clean,” lamented Kedise. He further observed that “we are also conjecturing why ‘all incorporating’ Lobatse Regeneration Scheme was overlooked and the new mall preferred.”


He reminisced that sometime in 2011, Councillor Rosemary Bosilong, moved a motion to the effect “that the Lobatse plantation plot be allocated as one plot for the development of commercial sector.” The motion then passed but however the Council sat on it.
The motion was necessitated by a demand by a number of companies whom also wanted to build a mall at the area.  


It is also said that another company had wanted to build the mall at the Lobatse old stadium plot not far from Botswana Meat Commission (BMC) headquarters – but were both turned down on unclear reasons. On the 29th September 2011, there was also a motion at LTC moved by the then Boswelatlou Councillor, Zubeida Raphael, with the intention to request that Lobatse old stadium plot no. 1890 Civic centre/community be turned into a commercial plot. The motion was however defeated with the reasons that the area is already developed and it cannot be changed.


Some companies from South Africa had also wanted to build a state of the art mall at the same old Lobatse stadium of the similar magnitude as of Olimpia stadium in Rustenburg, inclusive of tennis court and other sporting course grounds as well as the mall itself. Indications suggest that the Department of Lands, Town and Regional Planning in Gaborone then cautioned the town Council against submitting peace-meal plans. Instead they advised the Council to compose the Lobatse Regeneration Scheme which is ‘all encompassing.’


Before then, it is understood that some companies also came on board with endeavors to request Council to grant them leeway to build the mall in an area adjacent to Lobatse Town Park but were turned down. Meanwhile Ex Lobatse legislator, Nehemiah Modubule also expressed disapproval of the mall as he smells conspiracy between the incumbent town law maker, Kebonang and the investors of the mall.


He said Lobatse community was only informed of the move and not necessarily ‘consulted.’ Modubule was worried about the informal sector in terms of where they will be placed. According to the former MP, Lobatse does not need a mall but an economic development plan to grow the economy of the town. “There is high unemployment in Lobatse, if they build the mall, who will buy in these malls? Lobatse need industries to attract influx of people to work on those firms,” Modubule pointed out.


He said rumours suggest that Kebomang has shares in the mall and that is why he has been pushing the project so hard to make it see the light of the day. He said while at parliament, he initiated and moved a motion on the formation of Lobatse Economic Diversification Unit (LOBEDU) which is similar to Selebi Phikwe Economic Diversification Unit (SPEDU) which only needs implementation.

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Cabinet approves AFCON dream

24th January 2022
zebras

The government of Botswana has reportedly approved the dream of hosting African Cup of Nations in 2027 with Namibia as co-host, following a proposal to cabinet by Minister of Youth Empowerment, Sports and Culture Development, Tumiso Rakgare.

WeekendSport learns that the organizing committee dreaming to host the tournament is preparing to hand their hefty book to Confederation of African Football (CAF) when bidding stage comes into open. Botswana Football Association (BFA) has, to this date, managed to win the confidence of the government, and all thoughts around the African football prestigious tournament are given serious attention with acceleration of construction of 10 mini stadia across the country, sources have said.

Furthermore, reports in Namibia state that the Botswana government has approached them with a proposal to co -host the 2027 edition of African tournament. “I can confirm that the minister of sport in Botswana has written to our minister but these are still early days and no decision has been made yet,” Audrin Mathe, an executive director in the Ministry of Sport was quoted by Namibia Sun this week. Meanwhile, Rakgare has said: “It is still an internal issues but yes, we are interested in hosting with Namibia.”

All the while, BFA president who also sits in CAF national executive committee is expected to embody a more emotive promise about the ability of African Cup in Botswana and how it can benefit the citizenry and by extension, the Southern region. With Zimbabwe having come out clean about their intentions to bid for 2034 World Cup, there has been a growing feeling that Botswana should try her luck, and therefore Botswana delegation will be hopeful to walk a fine line.

