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BDP backbenchers grief on economy, corruption

Following presentations of the National Development Plan 11 and the State of the Nation Address by the Minister of Finance and Economic Development, Kenneth Matambo and President Lt Gen Dr Ian Khama respectively, some Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) backbenchers have expressed misgivings on the state of the economy and challenged the system to address public concerns.


Member of Parliament for Tati East Samson Guma Moyo revisited the then Leader of Opposition Dumelang Saleshando’s motion of Declaration of assets by senior government officials and political office bearers. Guma Moyo argues that such a law would go a long way into bringing about public confidence and trust in public office bearers and political leaders.

 


Driving his message home, Guma Moyo explained: “I talk about this matter because I am a victim of circumstances and as a public figure, and all of us in this House, and we are custodians of people’s values and assets. I keep using this term again and again. When there are perceptions that we have become corrupt and our names at times are dragged into courts, it is a matter that should worry me as a person. That allows me to examine myself. It does not matter how many times I defend myself, but that perception still sits and then it cuts across everybody and all of us as politicians.

 

We have been seen as people that cannot be trusted. What then should we be doing and I keep repeating this again and again, the need for us to bring the Declaration of Assets Bill is key. It has to come in urgently, it protects all of us; we are responsible for the nation. We should be trusted but what does that Bill say? I am not saying everything of us must be made public but there must be a way in which we must actually account for how we make our work because most of the wealth that we generate comes from this economy; we know that the e know that the economy of Botswana is largely driven by Government and the need for us to be trusted is key.”


According to Guma Moyo who is also the chairperson of Parliamentary Committee on Public Enterprises & Statutory Bodies, the public always questions the independence of awarding Government tenders from  political offices , raising eyebrows about business interests of people holding such offices.

 

“There is a lot of talk amongst the public about corruption and embezzlement of taxpayers’ money, recently I found myself being a victim of this circumstance, If we want to clear the air and regain public confidence, then we must have a Declaration of Assets Bill enacted into a law as soon as yesterday, It would do us lots of good if the public had a trail of our assets,” he said.


Reports from parliament also reveals that Guma wants senior government officials and all those holding key positions in state owned enterprises and Parastatals to declare their assets and business interest to avoid conflict of interest. On another hot potato subject, Guma Moyo indicated that he is a serious supporter of the direct election of the President. “We are a Republic, we are not a Kingdom.

 

It is always important that all leaders are elected by the people. The situation where there is an automatic succession makes me feel uncomfortable because then the leaders are imposed on us by most probably the President that leaves. Even the one that is elected to succeed you can never be sure whether he will succeed at times because that is how the setup is,” he said.


DIRECT ELECTION OF PRESIDENT | INDEPENDENT PARLIAMENT


Guma Moyo said there is need to review the constitution and allow the President to elect even members of the Cabinet across the country and let the Members of Parliament remain in Parliament and the Executive remain in the Executive. “It is something that both of us have to look into carefully.”
He argued that Parliament must be very strong on its own, free from the Executive interference.

 

He said the role of Parliament should be purely legislation and oversight, “and we move away from the issues that we are now critically involved in developmental issues and the implementation of projects. That has never been the intention of the Constitution, it compromises all of us. When the President has to pick people from Parliament, then there is always an expectation all the time that, “I also have to be put there” and we are putting the President in a very difficult situation when there are capable men and women out there that can even do a far much better job than MPs sitting here.

 

Then also restricting the President to appoint his vice within ourselves. We need to look at these issues. A House like this must debate laws, look into culture and values. If you have a House that does not speak freely about issues that are being seen out there as critical and then we choose to talk about what we want to talk about and leave people out there, we are deceiving ourselves.”


ON THE ECONOMY | UNEMPLOYMENT


Debating the state of the economy, Guma Moyo said the country is at a stage where unless Government urgently addresses the issues affecting the economy, “we are sitting on a time bomb in particular with the youth.” He said gone are the days when a university kid goes out of school he knows he is going to get a job. There is no guarantee today even if you have got Masters or PhD in whatever discipline that there is going to be job.

