The Public Procurement and Assets Disposal Board (PPADB) has introduced public procurement reforms following some qualms from the World Bank about secrecy surrounding the country’s procurement plans.
The PPADB has since moved to introduce the publishing of public procurement plans. The Ministerial Tender Committees (MTC) and District Administration Tender Committees (DATCs) are now required to submit their annual procurement plans with the board for publishing. MTCs and DATCs deal with procurement of goods, services and works which are below P300 million in value. The MTC financial ceiling range from P25 million to P300 million while ceilings for DATCs range from P2 million to P10 million.
In 2013, a World Bank report indicated that lack of publishing of procurement plans by government and other procuring entities exposed the country’s procurement system to abuse and corruption by those in decision making positions. Best practices in public procurement, as set by institutions such as the World Bank and Organisation for Economic Co-operation Development (OECD) requires that the government and other procuring departments should avail all information about upcoming government tenders to allow bidders a fair chance to prepare themselves to participate.
In the past, the knowledge of upcoming government tenders was the preserve of those in decision making positions, giving them the opportunity to collude with others in the private sector by giving them unfair advantage to win the tenders. Other players only got to know of the tenders when they were advertised for bidding, which did not give them ample time to prepare to compete.
According to the OECD, corruption thrives on secrecy. Therefore they want to make transparency and accountability recognised key conditions for promoting integrity and preventing corruption in public procurement. The PPADB has also introduced the whistle blowing policy, which is viewed as key in public procurement to enable stakeholders to be able to report matters relating to improper, unethical and inappropriate conduct in tendering.
The management of the Tip-Off service was outsourced to Deloitte and Touche, which won the tender in January this year “to enhance the confidentiality of the system”. PPADB Executive Chairperson, Bridget Poppy John has also indicated that the board is working on drafting the Anti-Corruption Policy, further stating that the integrity office is being established to provide more focus on ethical conduct and anti-corruption measures.
In the past, the PPADB admitted to not having qualified human resource in the field of procurement for MTCs and DATCs to execute tenders in an effective manner. Botswana Accountancy College (BAC) has been engaged by the board to offer a Certificate in Public Sector Procurement and Tender Process Management which was developed in collaboration with the PPADB.
The BAC is also working on developing a Master in Procurement and Logistics programme. The University of Botswana was engaged by the World Bank in 2016 to provide technical input in the development. The OECD indicates that public procurement is increasingly recognised as a strategic profession, rather than a simple administrative function that plays a central role in preventing mismanagement, waste and potential corruption, therefore encouraging entities to attract and retain highly skilled professionals.
The World Bank has also underrated Botswana’s public procurement in the area of “Bid opening, Evaluation, and Award,” scoring 43 out of 100 in its latest assessment. Public procurement is viewed as a sensitive subject because it involves the spending of public funds in project which the government is expected to get in value for money.
Botswana, which is still reforming, is expected to have in place practices such as publishing procurement policies, advanced publication of procurement plans, advertisement of tender notices, disclosure of evaluation criteria in solicitation documents, publication of contract awards and prices paid, establishing appropriate and timely complaint mechanisms, implementing financial and conflict of interest, disclosure requirements for public procurement officials and publishing supplier sanction lists.
However the government advertising ban on private newspapers could be a major dent on the country’s procurement system. Ministries and other government departments only advertise their tenders in government owned Daily News, contrary to best practices which state that tender notices should be widely advertised.
The PPADB has a partnership with the OECD which supports governments in reforming their public procurement systems to ensure cost savings and better service delivery. The OECD promotes efficient and effective public procurement systems because it considers public procurement the backbone of a well-functioning government that ensures delivery of quality services to the public.
Botswana’s economy as a developing country means government continues to be the main player and the biggest provider of business to the private sector. Government expenditure through public procurement activities represents about seventy percent of the Gross Domestic Product. This essentially means the well functioning of the economy in Botswana solely rests on the efficiency and the integrity of its public procurement system when compared to most developed countries where public procurement accounts to a less percentage of up to 20 percent.
The primary mandate of PPADB is to adjudicate and award tenders for Central Government and any other institutions specified under the Act for the delivery of works, services and supplies related services. This is coupled with the registration and grading of contractors who so wish to do business with government.