Although, the commercial potential of a Botswana AFCON Cup is a compelling factor in their favour, following the relative uncertainty of many African countries ( due to political instability, extent of corona virus ) and state of insecurity, BFA is minded not make that their thrust of the case. Hence the concentration on providing a home from home for all teams among Botswana’s diverse population and the opportunity to use the proceeds to advance legacy projects around Africa. The feeling on the ground is that the move might be bold, and some association influential players believe that it will be a matter of upgrading Maun stadium, Masunga and Serowe stadium.

An idea is also harbored that another stadium will be built in around Gaborone to boost the existing National Stadium with the Lobatse and Francistown stadia also expected to play pivotal role.  All the while, a more than P20 million operational budget is said to be needed to travel the African countries in convincing them that Botswana is more suitable to host with its security and economy very much stable.

Botswana passes the mark when it comes to transportation, accommodation and hotel facilities. The fact that CAF normally want a country that has hosted youth tournaments before enables Botswana to score points in that it has hosted before. The only problem that might mark Botswana down is road infrastructure.  BFA will consider roping in an experienced sport person and the high profile of former players like Diphetogo Selolwane is anticipated to appear for the thoughts building around the bid, and his name will be seen as watershed moment.

The southern region, however, might be dealt a devastating blow following the catastrophe that hit Angola when they hosted the 2010 edition. The Togo team was shot by rebels and panic erupted.  However, the field is open and the ever shifting sands of CAF internal politics make the race hard to call and feed fears of horse trading and backroom deals.

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Major public services shake-up looms

24th January 2022
Emmah

Public Servants should brace themselves for some changes as the government is in an overdrive mode to overhaul the public sector. The government has also set the tone for the looming changes as it has added the public sector to its looming list of major and sweeping reforms.

This is contained in a savingram from the Permanent Secretary to the President (PSP) Emmah Peloetletse’s office showing how the government intends to “take stock” of all reforms in the public sector through the establishment of an inventory.  Peloetletse’s savingram addressed to various ministries and the Directorate of Public Service Management (DPSM) reveals that the government is working around the clock to implement some changes in the Public Service.

The savingram reminded Permanent Secretaries of various ministries and DPSM that the public sector reforms unit (PSRU) at the Office of the President is mandated with Coordinating Reforms across the Public Service.  “This essentially entails providing the strategic guidance and facilitation in the implementation of reforms across the Public Service. In this endeavour the Unit has in the past with Technical Assistance from European Union developed a template for documenting Reforms in the Public Service and documented ten (10) major reforms across the Public Service,” reads the savingram in part. It added that “The Unit has lately rolled out the Change Management Framework in an effort to facilitate effective and efficient management of change in the Public Service.”

According to the savingram, it has been noted that for a variety of reasons the use of the template for documenting reforms has not been universally used across the Botswana Public Service.  It further states that to facilitate the documentation of the reforms it is essential that an inventory of the various reforms across the Public Service (Central Government, Local Government and State Owned Entities) is established.

“By this correspondent we are seeking your assistance in populating the attached template to provide basic information on the various reforms. The PSRU will, through the various Coordination of focal Persons facilitate the full documentation of the reforms once the inventory is established,” the savingram further stated. The copy of the template among others calls on the focal persons to fill out them form under several headings; they include title of reform, start date, reform objectives, reform components, reform components, progress status.

The savingram echoes President Mokgweetsi Masisi’s announcement last year during his state of the nation address that as a nation Botswana has set itself a lofty goal of becoming a high income country by 2036 and has come up with a list of reforms among them digitisation of government infrastructure. He said the path to achieving this goal dictates that, Botswana takes deliberate steps that will transform its institutions; the way Batswana think and the way they act.

