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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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Jackdish Shah loses interest in BDP

17th May 2022
Jackdish

As the preparations for the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) congress are about to kick off, reports on the ground suggest that the party’s Deputy Treasurer Jackdish Shah will not defend the position in August as he contemplates relocation.

According to sources, the businessman who joined the BDP Central Committee in 2015 at the 36th Congress held in Mmadinare is ready to leave the party’s politburo. It is said he long made up his mind not to defend the position last year. A prominent businessman, Shah, when he won the position to assist Satar Dada in 2015 was expected to improve the party’s financial vibrancy. By then the party was under the leadership of Ian Khama.

According to close sources, Shah long decided not to contest because he has fallen out of favour with the party leadership. It is said he took the decision after some prominent businessmen who are BDP members and part of football syndicate decided to push him out and they used their proximity to President Mokgweetsi Masisi to badmouth him hence the decision.

“The fight at the Botswana Football Association (BFA) and Botswana Football League (BFL) has left him alone in the desert and some faces there used their close access to the President to isolate him,” said a source. Media reports say, Shah does not see eye to eye with BFA President MacLean Letshwiti who is also Masisi’s buddy hence the decision.

BFL Chairman Nicholas Zackhem is said to be not in good terms with Shah, who at one point Chaired the then Botswana Premier League (BPL). “He is seriously considering quitting because of what is unfolding at the team (Township Rollers) which is slowly not making financial gains and might be relegated and he wants to sell while it is still worth the investment,” said a highly placed source.

Shah is a renowned businessman who runs internet providing company Zebra net, H &G, game farm in Kasane, cattle farm in Ghanzi region and lot of properties in Gaborone. He also has two hotels in USA, his advisors have given him thumbs up on the possible decision of relocating provided he does not sell some of the investments that are doing well.

Asked about whether he will be contesting Shah could not confirm nor deny the reports. It is said for now it is too early as a public decision will have to be taken after the national council meeting and prior to the national congress. “As a BDP Central Committee member he cannot make that announcement now,” a BDP source said.

BDP is expected to assemble for the National Council during the July holidays while the National Congress is billed for August. It is then that the party will elect a new CC members. The last time BDP held elective congress was at Kang in 2019. The party is yet to issue writ.

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Govt ignores own agreements to improve public service

17th May 2022
Govt

The government has failed to implement some commitments and agreements that it had entered into with unions to improve conditions of public servants.

Three years after the government and public made commitments aimed at improving conditions of work and services it has emerged that the government has ignored and failed to implement all commitments on conditions of service emanating from the 2019 round of negotiations.

In its position paper that saw public service salaries being increased by 5%, the government the government has also signalled its intention to renege on some of the commitments it had made.
“Government aspires to look into all outstanding issues contained in the Labour Agreement signed between the Employer and recognised Trade Union on the 27th August 2019 and that it be reviewed, revised and delinked by both Parties with a view to agree on those whose implementation that can be realistically executed during the financial years 2022/23, 2023/24 and 2024/25 respectively,” the government said.

Furthermore, in addition to reviewing, revising and de-linking of the outstanding issues contained in the Collective Labour Agreement alluded to above and taking on a progressive proposal, government desires to review revise, develop and implement human resource policies as listed below during the financial year 2022/23,2023/24,2024/25

They include selection and appointment policy, learning and development policy, transfer guidelines, conditions of service, permanent and pensionable, temporary and part time, Foreign Service, expatriate and disciplinary procedures.

In their proposal paper, the unions which had proposed an 11 percent salary increase but eventually settled for 5% percent indicated that the government has not, and without explanation, acted on some of the key commitments from the 2019/2020 and 2021/22 round of negotiations.  The essential elements of these commitments include among others the remuneration Policy for the Public Service.

The paper states that a Remuneration Policy will be developed to inform decision making on remuneration in the Public Service. It is envisaged that consultations between the government and relevant key stakeholders on the policy was to start on 1st September 2019, and the development of the policy should be concluded by 30th June 2020.

The public sector unions said the Remuneration Policy is yet to be developed. The Cooperating Unions suggested that the process should commence without delay and that it should be as participatory as it was originally conceived. Another agreement relate to Medical Aid Contribution for employees on salary Grades A and B.

The employer contribution towards medical aid for employees on salary Grades A and B will be increased from 50% to 80% for the Standard Option of the Botswana Public
“Officers’ Medical Aid Scheme effective 1st October 2019; the cooperating unions insist that, in fulfilling this commitment, there should be no discrimination between those on the high benefit and those on the medium benefit plan,” the unions proposal paper says.

Another agreement involves the standardisation of gratuities across the Public Service. “Gratuities for all employees on fixed term contracts of 12 months but not exceeding 5 years, including former Industrial class employees be standardized at 30% across the Public Service in order to remove the existing inequalities and secure long-term financial security for Public Service Employees at lower grades with immediate effect,” the paper states.

