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The BMC false paralysis exposed

The skeletons at Botswana Meat Commission (BMC) are difficult to bury, the Feedlotters Association of Botswana has said in a scathing ‘confidential’ report channelled to the Minister of Agriculture and Food Resources, Patrick Ralotsia.

They express shock at the establishment’s attempt to wish BMC problems and alleged corruption away by pushing numerous damning reports under the carpet.


The report titled ‘Overview of BMC 2013-2016’ is uncompromising in detailing how some executives at BMC in cohort with some third parties are ensuring that the BMC is seen as an unprofitable venture. The Feedlotters are of the view that there is a deliberate move to ensure that the BMC remains unprofitable and does not identify new markets.


In their explosive report, they write: The recent “Shambles” that bedevilled the BMC resulting in the institution of two state Commissions of inquiries to investigate the wrongs of the BMC itself does not seem to have solved anything at BMC. They have no kind words for the current management of the BMC; they allege that it is the worst in many years.


“If managed properly, BMC is a sustainable business that can go far in empowering and enriching communal farmers in Botswana. The country as a whole is being deprived of the values and sustainable incomes that could be available through a thriving cattle industry, under the leadership of a viable and profitable BMC,” the Feedlotters write in their report.


They point out that the nation was recently shocked by a government decision to shut down BCL mine in Selibe Phikwe, they fear that the same fate may befall BMC, “and the looters will have a field day, taking ownership of the country’s biggest butchery.”
According to the Association of Feedlotters, the Parliamentary Select Committee that investigated the BMC 2013 came up with a list of findings and recommendations that could have been adopted to save the BMC and protect the interests of the many Batswana who depend on the BMC for livelihoods.


“Three years later and as at today, October 2016, the Parliamentary Select Committee’s findings were a mere exercise in futility, carried out at such a cost to the nation but none of their recommendations were considered.”


THE SELECT COMMITTEE’S FINDINGS, CONCERNS
The Committee had found that BMC CEOs, with few exceptions, have been chosen from the ranks of retired civil servants not based on merit or their commercial experience. The MPs had also pointed out that the BMC management practiced poor governance and there were bad relations between the board and management. It discovered productions inefficiencies caused by over staffing, declining productivity, and high marketing costs. There was no proper and efficient system of financial controls. The BMC became financially insolvent over the 2009-2012 period.


The Parliamentary Select Committee at the time picked on the issue of BMC marketing, pointing out that “At present BMC’s marketing agent, Global Protein Solutions (GPS) provides for a legal monopoly on exports. The BMC should seek to revise the contract and segments of the global beef export market to hedge against a monopoly of the marketing of the Botswana beef produce.”


Interestingly the Committee also declared that an investigation be undertaken by the Directorate on Corruption and economic Crime (DCEC) into the award of the marketing contract by BMC in favour of GPS and consideration be made for a review and renegotiation of the contract terms to ensure residual contract of the beef export marketing by the BMC. The Committee also discovered a “strong circumstantial evidence of under-pricing of beef to the EU, South Africa, and domestic markets over the period. The recommendations by the committee were never considered.


The Parliamentary Select Committee also decided that Feedlot activities should be undertaken by the Botswana private sector and not by the BMC.


THE BMC SITUATION IN 2016
According to the Feedlotters, “in today’s BMC, management does not seem to have heeded the findings of the Special Parliamentary Committee, one wonders if they even read the report.” They point out that some in the BMC management continue to demonstrate a high level of arrogance, wilful dishonesty, breaches of contracts, and bad corporate governance.

They cite poor financial management as another devil at the BMC, hence the constant failure to pay farmers, agents, or anyone connected to the Beef industry and associated with BMC, on time. The Feedlotters are also concerned that marketing Botswana beef through a monopoly and under suspicious contracts instead of marketing direct to cut off the middleman, in this case GPS.


On the management of the BMC, Feedlotters point out that the organisation currently has the worst management. “This is visible in the dreadful way they treat and handles producers.” According to the Feedlotters, BMC management has developed a culture of ignorance and arrogance whereby producers are talked down to and financially threatened if they complain.

“Managers rarely, if they ever do, answer correspondence and they actively avoid meetings that may be heated.” Feedlotters allege a culture of non-cooperation, non-accountability and secrecy. They also point out that executive management is not proactive, but are prone to sweeping problems under the carpet, in the hope that problems will simply solve themselves and go away.

