Ministry of Education and Skills Development spent P600 million on yet to be established expenditure without the authority of parliament. This has in turn caused the ministry to fail to pay University of Botswana (UB) subvention and tuition fees, among other things.
The ministry which has since been split into two ministries; Ministry of Basic Education and Ministry of Tertiary Education, Research, Science and Technology’s unexplained spending has put the future of the country’s highest learning institution in dire financial crisis. According to Chief Finance Officer from the former ministry, Olga Mutloane, at one point during the 2015/16 financial year it came to the attention of senior officials that the ministry will experience ‘budget deficit’ and sought the assistance of Ministry of Finance and Economic Development .
The ministry of finance then declined to offer MoE a lifeline and instead recommended that it seeks funds from within the institutions which fall under its auspices. Mutloane informed the Parliamentary Committee on Statutory Bodies and Enterprises recently that at that point UB was one of the institutions which had enough to sustain itself for another financial year.
“We could not ask UB to write a cheque or transfer money to us since the money was instead going to be directed to the Consolidated Fund,” she explained and added that, “We agreed instead to withhold money which was due to UB for tuition fee and subvention in order to avoid the anticipated deficient.”
Part of the agreement was that, the ministry will then at one point, in the next financial year pay back the money which was due to the UB. The ministry however defaulted on its promise and only paid part of the money a few weeks ago when it became evident that UB will have its coffers dried up by the end of year.
The chairman of the Committee, Samson Guma had told the ministry that it was being economic with the truth by suggesting that the ministry at one point was going to experience budget deficiency, something which he said is impossible. “Only government can have budget deficient, not individual ministries,” he said. “All ministries’ expenditure is something which is budgeted for and approved by parliament. You were in that deficient (state) because you had an unauthorised expenditure.”
The Tati West legislator stated that the ministry has violated the law by failing to adhere to the budget as approved by parliament. He said since the Ministry of Education’s budget including that of UB was approved by parliament, it was illegal for the ministry not to release the funds as envisaged by the approval of the budget.
“As a seconded Ministry of Finance official you have to know this,” he said. “You do not have those powers to withhold and change a budget approved by parliament.” Guma said parastatals cannot bail their parent ministries and noted the ministry can only get an additional funding through supplementary budget.
Mutloane could not divulge where the money was directed to, but concurred with Guma that the ministry performed an unauthorised expenditure. Guma said the ministry should take the blame for the confusion at the UB because of the decisions it continues to make, firstly by failing to pay tuition fee due to the university and secondly by underfunding the university contrary to the institution’s request.
Guma further suggested to UB Vice-Chancellor Professor, Thabo Fako, to be robust if he desires to be heard. He said the approach which the university is currently using will not bear fruits hence the need to change the tactics. Guma even recommended that UB should consider kicking out government sponsored students from class if government fails to pay tuition fee as it has an obligation to do so.
“If you kick out privately sponsored students for not paying their tuition fee why don’t you apply the same rules to government sponsored students,” he questioned. “You are running an institution sir, you have rendered a service and government has an obligation to pay for the services,” Guma added.
UB requires over P1 billion to cover operational costs, but in the last three years the institution has received less than what they have requested forcing it to exhaust its reserves. In the last three years, the university received P776 million, 714 million and 703 million in the financial year under review. The institution’s Vice Chancellor, Prof Fako revealed that the financial crisis is worsened by dwindling number of students being enrolled at the institution as a result of the sponsorship cessation by government for some courses and government’s decision not to meet the budget as requested by the institution.
Fako is set to meet the minister of newly created ministry responsible for UB and other tertiary institutions, Dr Alfred Madigele. The meeting as per Fako’s revelation is to have a genuine and candid dialogue about the future of UB.
While there is no hard-and-fast rule in politics, former Molepolole North Member of Parliament, Mohamed Khan says populism acts in the body politic have forced him to quit active partisan politics. He brands this ancient ascription of politics as fake and says it lowers the moral compass of the society.
Khan who finally tasted political victory in the 2014 elections after numerous failed attempts, has decided to leave the ‘dirty game’, and on his way out he characteristically lashed at the current political leaders; including his own party president, Advocate Duma Boko. “I arrived at this decision because I have noticed that there are no genuine politics and politicians. The current leaders, Boko and President Dr Mokgweetsi Masisi are fake politicians who are just practicing populist politics to feed their egos,” he said.
Former Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) parliamentary hopeful, Lawrence Ookeditse has rejected the idea of taking up a crucial role in the Botswana Patriotic Front (BPF) Central Committee following his arrival in the party this week. According to sources close to development, BPF power brokers are coaxing Ookeditse to take up the secretary general position, left vacant by death of Roseline Panzirah-Matshome in November 2020.
Ookeditse’s arrival at BPF is projected to cause conflicts, as some believe they are being overlooked, in favour of a new arrival. The former ruling party strategist has however ruled out the possibility of serving in the party central committee as secretary general, and committed that he will turn down the overture if availed to him by party leadership.
Ookeditse, nevertheless, has indicated that if offered another opportunity to serve in a different capacity, he will gladly accept. “I still need to learn the party, how it functions and all its structures; I must be guided, but given any responsibility I will serve the party as long as it is not the SG position.”
“I joined the BPF with a clear conscious, to further advance my voice and the interests of the constituents of Nata/Gweta which I believe the BDP is no longer capable to execute.” Ookeditse speaks of abject poverty in his constituency and prevalent unemployment among the youth, issues he hopes his new home will prioritise.
He dismissed further allegations that he resigned from the BDP because he was not rewarded for his efforts towards the 2019 general elections. After losing in the BDP primaries in 2018, Ookeditse said, he was offered a job in government but declined to take the post due to his political ambitions. Ookeditse stated that he rejected the offer because, working for government clashed with his political journey.
He insists there are many activists who are more deserving than him; he could have chosen to take up the opportunity that was before him but his conscious for the entire populace’s wellbeing held him back. Ookeditse said there many people in the party who also contributed towards party success, asserting that he only left the BDP because he was concerned about the greater good of the majority not individualism purposes.
According to observers, Ookeditse has been enticed by the prospects of contesting Nata/Gweta constituency in the 2024 general election, following the party’s impressive performance in the last general elections. Nata/Gweta which is a traditional BDP stronghold saw its numbers shrinking to a margin of 1568. BDP represented by Polson Majaga garnered 4754, while BPF which had fielded Joe Linga received 3186 with UDC coming a distant with 1442 votes.
There are reports that Linga will pave way for Ookeditse to contest the constituency in 2024 and the latter is upbeat about the prospects of being elected to parliament. Despite Ookeditse dismissing reports that he is eying the secretary general position, insiders argue that the position will be availed to him nevertheless.
Alternative favourite for the position is Vuyo Notha who is the party Deputy Secretary General. Notha has since assumed duties of the secretariat office on the interim basis. BPF politburo is expected to meet on 25th of January 2020, where the vacancy will be filled.
Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) big wigs have decided to cancel a retreat with the party legislators this weekend owing to increasing numbers of Covid-19 cases. The meeting was billed for this weekend at a place that was to be confirmed, however a communique from the party this past Tuesday reversed the highly anticipated meeting.
“We received a communication this week that the meeting will not go as planned because of rapid spread of Covid-19,” one member of the party Central Committee confirmed to this publication. The gathering was to follow the first of its kind held late last year at party Treasurer Satar Dada’s place.