 

What then does it mean to us? We need to change the mind-set and create an economy that on itself creates jobs and then we need to look into what is it that we could focus on. This economy can only create jobs through sectors like agriculture and mineral beneficiation. That is where you unpack unemployment. We are a nation, even if you go into a supermarket, just go and look at it, only five (5) per cent of the products that you see in a supermarket comes from this country, the rest is imported.”


He said it is important to look at the import bill, unpack it, change it, “but before we do that, we need to look at the infrastructure that assists us to grow agriculture. Gone are the days when we should be looking at infrastructure that assists us to win constituencies. That one, that is constituency based, is wrong. It should be an infrastructure that assists to grow this economy.

 

There will come a time even when there are projects in your constituency, you will be the only one elected and one day you would not be in Government, both sides of the aisle, because there will be no economy. The agricultural sector, the food sector is key. A population of 2,5 million or 2,2 million cannot feed itself, with all the water being there.”


MEPHATO REATILE – ABOLISH BMC MONOPOLY


Specially Elected Member of Parliament, Mephato Reatile could not hide his disappointment with the Botswana Meat Commission (BMC) and immediately wants abolition of the beef monopoly. “When we look at Botswana Meat Commission (BMC), we have protected it so much with the policies and laws governing such companies but currently there is none of the citizens who is proud of the Company because of the current state it is in, those who were in the management of the BMC way back, and have benefitted from it, are either old or some have passed on.

 

Those who are around do not see the value of the BMC because we have managed to babysit the company for quite some time, and they cannot even think for themselves since the government is always there to rescue, the money is always there for them to use, they are given guarantees to take loans from the banks. The time to abolish monopoly at BMC, is not tomorrow but today because when we abolish the BMC monopoly we will be opening gates, the people who will be marketing the beef from their abattoirs where the market is are Batswana,” he said.


Reatile reasoned that if Batswana are allowed to market their beef, they will be creating employment. He said BMC alone cannot grow and cannot create employment even if it could get another market for its goods somewhere.  “We already know that it has decided to engage Global Protein Solutions (GPS) Food Group . GPS is the one that markets the BMC beef yet it was used to market products of a competitor to BMC which is the Namdeb.

 

The time has come – and even the Namdeb has since parted ways with the GPS, but we are still stuck with it yet it is not effective. I have met with a lot of Batswana who have sourced market for the BMC meat outside and they are consulting with the BMC and negotiating with the company so that it gives them meat to sell, but rather than them being given quotations, GPS has to come into the picture and presented sky rocketed prizes, therefore given this situation, there is no how our meat could get market from outside the country.”


Reatile said the BMC should have found out how Namibia Allied Meat Company (NAMCO) got to access the United States of America market. “If the NAMCO has managed to penetrate the American market Mr Speaker, yet we always attend summits and our meat always wins with good ratings when we reach the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), it shows that Botswana is doing well. On the marketing part, we are failing and it clearly indicates that there is a problem. The thing is that, the Meat which is rated and gets good ratings, is not a product of the BMC, it is a product of the cattle owned by Batswana.”


MINING IS NOT DOING WELL


Reatile observed that the BCL and Tati nickel mines are not the only ones affected by dipping commodity prices leading to closure of mines. He said the Mowana mine has been closed for close to 13 months now, and it is to undergo liquidation as well. “The mine workers have not yet received their benefits since the closure of the mine. What I believe should happen, since there are investors who have shown interest to buy the mine, it means that by January the plant will start to run, then the government should do something.

 

It is therefore imperative that the Government does something since investors are already there, and they have agreed that they will release the money after they have been assured of the quality of plants that are here because they are not hesitant on their reserve bank. It is just a matter of how good the infrastructure is. The government has to therefore take it upon herself to find money to pay off the Mowana mine employees because the money will be paid through the investors once cleared off and then the government could benefit from the mine. We cannot address a challenge for a mine which has recently been closed while we have a mine which has been closed for quite some time now,” he observed.