“It is with this in mind, that I presented a Reset Agenda in May 2021, with the following priorities: Save Botswana‘s population from COVID-19, by implementing a series of life saving measures that include a successful and timely vaccination programme, Adherence to COVID-19 health protocols remains key and align Botswana Government’s machinery to the Presidential Agenda, to ensure that the national transformation agenda will be embodied in the public service of the day,” said Masisi. He added that, “this will come with significant Government reforms in all public institutions. We need greater agility and responsiveness like never before in the delivery of public services.”

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Covid-19 Task Force meddled in tenders-report

24th January 2022
Dr. Kereng Masupu

The Presidential COVID-19 Task Force reportedly meddled in the awarding of tenders for COVID-19, a new Public Accounts Committee (PAC) report has revealed.

The Committee expressed concern that it has noted that there are two centres for covid procurement being the Ministry of Health and the Covid Task team in the Office of the President. The report says the Committee questioned the Accounting Officer on why the COVID 19 task team is usurping the powers of the Ministry of Health by engaging in covid procurement when the Ministry of Health is the one which has the experience and mandate of dealing with the pandemic. The report says clarification was also sought on why direct appointment is the preferred method for covid procurement.

“In her response the Accounting Officer stated that the task team was mainly engaged in the procuring of quarantine facilities and was assisting the Ministry of Health due to the heavy workload brought about by the COVID 19 pandemic,” the report says. The report says the Accounting Officer further stated that direct procurement was used because COVID 19 was treated as an emergency and that procurement was mainly from companies that have been traditionally used by the Ministry of Health.

“This however, is not the case as there has been report of new companies being awarded COVID -19 contracts. The use of direct procurement method should only be used in exceptional cases as it’s a non-competitive method which increases the risk of inflated pricing and close relations with particular suppliers to the detriment of others,” the report says.

It says since most covid procurement fell under emergency, there is need for openness and transparency regarding the procurement.  The PAC recommended that in order to ensure transparency and accountability all COVID 19 related procurement should be periodically published in the PPADB website giving full details of the companies receiving procurement contracts and the beneficial owners of the companies.

It says with the passage of time the impact of covid is no longer unexpected so direct awards should gradually be abandoned as the medium and long-term needs of the pandemic can now be predicted. “Judgement should be used even during direct awards to ensure that prices are not higher than the market prices,” the report says.

In a related matter, the report says the Central Medical Stores (CMS) was unable to cater for the required quantities of medical supplies with order fulfilments of about 35% resulting in shortages and insufficient drugs to Athlone Hospital and the surrounding clinics.
“In his submission the Accounting Officer had indicated that CMS was unable to supply the exact quantities required by the hospital and surrounding clinics due to the fact that supplies from CMS have to be rationed in order to cover other facilities around the country,” says the report.

The committee expressed concern about the inadequate supply of drugs to government facilities which puts the lives of patients at risk due to non- availability of essential supplies. It recommended that the Ministry identifies and prioritise measures that need to be taken to ensure that there is adequate supply of essential medicines which are needed in the public health system.

Meanwhile the report says the Ministry of Health and Wellness coordinates the operations and functions of some institutions which receive government subventions and secondment of staff from the government. These institutions include 10 NGO’s, two mission Hospitals, three mission clinics and two schools of Nursing.

It says in its endeavour to enhance efficiency and effectiveness of government support to NGOs the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development developed some Policy Guidelines for Financial Support to Non- Governmental Organisations.  According to the PAC report, the guidelines were meant to ensure that there is consistency, accountability and transparency in administering public funding to NGOs. However, the Ministry of Health did not comply with the very important guidelines.

“The main areas of non-compliance were the following: (i) There was no Evaluation Committee to vet proposals from NGOs, in some instances NGOs had formed part of the evaluation forum when their requests were being considered,” the report says.  It says there was continued funding of NGOs even when they failed to submit narrative and financial progress reports; and (iv) Continued funding of NGOs that failed to submit audited financial statements and management letters as required. The Committee expressed concern at the lapses in the administration of grants by the Ministry despite the large sums of public money awarded to these NGOs.

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