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Phikwe Rebirth: Mhohlo to indulge Bill Gates

Former Bank of Botswana Governor, Ms Linah Mohohlo who was recently appointed Coordinator of the Selibe Phikwe Revitalization Project has vowed that she has the acumen to indulge Bill Gates to inject hope back to Selibe Phikwe, should the need arise.


Mohohlo was unveiled during the African Industrialization Day commemorations on Tuesday in Selibe Phikwe by the Minister Investment Trade & Industry, Vincent Seretse. The Ministry of Investment Trade & Industry’s Phikwe Economic Revitalization Strategy (ERS) coordinated by former Bank of Botswana Governor, was also unveiled during the commemorations.


According to the strategy, precisely 6 856 jobs will be created in the next 24 months in Selibi Phikwe, WeekendPost has learnt. The jobs, it was revealed on Tuesday in the distressed town, will be a result of a P1.8 billion worth of 20 specific businesses that are to set up shop in eastern town.


SHOCK ABSORBING INTERVATIONS
The liquidation of BCL mine resulted in 4000 miners losing their jobs three weeks ago, and Government as a result has put in place short term remise to ease the effects of the job losses on the former miners.  P11 million has been set aside for one full year to pay school fees for children of former BCL employees, Minister of Investment Trade & Industry (MITI) Vincent Seretse revealed on Tuesday.


According to Seretse, the Ministry of Basic Education (MBE) has been mandated with facilitating the undertaking, “Government has committed to continue paying school fees for children of former BCL employees for one year, that is 2017, The office of the Coordinator, District Commissioner and MBE are already working out details to implement this decision,’’ he said.


The Minister further noted that the Ministry of Health and Wellness has taken over medical expenses which were borne by BCL of which the estimated cost is about P15 million. “For Social Support and counselling services government will ensure availability of senior level officers in Selibe Phikwe to assist former BCL employees,” concluded Seretse.


For their part government investment arm, the Citizen Entrepreneurial Development Agency (CEDA) told attendants that all BCL direct contractors who borrowed capital from the agency will be exempted from paying monthly instalments for a period until liquidation process is completed next year.
“In our efforts to keep our funded businesses which depended on BCL to keep surviving, we will give them a period of four months from now without compulsory payment of our agreed monthly instalments,’’ explained CEDA Chief Executive Officer, Thabo Thamane, who also conceded that this decision would negatively affect them.


According to the government subsidized lender, talks are at a final stage with Botswana’s largest private sector employer, Debswana to absorb some of the companies that are in line with its business. “Debswana has showed willingness to contract some of our funded companies who did business with BCL at their Jwaneng and Orapa mines. This will go a long way in ensuring their survival and consequently paying back the loaned capital in order for us (CEDA) to re-invest here in Phikwe,’’ he said.


THE REVITALISATION STRATEGY
Speaking to the Strategy, Minister Seretse said it will run for two years and it includes projects categorized into agricultural production and processing, tourism and related services as well as manufacturing. “At least 20 specific projects at an estimated cost of P1.8 billion pula will be implemented over a period of 24 months creating 6856 jobs,’’ he indicated.


Seretse further noted that to equip and resource that strategy and ease of doing business, government investment and trade experts, Botswana Investment & Trade Centre (BITC) has deployed Director –Export Promotion and has since arrived in Phikwe as of last week. For her part, the Permanent Secretary at MITI, Ms Peggy Serame said that projects that are to be used to bring Selibe Phikwe to economic life include, revival of the textile industry which is expected to hire over 2000 people during the first quarter of 2017; renewable power generation; assembling of components including vehicle parts; equipment and machinery manufacturing which are all expected to hire thousands of people.


“We are hoping there will be success this time around for the textile industry, we also expect a number of citizen owned ICT businesses to set up their assembly plants here,’’ she said. Serame hinted that citizen owned companies; Almaz (PTY) LTD and Ditec Mobile would be setting up assembly plants in Phikwe.