BUTI BILLY WANTS KHAMA TO ACCOUNT
 

Francistown East Member of Parliament, Buti Billy was also in his element when responding to the State of the Nation Address. Billy wants President Khama to answer to Parliament. According to Billy the time has come for the President to sit and listen to debates and responses especially to connected to his presentations in Parliament.

 

“It is undemocratic for the President to deliver SONA and leave it to Members of Parliament to debate and deliberate on it without his audience,” he said. The MP said the current practice kills Botswana’s democracy hence the president must be compelled to account and answer to questions from legislators. He is of the view that this will strengthen democracy as MPs themselves account to the general public who actually voted them to power.


NDB IS WASTE OF TAXPAYERS’ MONEY – MARKUS


Another BDP backbencher Konstantino Markus of Maun East constituency poured scorn on the National Development Bank (NDB) and labelled it a total waste of public money. The Lorato Morapedi led state owned lender is currently bankrupt and owes taxpayers over P300 million worth of unserviced loans. The Maun East Legislator said this when responding to SONA last week in Parliament.

 

Markus argues that with current business structure and leadership the state owned bank will remain useless and bankrupt. “The situation is worsened by the bank’s high interest rate, NDB’s assets and liabilities should be ceded to the Citizen Entrepreneurial Development Agency (CEDA) which is performing much better,” he said. The MP added that with the current negative bank account of the NDB it will be a great loss for the government to privatize or commercialize the bank to external investors.

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BDP unfazed by threat of united opposition 

30th November 2021
BDP unfazed

Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) leadership has indicated that the party is not worried about the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signed by opposition parties to support each other in the upcoming bye-elections.

Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC), which comprise three opposition parties; Botswana National Front (BNF), Botswana People’s Party (BPP) and Botswana Congress Party (BCP), recently agreed terms with other opposition entities; Botswana Patriotic Front (BPF) and the Alliance for Progressives (AP).

The duo of AP — a splinter part of Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD) — and BPF — a splinter of the BDP— did not contest under the ambit of UDC in the 2019 general election. The two parties have a combined four seats in parliament and a combined popular vote of 74 000 from the 2019 general election.

The signing of the MoU on bye-election is seen as a giant step by the opposition to consolidate their efforts against the BDP in the 2024 general election.

Unveiling the 11 candidates that will represent the party in the bye-elections billed for 18 December 2021, BDP Chairman Slumber Tsogwane stated that the cooperation of opposition parties to gang against the ruling party is not a new development in Botswana and that BDP has always emerged top in the face of such collaboration.

Tsogwane indicated that, as per reports, opposition parties had challenges relating to the allocation of wards, which were only resolved after the intervention of the leader of UDC, Advocate Duma Boko.

“We are not frightened by opposition cooperation. It is not happening for the first time. We have tasted it before. They tried in 2019, and it did not work,” Tsogwane said buoyantly.  “We still want to face them as a united block in 2024 because BDP is a giant that can only be tried by a united opposition.”

Tsogwane’s sentiments were shared by party secretary-general Mpho Balopi, who also believe that opposition cooperation is a non-starter. He said, in 2019, BDP increased its popular vote, despite BCP having joined the ranks after not partaking in the 2014 general elections. “They believed that based on 2014 numbers, the BCP joining UDC will give them power, but that was not the case,” Balopi said.

BDP increased its popular vote from 46.4 percent in the 2014 general elections to 52.6 percent in the 2019 general election. The 2014 general election was BDP’sBDP’s worst in history, with the party garnering a popular vote below 50 percent for the first time since independence. BDP also increased its seat by one in the last general elections. Meanwhile, the opposition garnered 19 seats in 2019 compared to 20 in the 2014 general election.

