Final audit fingers more Judges in allowance scandal
President Lt. Gen. Ian Khama could have acted in bad faith when he suspended the four Judges of the High Court, Key Dingake, Modiri Letsididi, Mercy Garekwe and Ranier Busang and let others get away with the same offence.
It has emerged that two other Judges, Justices Monametsi Gaongalelwe (currently court of appeal judge) and Terrence Rannowane have added up to the list of High Court Judges who have been receiving housing allowance illegally whilst occupying institutional accommodation.
Another former Judge and current Minister of Education and Skills Development, Unity Dow still owes P 869.85 for the housing allowances accrued while she was still a Judge as she was terminated before it was fully recovered.
Unlike the trio, four other Judges were suspended for constantly getting housing allowances which they were not eligible for. Some observers believe that it was a witch hunt against the four-some, particularly the nonconformist Justice Key Dingake who had made liberal and ground breaking judgements mostly seen as anti-government.
A confidential final audit report conducted for the Administration of Justice under the Ministry of Defence, Justice and Security, seen by this publication has implied that disciplinary action should be taken against officers who fail to take action, resulting in government incurring unnecessary losses.
It also confirms that Justices Gaongalelwe and Rannowane add to the list of Judges who have been receiving un-entitled housing allowances.
“Hon. Key Dingake, Hon. Ranier Shakes Busang, Hon. Mercy Tapologo Garekwe and Hon. Modiri Letsididi, Hon. Monametsi Gaongalelwe and Hon. Terrence Rannowane have been receiving housing allowance while occupying institutional houses,” the classified official report highlighted.
The report states that the Judges are estimated to have received P 251 069.00, P 105, 468. 75, P123, 281. 10, P 494, 323. 40, P 63, 140. 00 and P 47, 008.95 respectively as housing allowances for which they were not eligible to.
The internal report which is titled “Final internal audit report – Honourable Judges’ housing allowance was prepared under the theme “Helping in the achievement of accountability and transparency in the Ministry of Justice, Defence and Security”, also unearthed that “the total housing allowance received by the Hon. Judges amounted to P 1, 084, 291. 20.”
It revealed that in addition to the suspended four Judges, Judge Gaongalelwe was overpaid housing allowance from February 2004 to March 2005 and from August 2007 to March 2008. “Judge Gaongalelwe wrote to Administration of Justice on 10th April 2008, requesting that his housing allowance overpayments be recovered from his salary effective May 2008.” The payment is not however fully recovered, report continues.
The report shows that overpayment and deduction for Justice Gaongalelwe indicate that he was overpaid by P 104, 444.00 and deductions suggest that his outstanding balance still stands at P 63, 140.00.
For Rannowane, the audit team observed that during the period as Acting Judge he was paid housing allowance of P 5, 937.45 per month from September 2008 to July 2009 and also paid monthly rental of P 1, 664.00. “Justice Rannowane was not entitled to housing allowance for the time he was accommodated in the institutional house.”Moreover the report indicates that he received an overpayment of P 47, 008.95.
According to the report, Judge Unity Dow was also allocated institutional housing on 6th February and she continued receiving the allowance for 5 months after the allocation. It states that: “a casualty return was issued on 3rd July 2007, authorising deduction of overpayment from Judge Dow’s salary. The overpayment was not fully recovered as there remained a balance of P 869.95.”
On their part, it is understood that the Administration of Justice failed to issue casualty returns to terminate payments of housing allowance upon occupation of institutional housing by Judges and no monthly reconciliation was done to detect payments of allowance to non-eligible officers.
The secret report also recommended that management should ensure that monthly reconciliation of salary payments is carried out to detect and prevent payments to non-eligible officers as well as recovery of housing allowance overpayment paid to the Judges who were not eligible should be effected, immediately.
According to the audit report, Judges had not signed House Occupation Certificates upon occupying institutional houses and no particular reason was advanced for failure to keep these certificates.