As a result, these very problems are invariably never to be seen by those who should know what is going on and are authorised to take appropriate action. “It is our experience that the Chief Executive Officer, Dr Akolang Tombale seems not to be aware of what is happening within the BMC, and unfortunately reports on issues are usually manipulated to hide the actual truth at BMC.”


Feedlotters accuse Tombale of placing blind faith in everything said or presented to him by his executive managers. “Most of these executives do not report the truth but distort facts to provide the impression that all is well within the BMC where as in actual fact all facets of the Value Chain of the BMC are complaining bitterly about various vitally important functions of the BMC.”


According to the report by the Feedlotters Association, the executives report to the CEO to impress him, but not to inform him of the true position which then leads him to misrepresent the situation at board level, Cabinet and ultimately Batswana. “Of particular concern is the influence and seemingly vast control that is exercised by the Chief Financial Officer (CFO). The Feedlotters Association says the CFO is the only person who knows the basis of contracts with the marketing company, GPS, and how they operate. They point out that his influence is unhealthy for the BMC.


“The BMC has no ability to market because no capacity has been built in Botswana and the BMC is now more dependant than ever on the relationship with GPS which is under the control of the CFO. The unhealthy relationship with GPS ensures that this single agent of the BMC has complete control of all of Botswana’s external markets. Thus GPS through the CFO control the BMC and decide how the BMC gets paid which leads to continuous failure to manage BMC cash flows.”


RESIGNATIONS GALORE


Frustration over the GPS contract has seen top executives leave BMC in the recent past, the Feedlotters say. “The Internal Auditor, Distribution Manager was transferred to Capetown, Marketing Manager was turned into a plant manager and banished to Maun, The Finance Manager and the Chief Accountant both left.” In a period of three years, the BMC has lost two financial managers and chief accountant all reporting to the CFO.


The Feedlotters Association is concerned that GPS which markets Botswana beef also has a similar arrangement with competitors such as Meat Corporation of Namibia and Woodhead Brothers United Kingdom.  
“The whole conflict of interest issue comes to the fore when one is aware of the fact that Meatco of Namibia has recently entered into a supply contracts with both the USA and China. Whilst at the same time no new markets have been structured and or created for the BMC.”

The Feedlotters Association further observes that GPS is also associated with the Woodheads Brothers United Kingdom.  They are one of Britain’s biggest food manufacturers. The Feedlotters are concerned that the BMC does not know its customers; everything is secretive and managed by the CFO and GPS. “This makes it difficult for the BMC to decide to terminate the GPS contract, or to demand transparent marketing picture. The Association want this matter to be looked into as soon as possible. The BMC is said to have recently dismantled an internal marketing team and handed everything to GPS.


“It is known and reported fact that GPS buys more than 40 percent of all EU bonded meat. This it is believed is at a cheaper price. GPS then gains a commission from the BMC for selling this meat but it now also benefits from later selling the same meat at a higher price for their own profit. This is a question many senior Financial Managers have asked only to lose their positions within the BMC, by either being banished, resigning of their own accord due to frustration…” writes the Feedlotters Association of Botswana.


They are concerned that GPS does not allow BMC to find other markets and thus forces the BMC to sell meat at a loss to the South African markets just to satisfy the GPS commission. “Interest was exhibited by a group in Norway, who were introduced to the BMC by the Feedlot organisation, but was immediately turned down by the CEO and CFO, citing contractual obligations with GPS.


A further example was a group representing a very reputable American organisation, MI, introduced to the BMC by a well-known personality in the beef sector of Botswana, who wanted to market BMC beef in China but were also turned down. GPS has made it clear that no one is allowed to market Botswana beef. The Angolan market, which is said to be profitable, was also turned down after internal lengthy discussions.”


WASTAGE AND SABOTAGE
The Feedlotters Association allege that in 2014/2015 the BMC embarked on a destructive and aggressive cattle buying spree, believed to have been engineered by the CFO in order to capture the whole market in Botswana.
They further say the aggressive buying resulted in overstocked feedlots and overstocked back grounding farms. They point out that thousands of cattle died as a direct result of this reckless move by the BMC against the very industry that the BMC act was designed to protect and nurture.


“The losses of the huge numbers of cattle due to DCP decision, seems to have escaped prudent and well-structured financial accountability when the internal auditor was released. The BMC lost millions of Pula during this crusade,” wrote the Feedlotters Association.”