“They [opposition parties] have been doing so since 2011 after the formation of Botswana Movement for Democracy in 2010. It is not a question of what are we going to do as the BDP. It is about what we have done in the past,” said Balopi. Balopi, who first became party secretary-general in 2011, led the BDP to the 2014 and 2019 general elections.

Last weekend, BDP held primaries in seven wards to choose candidates to represent the party in the 18 December bye-election. Meanwhile, four wards agreed to settle for compromise candidates.

The wards are going for elections on 18 December are the following; Nkgange North Ward (Nkange), Tamasane Ward (Mmadinare), Khwee Ward (Boteti East), Tumasera-Seleka Ward (Sefhare-Ramokgonami), Ga-Molopo Ward (Goodhope-Mabule), Lorolwane Ward (Mmathethe-Molapowabojang), Moshupa East Ward, (Moshupa-Manyana), Boseja South Ward (Mochudi East), Metsimotlhabe Ward (Gabane-Mmankgodi), MotokweTsetseng Ward (Takatokwane), Lentsweletau West (Lentsweletau-Mmopane).

Following the conclusion of the MoU agreement, BNF has been allocated six wards to contest. The wards are Boseja South, Khwee, Lorolwane, Moshupa East, Motokwe and Ga-Molopo. The BNF will, however, hold primary elections in Khwee while other wards settle for compromise candidates.

BCP will contest in Tumasera-Seleka Ward, Nkange North Ward and Metsimotlhabe Ward. An agreement has been reached that Metsimotlhabe Ward, despite being allocated to BCP, will field an AP candidate to warm up opposition unity talks for the 2024 general election. AP has also been awarded Lentsweletau East Ward.

Meanwhile, the new kid in the bloc, BPF, has managed to get Tamasane Ward in Mmadinare. It was also given Lorolwane Ward on paper, but it has decided to field a BNF candidate at the ward.

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Inside Private Security companies firearms proposal to Gov’t

30th November 2021
Private Security Company

A proposal by the private security companies operating in the cash business for firearm licensing, sent to government for consideration, has called on government to speedily consider licensing private security companies operating in the cash business as a panacea to the prevailing cash heists.

The companies say they do not seen why they cannot be armed because all the countries surrounding Botswana within the SADC region have a provision for armed private security. This, they say, has been the case for many years with South Africa, Namibia, Lesotho, Zambia, and Angola all having this security measure in place and in many cases, for the last three decades.

“In all of these countries, the law provides that private security companies are entitled to use firearms subject to conditions under the law. For instance, in Angola private security personnel may only use firearms provided they have undergone competency training and are also required by law to keep registry and tracking of the licenced firearms. In many of these countries, armed private security does not only include for cash operations (including cash in transit) but extends to both the alarm response and to man-guarding services (a case in point being Namibia and South Africa),” reads the proposal.

The proposal further says this situation is further exacerbated by the fact that the Botswana currency is generally stronger than all other currencies in the region making it an attraction to would-be criminals. “Additionally the fact that this currency can be exchanged in any of the countries bordering it with relative ease, makes it an even more attractive avenue,” reads the proposal.

The estimated size of the cash in transit business, according to the companies, is estimated at over BWP 120m annually with over 160 daily delivery and collections between clients, the Central bank and the security company’s cash centres and automated teller machines (ATM’s). 

There are currently five security companies providing the CIT services in Botswana. Despite operating in the same security threat environment, and in many instances transporting high value consignments as the Government transfers, private security companies say they do not have the same armed escorts accorded to government consignments like cash and diamonds, as they are not licenced to carry firearms by law. 

“With the advent of increased security threats (as evidenced by the number of attempted and successful heists), these businesses require the same level of security in the form of having licenced firearms in order to provide their own armed escorts to ensure that there is sufficient cover and provide a deterrent to would-be criminals. The current arrangement of using Police escorts for private security, while effective as the Police are armed and acts as a deterrent, is not sustainable both in terms of resourcing and cost,”

Explaining how government handles own cash transfers, the companies says the government enlists armed Police escorts when moving high value consignments, in particular when transferring cash from and to the Central Bank due to the high risk associated with this movement. 