Mowana Copper Mine in Dukwi will finally pay its former employees a total amount of P23, 789, 984.00 end of this month. For over three years Mowana Copper Mine has been under judicial management. Updating members, Botswana Mine Workers Union (BMWU) Executive Secretary Kitso Phiri this week said the High Court issued an order for the implementation of the compromise scheme of December 9, 2021 and this was to be done within 30 days after court order.
“Therefore payment of benefits under the scheme including those owed to Messina Copper Botswana employees should be effected sometime in January latest end of January 2022,” Kitso said. Kitso also explained that cash settlement will be 30 percent of the total Messina Copper Botswana estate and negotiated estate is $3,233,000 (about P35, 563,000).
Messina Copper was placed under liquidation and was thereafter acquired by Leboam Holdings to operate Mowana Mine. Leboam Holdings struck a deal with the Messina Copper’s liquidator who became a shareholder of Leboam Holdings. Leboam Holdings could not service its debts and its creditors placed it under provisional judicial management on December 18, 2018 and in judicial management on February 28, 2019.
A new company Max Power expressed interest to acquire the mining operations. It offered to take over the Mowana Mine from Leboam Holdings, however, the company had to pay the debts of Leboam including monies owed to Messina Copper, being employees benefits and other debts owed to other creditors.
The monies, were agreed to be paid through a scheme of compromise proposed by Max Power, being a negotiated payment schedule, which was subject to the financial ability of the new owners. “On December 9, 2021, Messina Copper liquidator, called a meeting of creditors, which the BMWU on behalf of its members (former Messina Copper employees) attended, to seek mandate from creditors to proceed with a proposed settlement for Messina Copper on the scheme of compromise. It is important to note that employee benefits are regarded as preferential credit, meaning once a scheme is approved they are paid first.”
A savingram the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development sent to Town Clerks and Council Secretaries explaining why councilors across the country should not have access to their terminal benefits before end of their term has been revealed.
The contents of the savingram came out in the wake of a war of words between counselors and the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development. The councilors through the Botswana Association of Local Authorities (BALA) accuse the Ministry of refusing to allow them to have access to their terminal benefits before end of their term.
This has since been denied by the Ministry. In the savingram to town councils and council secretaries across the country, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development Molefi Keaja states that, “Kindly be advised that the terminal benefits budget is made during the final year of term of office for Honorable Councilors.” Keaja reminded town clerks and council secretaries that, “The nominal budget Councils make each and every financial year is to cater for events where a Councilor’s term of office ends before the statutory time due to death, resignation or any other reason.”
The savingram also goes into detail about why the government had in the past allowed councilors to have access to their terminal benefits before the end of their term. “Regarding the special dispensation made in the 2014-2019, it should be noted that the advance was granted because at that time there was an approved budget for terminal benefits during the financial year,” explained Keaja. He added that, “Town Clerks/Council Secretaries made discretions depending on the liquidity position of Councils which attracted a lot of audit queries.”
Keaja also revealed that councils across the country were struggling financially and therefore if they were to grant councilors access to their terminal benefits, this could leave their in a dire financial situation. Given the fact that Local Authorities currently have cash flow problems and budgetary constraints, it is not advisable to grant terminal benefits advance as it would only serve to compound the liquidity problems of councils.
It is understood that the Ministry was inundated with calls from some Councils as they sought clarification regarding access to their terminal benefits. The Ministry fears that should councils pay out the terminal benefits this would affect their coffers as the government spends a lot on councilors salaries.
Reports show that apart from elected councilors, the government spends at least P6, 577, 746, 00 on nominated councilors across the country as their monthly salaries. Former Assistant Minister of Local Government and Rural Development, Botlogile Tshireletso once told Parliament that in total there are 113 nominated councilors and their salaries per a year add up to P78, 933,16.00. She added that their projected gratuity is P9, 866,646.00.
A surge in consumer spending is expected to be a key driver of Botswana’s economic recovery, according to recent projections by Fitch Solutions. Fitch Solutions said it forecasts household spending in Botswana to grow by a real rate of 5.9% in 2022.
