Parliamentary Committee on Statutory Bodies and Enterprises has launched a probe on the controversial involvement of Botswana National Sport Commission (BNSC) in the awarding of BOT50 celebrations tenders in the run up to recent Independence Day celebrations.
The parliamentary committee this week wanted to establish the exact role of the BNSC in the ended controversy prone BOT50 celebrations. According to information presented before the committee by BSNC Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Falcon Sedimo, BNSC was directed to pay companies contracted to BOT50 by Ministry of Youth Empowerment, Sports and Culture Development (MYESCD).
Sedimo informed the committee that BNSC was not involved in most of the decisions with regards to awarding of tenders, but the process was carried out at the MYESCD, which time and again instructed the BNSC to pay to the chosen companies. Of the P16 million which BNSC handled on behalf of the BOT50 committee, P14 million was paid to Red Pepper, an amount which later raised eyebrows. The remaining P2 million was paid to different companies for different services offered to the organising committee in the run up to the celebrations.
The committee learnt that contrary to what had been said before, the awarding of the P14 million was not a process under the auspices of BNSC, but BNSC was only instructed to pay such amount by the BOT50 committee which had carried the process and arrived at the decision itself. Earlier this year, BOT50 Coordinator, Charity Kgotlafela, told Public Accounts Committee (PAC) that BNSC was engaged as procurement agent. The revelations raised discontent given the fact the BNSC Chairperson, Solly Reikeletseng, was also the board member of the BOT50 Committee.
The Chairman of the parliamentary committee, Samson Guma, questioned the involvement of BNSC in the handling of BOT50 funds, noting that it is weird that BOT50 engaged BSNC on the role of only disbursing the funds for a procurement process which was carried out by the BOT50 itself. “Why did the BOT50 not pay the money itself?” he questioned. Guma said the BNSC could have been made to disburse funds to companies which were awarded tenders without following due process.
He said there is a need to find out if the tenders were awarded in a proper manner and evidence shall be presented before the committee showing indeed that there were proper tendering processes or not. Guma also questioned the integrity of the BNSC in handling procurement matters because it has always been a candidate for following procurement matters within its own affairs. The internal report has highlighted that BNSC had not followed procurement processes in awarding of tenders to organisations.
According to BNSC procedures, tenders with a value of less than P200 000 does not have to go through the normal tendering process. The requirement is that the procurement committee or department should just get a minimum of three quotations to choose the service provider from. The parliamentary committee fears that this process could have been abused in the awarding of the BOT50 funds to different service providers.
The committee heard that the ministry now owes BNSC over P2 million after the latter was instructed to pay certain service providers from its own coffers during the preparations for the BOT50 celebrations. The ministry had promised to reimburse the BNSC afterwards, but the organisation is yet to receive the money.
Member of the committee, Lelatisitswe Sethomo, questioned how the BNSC ended up handling the funds for the purpose of disbursing it to tender winners, given the verity that it is not within its mandate. Sethomo is of the view that, BNSC as a legal entity established by the Act of parliament which governs it should not have taken the responsibility for disbursing funds. He expressed that the BNSC secretariat should take instruction from its board and not anywhere else.
Guma articulated the need to put to bed the saga involving the P14 million Red Pepper tender. He said doing so is necessary to establish the truth and let the public know about it. He instructed the BNSC to go back and provide proper documentation detailing how tenders were awarded. The BOT50 office was caught in controversy prior to the Independence celebrations, with reports of maladministration, corruption and conflict of interest rampant within the committee. Parliament was a few weeks ago informed that BOT50 exceeded its budget by P13 million. Botswana celebrated 50 years of independence from Great Britain in September 30th.
Government is currently sitting on 4 400 vacant posts that remain unfilled in the civil service. This is notwithstanding the high unemployment rate in Botswana which has been exacerbated by the recent outbreak of the deadly COVID-19 pandemic.
Just before the burst of COVID-19, official data released by Statistics Botswana in January 2020, indicate that unemployment in Botswana has increased from 17.6 percent three years ago to 20.7 percent. “Unemployment rate went up by 3.1 percentage between the two periods, from 17.6 to 20.7 percent,” statistics point out.
Leading commercial bank, First National Bank Botswana (FNBB), expects the central bank to sharpen its monetary policy knife and cut the Bank Rate twice in the last quarter of 2020.