“This acts as a deterrent to ensure that there are no attacks on these consignments. This has proven to be an effective deterrent as criminals, knowing that the Police are armed, do not attempt to attack these transfers and to date there has not been a case reported on these despite the number of years this service has been in place,” stressed the companies in the proposal.

The companies dismissed claims that the licensing may in some ways be misused saying the government through the Arms and ammunition board has always conducted raffle draws for both shotgun and rifles for members of the public in order to access firearms licences. This, they say, has been ongoing for many years but there have not been serious incidents of misuse. 

“This provides a view that where there are proper control mechanisms in the issuance of firearm licences, public safety can still be guaranteed,” they observed.

Recommendations by Private Security Companies

Private security companies with Cash businesses request to be allowed to have licenced firearms in order to establish and run their own escort services. This is the only service to access firearms to mitigate the current risk. This will be subject to, amongst other requirements.

Strict criteria to be formulated in relation to the training of the officers who will use the firearms including continuous retraining at specified intervals. Firearms register to be developed with tracking capability and auditable by the authorities at all times. Firearms are retired by the officers at the end of duty on a daily basis and issued the following working day.

There will be a requirement for psychological evaluation for officers to be issued with firearms including ongoing evaluations at various intervals. The cash businesses will need to demonstrate the number of firearm licences required in line with the size of their cash businesses; approval to be based on proportionality to the required escort service and satisfaction 

The need for firearm licencing is further demonstrated by the nature of the business in that private clients invest in security companies for safe custody and transfer of their cash assets hence the security companies require to be effectively prepared to match these requirements and expectations that comes with this.

The companies proposed two models to be adopted, the first being for the provision for arming tactical teams that will provide escorts for the cash businesses. These teams will be in-house and the company is the one being licenced. The second is the provision for arming CIT crews (driver and crew man) across the cash business 

The companies further warned that this has to be taken seriously because the Cash In Transit service is critical to the daily functioning of the money economy by ensuring that cash circulation is optimally maintained. 

Major clients such as banks and retailers, they said, depend on this service for successfully running their businesses. “For these clients, same day value in money transfers is crucial as customer demands are increasingly high to be able to withdraw and deposit money at ATM’s without disruption and in the case of retailers deposits made are required for working capital on a daily basis. Disruption in the provision of the service, as is the case where the security of the service is affected due to armed robberies, results in the disruption to the functioning of these sectors and the associated losses incurred,” they concluded.

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How Ministry Local Gov’t lost control of P3.3 billion for orphans 

30th November 2021
Molale

The Auditor General’s report for 2019/2020 shows how hundreds of orphans could not benefit from an account holding billions of Pula because officials at the Department of Social Protection under the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development slept on the job. 

Also robbed of the opportunity to benefit from the programme were vulnerable children.

The report reveals that the Department had outsourced beneficiary payments to Botswana Post, Sandulela Telecom Botswana and Smartswitch Botswana (Pty Ltd). Each service provider was engaged to effect payments for specific elements of the beneficiary packages. The Department disbursed a total of P3.3 billion from 2016/2017 to 2019/2020.

“However, the Department had lost control of the key financial operations to the service providers, who had breached the terms of the Memorandum of Agreement (MoA) on numerous occasions,” the report says.

The report says that a Memorandum of Understanding between the department and service providers requires engaged companies to ‘consolidate, verify and return all unclaimed payments to Client, together with a list of beneficiaries who did not claim such payments’. Such information must be submitted after every three (3) months for reconciliation.

“However, the service providers on numerous occasions contravened the terms of the agreement, as they took a substantial amount of time beyond the stipulated period to return unclaimed monies. Instances were noted where Sandulela took unduly long, even up to 21 months to submit returns to the Government,” the report says,

The report states that Sandulela held an average of P6.2 million in unclaimed cash allowances during this period, thereby denying the Government the opportunity to invest the monies elsewhere and earn interest.