RIGOROUS INDUSTRIALIZATION
Ditec Founder and Chief Executive, Justice Williams told this publication that his team of technicians are already in Selibe Phikwe to conclude logistics prior to commencement of the process of relocating to the town. “We have already identified a warehouse and for a period from now until first quarter of 2017 we will be redesigning the warehouse into a world-class ICT lab that produces high technological devices,” he said.  


“We are looking at employing about 200 people at the 1st phase of actually manufacturing and engineering the technology smart components and phase 2 which includes programming of the components which will probably require an extra 300 personnel.” Consequently, according to Williams, Ditec will employ at least 2000 people.  


For their part, newly launched citizen owned Microsoft computer producer, Almaz told WeekendPost that they are still in talks with the government regarding issues of logistics and warehouse and tax incentives.  “Our setup of business here depends on the outcome of our discussions with the Ministry of Investment Trade & Industry,’’ said Louis Sibanda, an Executive at Almaz.


Sibanda further said after finalization of talks with the government, setting up a plant in Selibe Phikwe would take 37 days and employing just over 100 employees at first production. “We will re-skill and retool our employees, that is to say former miners from BCL without or with little knowledge of computer and software engineering will be put to training to capacitate them hence they will be not left out as far as working for us is concerned.”


The Mayor of Selibe Phikwe, Amogelang Mojuta expressed delight at the developments and also revealed that his office is facilitating a multimillion pula investment which will create more jobs in Phikwe. “Just last week I was with some South African gentlemen who want to open an aviation school here. They also want to upgrade the airport to international standards and further venture into distribution of goods and services into other parts of the southern Africa region.’’


686 MILLION PULA FOR SPEDU
Of the P1.8 billion worth of business to be injected into Phikwe, Selibe Phikwe Economic Diversification Unit (SPEDU)’s treasury will account for over 600 million pula, courtesy of European Union’s re-employment fund, permanent secretary, Serame revealed.
This is in spite of commotion prevailing at the diversification vehicle, just last week; it lost its Communications & Corporate Affairs Manager Punah Molebatsi who resigned out of the blue. WeekendPost has it on good authority that the Human Resource manager has been suspended and will possibly be axed.


However the newly branded and revived SPEDU is not just about talk, Chief Executive Dr Mokubung Mokubung revealed to this publication.  “Now we are no longer about economic diversification, we are transforming Selibe Phikwe into a major industrial city in Southern Africa, with value chain business opportunities and diverse nature of businesses , next week we will be groundbreaking the electrification of yet more farms in Bobonong,’’ he said.


Information gathered by this publication further suggests that SPEDU is working on a possible partnership with Barclays Bank of Botswana, who early this year loaned BCL 1 billion Pula on government guarantee. Sources present at a meeting between SPEDU executives and Barclays Bank Managing Director, Reinette Van de Merwe revealed that the multibillion pula private lender is committed to injecting more money into Selibe Phikwe as they are prepared to finance serious and viable projects.


“Yes we met Barclays Bank officials, but I’m not in a position to disclose anything as we are still doing paperwork to quantify how much partnership we are talking about and we will inform the public in due time,’’ said Mokubung.


THE OFFICE OF THE COORDINATOR
President Lt Gen Dr Ian Khama’s recent appointee, former Governor Bank of Botswana Linah Mohohlo was finally introduced to the Selibe Phikwe residents and the business community on the same day by Minister Seretse. Seretse explained that Mhohlo will be overseeing the implementation of the SPEDU Revitalization Strategy and its communication plan. “I am certain in the coming month she will have specific engagements with the various stakeholders in the region.’’


For her part Mohohlo noted that her job will depend entirely on the cooperation and collective efforts from the Phikwe residents, business community and all stakeholders. According to Mohohlo, Selibe Phikwe has the potential to create more than 7000 jobs. “We can go as far as bringing world’s richest here. I have the acumen to indulge Bill Gates and his schedule permitting, he is very active on issues of injecting hope to lost parameters,’’ she said.

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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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