The bank expects a 25 basis point (bps) in the beginning of the last quarter, which is next month, and another shed by the same bps in December, making a total of 50 bps cut in the last quarter. According to the bank’s researchers, the central bank is now holding on to 4.25 percent for the time being pending for more informed data on the economic climate.
An audit of the accounts and records for the supply of food rations to the institutions in the Northern Region for the financial year-ended 31 March 2019 was carried out. According to Auditor General’s report and observations, there are weaknesses and shortcomings that were somehow addressed to the Accounting Officer for comments.
Auditor General, Pulane Letebele indicated on the report that, across all depots in the region that there had been instances where food items were short for periods ranging from 1 to 7 months in the institutions for a variety of reasons, including absence of regular contracts and supplier failures. The success of this programme is dependent on regular and reliable availability of the supplies to achieve its objective, the report said.
There would be instances where food items were returned from the feeding centers to the depots for reasons of spoilage or any other cause. In these cases, instances had been noted where these returns were not supported by any documentation, which could lead to these items being lost without trace.
The report further stressed that large quantities of various food items valued at over P772 thousand from different depots were damaged by rodents, and written off.Included in the write off were 13 538 (340ml) cartons of milk valued at P75 745. In this connection, the Auditor General says it is important that the warehouses be maintained to a standard where they would not be infested by rodents and other pests.
Still in the Northern region, the report noted that there is an outstanding matter relating to the supply of stewed steak (283×3.1kg cans) to the Maun depot which was allegedly defective. The steak had been supplied by Botswana Meat Commission to the depot in November 2016.
In March 2017 part of the consignment was reported to the supplier as defective, and was to be replaced. Even as there was no agreement reached between the parties regarding replacement, in 51 October 2018 the items in question were disposed of by destruction. This disposal represented a loss as the whole consignment had been paid for, according to the report.
“In my view, the loss resulted directly from failure by the depot managers to deal with the matter immediately upon receipt of the consignment and detection of the defects. Audit inspections during visits to Selibe Phikwe, Maun, Shakawe, Ghanzi and Francistown depots had raised a number of observations on points of detail related to the maintenance of records, reconciliations of stocks and related matters, which I drew to the attention of the Accounting Officer for comments,” Letebele said in her report.
In the Southern region, a scrutiny of the records for the control of stocks of food items in the Southern Region had indicated intermittent shortages of the various items, principally Tsabana, Malutu, Sunflower Oil and Milk which was mainly due to absence of subsisting contracts for the supply of these items.
“The contract for the supply of Tsabana to all depots expired in September 2018 and was not replaced by a substantive contract. The supplier contracts for these stocks should be so managed that the expiry of one contract is immediately followed by the commencement of the next.”
Suppliers who had been contracted to supply foodstuffs had failed to do so and no timely action had been taken to redress the situation to ensure continuity of supply of the food items, the report noted.
In one case, the report highlighted that the supplier was to manufacture and supply 1 136 metric tonnes of Malutu for a 4-months period from March 2019 to June 2019, but had been unable to honour the obligation. The situation was relieved by inter-depot transfers, at additional cost in transportation and subsistence expenses.
In another case, the contract was for the supply of Sunflower Oil to Mabutsane, where the supplier had also failed to deliver. Examination of the Molepolole depot Food Issues Register had indicated a number of instances where food items consigned to the various feeding centres had been returned for a variety of reasons, including food item available; no storage space; and in other cases the whole consignments were returned, and reasons not stated.
This is an indication of lack of proper management and monitoring of the affairs of the depot, which could result in losses from frequent movements of the food items concerned.The maintenance of accounting records in the region, typically in Letlhakeng, Tsabong, and Mabutsane was less than satisfactory, according to Auditor General’s report.
In these depots a number of instances had been noted where receipts and issues had not been recorded over long periods, resulting in incorrect balances reflected in the accounting records. This is a serious weakness which could lead to or result in losses without trace or detection, and is a contravention of Supplies Regulations and Procedures, Letebele said.
Similarly, consignments of a total of 892 bags of Malutu and 3 bags of beans from Tsabong depot to different feeding centres had not been received in those centres, and are considered lost. These are also not reflected in the Statement of Losses in the Annual Statements of Accounts for the same periods.