Regarding the MoA, the report says that Botswana Post and Sandulela Telecom were required to open separate bank accounts to be used ‘solely for the social benefits cash allowances in the Agreement and the interest accrued in that account shall be reimbursed to the Client’. The agreement also provided that the service provider may keep the monthly unclaimed cash component for a period not exceeding three months with interest accrued thereon.

In line with their obligations, says the report, the Department credited Botswana Post and Sandulela Telecom with P2.3 billion and P371 million, respectively, for social welfare grants payroll for 2016/2017 to 2019/2020. Some of the beneficiaries did not collect their cash allowances monthly, and these had accumulated to P66 million for Botswana Post and P9 million for Sandulela Telecommunication Botswana.

“Based on the above observations, the Government could have earned interest on the unclaimed cash allowances if they had been returned as prescribed. As such, the service providers did not fully abide by the terms of the agreement,” the report says.

The report found that the agency fees for each invoice were based on the number of beneficiaries paid in a period multiplied by the rate prevailing at a specific location. It was observed that the Client did not receive reconciliation reports showing paid and unpaid allowances in time to update the Social Benefit and Reconciliation System (SOBERS) application system.

“Therefore, the credibility of the amount as calculated in the invoice could not be reasonably assured. The P47 million and P142 million agency fees paid to Sandulela and Botswana Post respectively for a period of 4 years may not be reflective of the number of beneficiaries paid,” the report says.

Retarding the Beneficiary Management Process, the report shows that the beneficiary registration system had some deficiencies, which resulted in delays in updating the monthly payroll with newly approved beneficiaries. Some beneficiaries had to wait for up to 5 years before they could receive the cash allowance, consequently defeating the programme’s key objectives.

“A total of 2 270 social grant beneficiaries who passed on from as far back as 1997/1998 were removed from the payroll in 2017/2018 and 2018/2019, which meant that some of them had remained active in the payroll for more than 20 years after their death. The Department had deposited their share of cash allowances amounting to over P17 million with the service providers, and there was no evidence of interest paid to the Client on this amount,” the report says.

In addition, the report says, cash allowance for 50 beneficiaries was claimed even though they were deceased. The audit could not rule out the misappropriation of P185 545 in payments to non-existent beneficiaries.

In terms of the Child in Need of Care (CNC) and the Community Home Based Care (CHBC) programmes, the report says, children require a special diet prescribed by a paediatrician to be enrolled. For that reason, the food parcels should include the prescribed food items only. According to the report, this proved to be easy to manipulate since the Smartswitch card did not have any restrictions established specifically for CNC.

“The Department of Social Protection (DSP) is in partnership with 9 NGOs, whose main aim is to protect the orphans and vulnerable children. The implementation of the programme includes key activities assigned to the District Councils,” says the report.

Therefore, the report says that the exchange of crucial information reports between the two parties is vital for the Client to be up-to-date with the operations to execute their mandate. The oversight role was therefore considered ineffective due to the following:

The NGOs did not provide quarterly narrative reports, financial reports and annual audited financial statements to account for transactions on their operations, which was in breach of the MoA. The Botswana National Plan of Action for Orphans and Vulnerable Children for 2010-2016 requires DSP to establish an independent body to provide oversight comprising development partners; however, this had not been done.

The DSP did not establish the Monitoring and Evaluation Committee as required by the National Monitoring & Evaluation Framework, whose mandate was inter-alia to ensure that Local Authorities effectively account for funds disbursed to them and establish whether they had been utilized for the intended purposes.

As a result, the report says the “Department had lost control of and had abdicated their responsibility and accountability for funds approximating P806 million disbursed between 2016/2017 and 2019/2020 to the NGOs and Local Authorities.”

It says that while the objectives of different classes of social grants may have been met, it is nevertheless of paramount importance that all the prescribed criteria in all the authorities are complied with for sound management of the programme.

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