Chairman of Parliamentary Committee on Statutory Bodies and Enterprises, Samson Guma has said that lack of respect for rule of law and parliament threatens the country’s prudent fiscal policy.
Guma said as a legislator, he feels disrespected by ministries who have the impression that parliament will approve every financial request from government departments even when it is clear that careless financial decisions were made.
This comes in the wake of among others, a decision by Minister of Environment, Natural Resources Conservation and Tourism Tshekedi Khama’s directive to BTO CEO, Brian Dithebe, to implement a new organisational structure which will cost government an additional P22 million in the current financial year. The minister has reportedly informed BTO that the shortfall in the BTO budget will be financed through a supplementary budget request.
“You do not implement a structure which you have not budgeted for without getting approval first,” Guma said this week.
Guma’s concerns corroborate concerns by members of the opposition that parliament has been rubber stamping supplementary budget requests for various ministries without making its own assessment on whether such spending is necessary or not.
It has become a norm recently that a large sum of money is appropriated outside the normal budgeting process mainly because of poor planning or unnecessary spending by a ministry.
In November 2014, at the first meeting of parliament, eyebrows were raised when a total of P2.4 billion was wholly approved by parliament despite questionable requests being brought forth by ministries before parliament.
Ndaba Gaolathe, who is a member of Finance and Estimates committee, argued in a fierce debate in parliament then, that no country in the world could appropriate such amount of money without careful considerations.
Gaolathe then submitted a proposal on the framework of analysis of supplementary funding of Government ministries, and its departments.
The frame work identified five key criteria, considered to be pertinent in any national supplementary budgeting process. This categories are; unforeseen, high systematic risk, cost-benefit, sustainability and Management of Risk.
Gaolathe contended that supplementary funding should only be for those expenses that meet the requirements as prescribed by the constitution or that were foreseen but not budget for due to planning lapse or sudden changes in government revenue out-turn.
Not only is the Tati East legislator worried by such lack of respect for the authority of parliament in making its own assessment, he also mentioned degeneration in respect for rule of law and disregard for the country’s public procurement system.
During the current committee sitting, it has been established that incidences for undermining public procurement laws and procedures are on the rise, with ministers and boards engaging on contracts with their preferred companies contrary to Public Procurement and Assets Disposal Board (PPADB) procedures.
The primary mandate of PPADB is to adjudicate and award tenders for central Government and other quasi- government institutions specified under the Act for the delivery of works, services and supplies related services.The PPADB mandate is also to ensure that projects are prudentially managed to ensure value for money in the procurement and disposal of assets.
However, few weeks ago, Minister Khama was forced to cancel a planned opening of an office in Dubai because it was not budgeted for, and a proper process relating to use of public money was not followed.
Guma’s committee was informed by Air Botswana Acting General Manager, Agnes Khunwane that a tender worth P81 million was awarded to a European company, a few days after the dismissal of the board. The tender was authorised by Neil Fitt, Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Transport and Communications. The committee ruled that Fitt did not have the power to approve such an amount of money in the absence of the board.
The committee also heard this week that Minister Khama insisted that a company called ASUIA be directly appointed to provide what was initially agreed upon as insurance for tourists visiting the country. The company was to be entitled to 12 percent of the total collections, with the rest going to government.
However, the committee has been told that Ministry of Finance and Economic Development, throughNon-Bank Financial Institutions Regulatory Authority (NBFRA) has raised their own concerns with regards to the proposed idea, resulting with the proposal be amended to now make it a levy.
Under the new proposal, ASUIA will be entitled to one third (33.3 percent) of the total collection every month. This translate to about P2.5 million monthly and P30 million annually. The committee has questioned Khama’s insistence that ASUIA be given the tender even after the initial idea changed.
In a letter dated 8th February 2016, addressed to BTO CEO, Dithebe by Khama stated that: “In the absence of a quorate board to consider ASUIA proposal, you are accordingly instructed to implement the instruction, inclusive of directly appointing ASUIA as a service provider for inbound insurance under the terms and conditions stipulated in the existing contract, save for any reference to BTO Board approval.”
The Minister of Justice, Machana Shamukuni says the search to appoint the Ombudsman and other critical heads of department is currently ongoing and the process is expected to be completed before end of the year.
The Ombudsman position fell vacant almost five months ago after Augustine Makgonatsotlhe was removed from the office and appointed as Ambassador to Kuwait.
Two Batswana nationals have been arrested in Zimbabwe for illegal trade in mercury. The duo is being held together with a Zimbabwean national who is being questioned by the Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP).
This publication understands that the suspects who are aged between 39 and 56 years hail from Tutume and Selebi-Phikwe. At the time of the arrest, they were found in possession of a pistol, bomb motor and four live rounds. It is understood that the suspects told investigators during interrogation that the deadly substance has a lucrative market in Far East countries, where the demand is high. It is further reported that the suspects claimed that the mercury can be easily accessed in mines through middleman.
The Namibian Lives Matter Movement has weighed in on the looming border dispute between their country and Botswana.
Commenting on reports that the Namibian Parliament has dispatched a committee along the border between the two countries on fact finding mission, the group commended“the National Assembly’s Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, De-fence and Security that will engage community members living along the Namibia Botswana Border in conducting public hearings into acts of aggression and brutality by Botswana Defence (BDF) Force against innocent and unarmed Namibians.”