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Civil Service volatility: Democracy vs Bureaucracy

19th April 2021
President Masisi

Here is how one Permanent Secretary encapsulates the clear tension between democracy and bureaucracy in Botswana: “President Mokgweetsi Masisi’s Government is behaving like a state surrounded with armed forces in order to capture it or force its surrender. The situation has turned so volatile, for tomorrow is not guaranteed for us top civil servants.

These are the painful results of a personalized civil service in our view as permanent secretaries”. Although his deduction of the situation may be summed as sour grapes because he is one of the ‘victims’ of the reshuffle, he is convinced this is a perfect description of the rationale behind frequent changes and transfers characterising the current civil service.

The result of it all, he said, is that “there is too much instability at managerial and strategic levels of the civil service leading to a noticeable directionless civil service.” He continued: “Changes and transfers are inevitable in the civil service, but to a permissible scale and frequency. Think of soccer team coach who changes and transfers his entire squad every month; you know the consequences?”

The Tsunami has hit hard at critical departments and Ministries leaving a strong wave of uncertainty, many demoralised and some jobless. In traditional approaches to public administration, democracy gives the goals; and bureaucracy delivers the technical efficiency required for implementation. But the recent moves in the civil service are indicative of conflicting imperatives – the notion of separation between politicians and administrators is becoming blurred by the day.

“Look at what happened to Prisons and BDF where second in command were overlooked for outsiders, and these are the people who had sacrificially served for donkey’s years hoping for a seat at the ladder’s end. The frequency of the changes, at times affecting the same Ministry or individual also demonstrates some level of ineptitude, clumsiness and lack of foresight from those in charge,” remarked the PS who added that their view is that the transfers are not related to anything but “settling scores, creating corruption opportunities and pushing out perceived dissident and former president, Ian Khama’s alleged loyalists and most of these transfers are said to be products of intelligence detection.”

Partly blaming Khama for the mess and his unwillingness to let go, the PS dismissed Masisi for falling to the trap and failing to outgrow the destructive tiff. “Khama is here to stay and the sooner Masisi comes to terms with the fact that he (Masisi) is the state President, the better. For a President to still be making these changes and transfers signals signs of a confused man who has not yet started rolling his roadmap, if at all it was ever there. I am saying this because any roadmap comes with key players and policies,” he concluded.

The Ministry of Health and Wellness seems to be the most hard-hit by the transfers, having experienced three Permanent Secretaries changes within a year and a half. Insiders say the changes have everything to do with the Ministry being the centre of COVID-19 tenders and economic opportunities. “The buck stops with the PS and no right-thinking PS can just allow glaring corruption under his watch as an accounting officer. Technocrats are generally law abiding, the pressure comes with politically appointed leaders racing against political terms to loot,” revealed a director in the Ministry preferring anonymity.

The latest transfer of Kabelo Ebineng she says was also motivated by his firm attitude against the President’s blue-eyed Task Team boys. “The Task Team wants to own the COVID-19 pandemic and government interventions and always cry foul when the Ministry reasserts itself as mandated by law,” said the director who added that Masisi who was always caught between the crossfire decided on sacrificing Ebineng to the joy of his team as they (Task Team) were in the habit of threatening to resign citing Ebineng as the problem.

Ebineng joins the Office of the President as a deputy Coordinator (government implementation and coordination office).The incoming PS is the soft-spoken Grace Muzila, known and described by her close associates as a conformist albeit knowledgeable.

One of the losers in the grand scheme is Thato Raphaka who many had seen as the next PSP because of his experience and calm demeanour following a declaration of interest in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Secretary post by the current PSP, Elias Magosi.

But hardly ten months into his post, Raphaka has been transferred out to the National Strategy Office in what many see as a demotion of some sort. Other notable changes coming into OP are Pearl Ramokoka formerly with the Employment, Labour and Productivity Ministry coming in as a Permanent Secretary and Kgomotso Abi as director of Public Service Reforms.

One of the ousted senior officers in the Office of the President warned that there are no signs that the changes and transfers will stop anytime soon: “If you are observant you would have long noticed that the changes don’t only affect senior officers but government decisions as well. A decision is made today and the government backtracks on it within a week. Not only that, the President says this today, and his deputy denies it the following day in Parliament,” he warned.

Some observers have blamed the turmoil in the civil service partly to lack of accountable presidential advisers or kitchen cabinet properly schooled on matters of statecraft. They point out that politicians or those peripheral to them should refrain from hampering the technical and organizational activities of public managers – or else the party (reshuffling) won’t stop.