The other agreement signed by the public sector unions and the government was the development of fan-shaped Salary Structure. The paper says the Public Service will adopt a best practice fan-shaped and overlapping structure, with modification to suit the Botswana context. The Parties (government and unions) to this agreement will jointly agree on the ranges of salary grades to allow for employees’ progression without a promotion to the available position on the next management level.

“The fan-shaped structure is envisaged to be in place by 1st June 2020, to enable factoring into the budgetary cycle for the financial year 2021/22,” the unions’ proposal paper states. It says the following steps are critical, capacity building of key stakeholders (September – December 2019), commission remuneration market survey (3 months from September to November 2019), design of the fan-shaped structure (2 to 3 months from January to March2020) and consultations with all key stakeholders (March to April 2020).

The unions and government had also signed an agreement on performance management and development: A rigorous performance management and reward system based on a 5-point rating system will be adopted as an integral part of the operationalization of the new Remuneration System.

Performance Management and Development (PMD) will be used to reward workers based on performance. The review of the Performance Management System was to be undertaken in order to close the gaps identified by PEMANDU and other previous reports on PMS between 1st September 2019 and 30th June 2020 as follows; internal process to update and revise the current Performance Management System by January 2020.

A job evaluation exercise in the Public Service will also be undertaken to among others establish internal equity, and will also cover the grading of all supervisory positions within the Public Service.
Another agreement included overtime Management. The Directorate of Public Service Management (DPSM) was to facilitate the conclusion of consultations on management of overtime, including consideration of the Overtime Management Task Team’s report on the same by 30th November 2019.

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Health Expert rejects ‘death rates’ links to low population growth

17th May 2022
Health-Expert

A public health expert, Dr Edward Maganu who is also the former Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Health has said that unlike many who are expressing shock at the population census growth decline results, he is not, because the 2022 results represents his expectations.

He rushed to dismiss the position by Statistics Botswana in which thy partly attributes the low growth rates to mortality rates for the past ten years. “I don’t think there is any undercounting. I also don’t think death rates have much to do with it since the excessive deaths from HIV/AIDS have been controlled by ARVs and our life expectancy isn’t lower than it was in the 1990s,” he said in an interview with this publication post the release of the results.

Preliminary results released by Statistics Botswana this week indicated that Botswana’s population is now estimated to be 2,346,179 – a figure that the state owned data agency expressed worry over saying it’s below their projected growth. The general decline in the population growth rate is attributed to ‘fertility’ and ‘mortality’ rates that the country registered on the past ten years since the last census in 2011.

Maganu explained that with an enlightened or educated society and the country’s total fertility rate, there was no way the country’s population census was going to match the previous growth rates.
“The results of the census make sense and is exactly what I expected. Our Total Fertility Rate ( the average number of children born to a woman) is now around 2.

This is what happens as society develops and educates its women. The enlightened women don’t want to bear many children, they want to work and earn a living, have free time, and give their few children good care. So, there is no under- counting. Census procedures are standard so that results are comparable between countries.

That is why the UN is involved through UNFPA, the UN Agency responsible for population matters,” said Maganu who is also the former adviser to the World Health Organisation. Maganu ruled out undercounting concerns, “I see a lot of Batswana are worried about the census results. Above is what I have always stated.”

Given the disadvantages that accompany low population for countries, some have suggested that perhaps a time has come for the government to consider population growth policies or incentives, suggestions Maganu deems ineffective.

“It has never worked anywhere. The number of children born to a woman are a very private decision of the woman and the husband in an enlightened society. And as I indicated, the more the women of a society get educated, the higher the tendency to have fewer children. All developed countries have a problem of zero population growth or even negative growth.

The replacement level is regarded as 2 children per woman; once the fertility level falls below that, then the population stops growing. That’s why developed countries are depending so much on immigration,” he said.

According to him, a lot of developing countries that are educating their women are heading there, including ourselves-Botswana. “Countries that have had a policy of encouraging women to have more children have failed dismally. A good example is some countries of Eastern Europe (Romania is a good example) that wanted to grow their populations by rewarding women who had more children. It didn’t work. The number of children is a very private matter,” said Maganu

For those who may be worried about the impact of problems associated with low growth rate, Maganu said: “The challenge is to develop society so that it can take care of its dependency ratio, the children and the aged. In developed countries the ratio of people over 60 years is now more than 20%, ours is still less than 10%.”

The preliminary results show that Mogoditshane with (88,098) is now the biggest village in the country with Maun coming second (85,293) and Molepolole at third position with 74,719. Population growth is associated with many economic advantages because more people leads to greater human capital, higher economic growth, economies of scale, the efficiency of higher population density and the improved demographic structure of society, among many others.

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