The salary negotiations between government and Botswana Federation of Public and Private Sectors Union (BOFEPPUSU) have this week suffered another blow.
Weekend Post has established that the talks have reached a new deadlock hardly 2 weeks following the commencement of Public Service Bargaining Council (PSBC) proceedings. This comes after the union party tabled their proposal of a whopping 10.5% salary increment as well as improved conditions of service for their membership during the first sitting of the talks.
In return it is understood that government has flatly declined to counter the union proposal, sparking debates that they may be on agenda to delay the talks further with a purpose to render the PSBC irrelevant and consequently continue with unilateral increments. Government has recently unilaterally increased public servants salaries by 3%, citing the union court battles as procrastinating. In the court battle, BOFEPPUSU was in dispute with Botswana Public Employees Union (BOPEU) over who should sit or not sit in the PSBC. This happened subsequent to the BOPEU’s withdrawal from union federation affiliation.
“Yes it is true that government party has this week stalled 2016/17 salary negotiations indicating that they have no mandate to continue with the salary negotiations and further they are refusing to respond to the Trade Union proposal of 2017/18 salary negotiations,” BOFEPUSU Deputy Secretary General, Ketlhalefile Motshegwa, told Weekend Post on Friday in an interview.
Motshegwa further lambasted the government representatives at PSBC highlighting that they are never productive. He said the government party aways go to the meeting without mandate, and “they would be continuously on the phone saying "they are calling bagolo". Motshegwa meant that they are calling “top” government officials or politburo.
“At the Bargaining Council, employer representatives are always unreasonable and frustrating the Bargaining Council. In fact they are dedicated to kill the Bargaining Council so that Government alone can unilaterally decide on conditions of service of workers,” the unionist expressed their frustrations.
At this moment, he further pointed out that there is low morale in the Public Service and there are poor conditions of service of workers, and in addition there is animosity and instability in the civil service stemming probably to the delayed talks. The PSBC operates on a 50/50 representation from government and recognised public service trade unions (BOFEPUSU under acting jointly agreement). Government is currently represented by 8 and union party 8 as well. The PSBC was established by section 50 and 51 of the Public Service Act to negotiate between the employer and public service unions.
Union put blame on BDP, Molale for dysfunctional PSBC Union party has blamed the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) and Minister of Presidential Affairs, Governance and Public Administration, Eric molale for interfering as well as influencing the government party in the PSBC.
Motshegwa has stated that since Molale’s days as Permanent Secretary, later as Permanent Secretary to the President, he has always been and continue to be confrontational against Trade Unions and undermine social dialogue mechanism thereby undermining Freedom of Association and the right to Organise, as well as Collective Bargaining.
“The Bargaining Council continues to be disrespected, disregarded and Labour laws violated in the Public Service under the mentorship and influence of Minister Eric Molale,” the BOFEPPUSU leader pointed out. According to Motshegwa, they had written to Cabinet seeking to address it on matters of Public Service for dialogue is fundamental in preserving democracy, peace and prosperity.
“But we were however turned down by the Permanent Secretary To The President (PSP), Carter Morupisi, who wrote back saying that we should in turn meet Minister Molale as he is the one responsible for Public service. We wrote to Minister Molale based on Morupisi's correspondence and Minister Molale has since refused to meet leadership of BOFEPPUSU.”
This, the unionist continued, “depicts arrogant and unaccountable leadership that has no place in modern democracy. It can then safely be interpreted that Minister Molale 's onslaught against Trade Unions is endorsed and condoned by the BDP, for they seem to have placed much trust on him despite his dismal failure in his portfolio.”
He said the BDP has responsibility to account for Minister Eric Molale’s continued bullying of Trade Unions and disregard of the Public Service Bargaining Council. “If Botswana Democratic Party does not whip Minister Molale into the line then his conduct and actions will surely cost them as they will attract many enemies not only within civil service,” he added.
Gov’t parties in PSBC clueless about labour relations? Motshegwa said that in year 2010 there were 1000 Permanent Secretaries and Directors and today there are 2000. He added that this is just a burden to the expenditure because still with many Permanent Secretaries and Directors productivity has gone down. “It is people at this scales who get large slice of the wage bill. In yester years Permanent Secretaries were powerful and principled. They could stand their ground and objectively tender their advice to Government.”
According to BOFEPPUSU DSG there are confrontational and inexperienced Permanent Secretaries who are clueless about Labour relations and contemporary trends of workplace democracy and “these are the kind of robots like Permanent Secretaries and Directors who simply carry Minister Eric Molale’s instructions without even putting their own conscience.”
Motshegwa maintained that Molale’s role in mandate giving to those who represent the Government at the Bargaining Council continue to spell bad for the Bargaining Council and the Country. He added that his influence and role in the Public Service has brought an era of bad relations between Trade Unions and Government and therefore negatively impacting on the democracy of the Country.
“Today,” he pointed out, “it is different as those appointed to such positions are not necessarily the best in the civil service due to an entrenched culture of nepotism that reward bootlicking and sycophancy.” The selection process and promotion process, he said, is riddled with corrupt connotations.
“We have headship of civil service that is willing to carry instructions of political masters no matter how absurd and ill-advised they are. This is the kind of crop of Permanent Secretaries and Directors who will severely cost the BDP with their popular vote.” On his part, BDP Secretary General, Botsalo Ntuane, defended BDP and refuted claims of interference in the works of PSBC as a political party.
“I think sometimes BDP is given unfair treatment. I sit in all key decision making meetings of the party and the PSBC has never been discussed,” Ntuane defended his party. He further insisted that, “the BDP does not participate in PSBC. It’s a forum for unionists and government officials and we are not privy to their deliberations.”
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.