In the view expressed by some Permanent Secretaries, Elias Magosi, has not really been himself since joining the civil service; and has cut a picture of indifference in most critical engagements; the most notable been a permanent secretaries platform which he chairs. As things stand there is need to reconcile the imperatives of democracy and democracy in Botswana. Peace will rein only when public value should stand astride the fault that runs between politicians and public managers.

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Morupisi fights for freedom in court

19th April 2021
morupisi

Former Permanent Secretary to the President, Carter Morupisi, is fighting for survival in a matter in which the State has charged him and his wife, Pinnie Morupisi, with corruption and money laundering.

Morupisi has joined a list of prominent figures that served in the previous administration and who have been accused of corruption during their tenure in office. While others have been emerging victorious, Morupisi is yet to find that luck. The High Court recently dismissed his no case to answer application.

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Pressure mounts on Biden to suspend Covid-19 vaccine patents

19th April 2021
Joe Biden

United States President, Joe Biden, is faced with a decision to make relating to the Covid-19 vaccine intellectual property after 175 former world leaders and Nobel laurates joined the campaign urging the US to take “urgent action” to suspend intellectual property rights for Covid-19 vaccines to help boost global inoculation rates.

According to the world leaders, doing so would allow developing countries to make their own copies of the vaccines that have been developed by pharmaceutical companies without fear of being sued for intellectual property infringements.

“A WTO waiver is a vital and necessary step to bringing an end to this pandemic. It must be combined with ensuring vaccine know-how and technology is shared openly,” the signatories, comprising more than 100 Nobel prize-winners and over 70 former world leaders, wrote in a letter to US President Joe Biden, according to Financial Times.

A measure to allow countries to temporarily override patent rights for Covid related medical products was proposed at the World Trade Organization by India and South Africa in October, and has since been backed by nearly 60 countries.

Former leaders who signed the letter included Gordon Brown, former UK Prime Minister; François Hollande, former French President; Mikhail Gorbachev, former President of the USSR; and Yves Leterme, former Belgian Prime Minister.

In their official communication, South Africa and India said: “As new diagnostics, therapeutics and vaccines for Covid-19 are developed, there are significant concerns [about] how these will be made available promptly, in sufficient quantities and at affordable prices to meet global demand.”

While developed countries have been able to secure enough vaccine to inoculate their citizens, developing countries such as Botswana are struggling to source enough to swiftly vaccine their citizens, something which world leaders believe it would work against global recovery therefore proving counter-productive.

Since the availability of vaccines, Botswana has been able to secure only 60 000 doses of vaccines, 30 000 as donation as from the Indian government, while the other 30 000 was sourced through COVAX facility.  Canada, has pre-ordered vaccines in surplus and it will be able to vaccinate each of its citizens six times over. In the UK and US, it is four vaccines per person; and two each in the EU and Australia.

For vaccines produced in Europe, developing countries are forced to pay double what European countries are paying, making it more expensive for already financially struggling economies.  European countries however justify the price of vaccines and that they deserve to buy them cheap since they contributed in their development.

It is evident that vaccines cannot be made available immediately to all countries worldwide with wealthy economies being the only success story in that regard, something that has been referred to as a “catastrophic moral failure”, head of the World Health Organisation (WHO), Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

The challenge facing developing countries is not only the price, but also the capacity of vaccine manufactures to be able to do so to meet global demand within a short time. The proposal for a patent waiver by India and South Africa has been rejected by developed countries, known for hosting the world leading pharmaceutical companies such US, European Union, the United Kingdom, and Switzerland.

According to the Financial Times, US business groups including pharmaceutical industry representatives, have urged Biden to resist supporting a waiver to IP rules at the WTO, arguing that the proposal led by India and South Africa was too “vague” and “broad”.

The individuals who signed the letter, including Nobel laureates in economics as well as from across the arts and sciences, warned that inequitable vaccine access would impact the global economy and prevent it from recovering.

“The world saw unprecedented development of safe and effective vaccines, in major part thanks to US public investment,” the group wrote. “We all welcome that vaccination rollout in the US and many wealthier countries is bringing hope to their citizens.”

“Yet for the majority of the world that same hope is yet to be seen. New waves of suffering are now rising across the globe. Our global economy cannot rebuild if it remains vulnerable to this virus.”
The group warned that fully enforcing IP was “self-defeating for the US” as it hindered global vaccination efforts. “Given artificial global supply shortages, the US economy already risks losing $1.3tn in gross domestic product this year.”

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