The bullish Fitch Solutions noted that “This is a considerable deceleration from 9.4% growth estimated in 2021, it comes mainly from the base effects of the contraction of 2.5% recorded in 2020,” adding that, “We project total household spending (in real terms) to reach BWP59.9bn (USD8.8bn) in 2022, increasing from BWP56.5bn (USD8.3bn) in 2021.” According to Fitch Solutions, this is higher than the pre-Covid-19 total household spending (in real terms) of P53.0 billion (USD7.8bn) in 2019 and it indicates a full recovery in consumer spending.
“We forecast real household spending to grow by 5.9% in 2022, decelerating from the estimated growth of 9.4% in 2021. We note that the Covid-19 pandemic and the related restrictions on economic activity resulted in real household spending contracting by 2.5% in 2020, creating a lower base for spending to grow from in 2021 and 2022,” Fitch Solutions says.
Total household spending (in real terms), the agency says, will increase in 2022 when compared to 2021. In 2021 and 2022, total household spending (in real terms) will be above the pre-Covid-19 levels in 2019, indicating a full recovery in consumer spending, says Fitch Solutions. It says as of December 6 2021 (latest data available), 38.4% of people in Botswana have received at least one vaccine dose, while this is relatively low it is higher than Africa average of 11.3%.
“The emergence of new Covid-19 variants such as Omicron, which was first detected in the country in November 2021, poses a downside risk to our outlook for consumer spending, particularly as a large proportion of the country’s population is unvaccinated and this could result in stricter measures being implemented once again,” says Fitch Solutions.
Growth will ease in 2022, Fitch Solution says. “Our forecast for an improvement in consumer spending in Botswana in 2022 is in line with our Country Risk team’s forecast that the economy will grow by a real rate of 5.3% over 2022, from an estimated 12.5% growth in 2021 as the low base effects from 2020 dissipate,” it says.
Fitch Solutions notes that “Our Country Risk team expects private consumption to be the main driver of Botswana’s economic growth in 2022, as disposable incomes and the labour market continue to recover from the impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic.” It says Botswana’s tourism sector has been negatively impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic and the related travel restrictions.
According to Fitch Solutions, “The emergence of the Omicron variant, which was first detected in November 2021, has resulted in travel bans being implemented on Southern African countries such as South Africa, Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia, Zimbabwe and Eswatini. This will further delay the recovery of Botswana’s tourism sector in 2021 and early 2022.” Fitch Solutions, therefore, forecasts Botswana’s tourist arrivals to grow by 81.2% in 2022, from an estimated contraction of 40.3% in 2021.
It notes that the 72.4% contraction in 2020 has created a low base for tourist arrivals to grow from. “The rollout of vaccines in South Africa and its key source markets will aid the recovery of the tourism sector over the coming months and this bodes well for the employment and incomes of people employed in the hospitality industry, particularly restaurants and hotels as well as recreation and culture businesses,” the report says.
Fitch Solutions further notes that with economies reopening, consumers are demanding products that they had little access to over the previous year. However, manufacturers are facing several problems. It says supply chain issues and bottlenecks are resulting in consumer goods shortages, feeding through into supply-side inflation. Fitch Solutions believes the global semiconductor shortage will continue into 2022, putting the pressure on the supply of several consumer goods.
It says the spread of the Delta variant is upending factory production in Asia, disrupting shipping and posing more shocks to the world economy. Similarly, manufacturers are facing shortages of key components and higher raw materials costs, the report says adding that while this is somewhat restricted to consumer goods, there is a high risk that this feeds through into more consumer services over the 2022 year.
“Our global view for a notable recovery in consumer spending relies on the ability of authorities to vaccinate a large enough proportion of their populations and thereby experience a notable drop in Covid-19 infections and a decline in hospitalisation rates,” says Fitch Solutions. Both these factors, it says, will lead to governments gradually lifting restrictions, which will boost consumer confidence and retail sales.
“As of December 6 2021, 38.4% of people in Botswana have received at least one vaccine dose. While this is low, it is higher than the Africa average of 11.3%. The vaccines being administered in Botswana include Pfizer-BioNTech, Sinovac and Johnson & Johnson. We believe that a successful vaccine rollout will aid the country’s consumer spending recovery,” says Fitch Solutions. Therefore, the agency says, “Our forecasts account for risks that are highly likely to play out in 2022, including the easing of government support. However, if other risks start to play out, this may lead to forecast revisions.”