“This was in contravention of cabinet memorandum no. 90 dated 6th May 2015, ministerial file NO MDJS (S) 1/13/32 I which provides that when a Hon. Judge “…take up occupation of an official free residence and when he or she vacates it, he or she shall sign the appropriate House Occupation and Vacation Certificates which is required by the housing Officer.”
Failure by the Administration of Justice to terminate housing allowance was attributed to non-reconciliation of payroll, in contravention of financial procedure 1115, requiring monthly reconciliation of salaries to detect any discrepancies in salary and allowances payments, it stated.
“This state of affairs has exposed government funds to the possibility of irrecoverable loss considering the amount of overpayment already incurred.”
According to the Judges’ appointment letters they are eligible for government housing allowance with hard furnishing, which is rent free. They are only entitled to receiving housing allowance in the event that there is no government house in which they could be accommodated.
The internal audit report was prepared by Senior Internal Auditor, Maria Mokgwathi and reviewed by Chazha Matsheka on the 23rd May 2016 and it covered the records for the financial years 2004/05 to 2015/16.
The audit follows another which was conducted at High Court headquarters from the 3rd September to the 16th October 2015. It was a special audit requested by Chief Justice on the 4th August 2015.
Management requested for a special audit after realising that some Judges had been receiving housing allowance that they did not deserve since they were residing in institutional houses.
The objective of the audit was to establish whether there is reliability and integrity of recorded information to verify that housing allowances paid to Judges are done correctly by the Administration of Justice.
Meanwhile, the four suspended Judges are currently scuffling in court fighting for the suspension to be lifted as they see it as unlawful and unconstitutional.
They want the court to declare as invalid the decision by President Lt. Gen. Seretse Khama to appoint a tribunal which will investigate them with the potential of elimination from office.
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President Mokgweetsi Masisi says the issue of sustainable natural resources management has always been an important part of Botswana’s national development agenda.
Masisi was speaking this week on the occasion of a public lecture at Virginia Polytechnic, under theme, “Merging Conservation, Democracy and Sustainable Development in Botswana.”
Botswana, according to Masisi, holds the view that the environment is fragile and as such, must be managed and given the utmost protection to enable the achievement of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
“It is necessary that we engage one another in the interchange of ideas, perspectives, visualizations of social futures, and considerations of possible strategies and courses of action for sustainable development,” said Masisi.
On the other hand, dialogue, in the form of rigorous democratic discourse among stakeholders presents another basis for reconfiguring how people act on their environments, with a view to conserving its resources that “we require to meet our socio-economic development needs on a sustainable basis,” Masisi told attendees at the public lecture.
He said government has a keen interest in understanding the epidemiology and ecology of diseases of both domestic and wild animals. “It is our national interest to forestall the dire consequences of animal diseases on our communities livelihoods.”
President Masisi hoped that both Botswana and Virginia could help each other in curbing contagious diseases of wildlife.
“We believe that Virginia Tech can reasonably share their experiences, research insights and advances in veterinary sciences and medicines, to help us build capacity for knowledge creation and improve efforts of managing and containing contagious diseases of wildlife. The ground is fertile for entering into such a mutually beneficial partnership.”
When explaining environmental issues further, Masisi said efforts of conservation and sustainable development might at times be hampered by the emergence and recurrence of diseases when pathogens mutate and take host of more than one species.
“Water pollution also kills aquatic life, such as fish, which is one of humanity’s much deserved sources of food. In this regard, One Health Approach imposes ecological responsibility upon all of us to care for the environment and the bio-diversity therein.”
He said the production and use of animal vaccines is an important space and tool for conservation, particularly to deal with trans-border animal diseases.
“In Botswana, our 43-year-old national premier pharmaceutical institution called Botswana Vaccine Institute has played its role well. Through its successful production of highly efficacious Foot and Mouth vaccines, the country is able to contain this disease as well as supply vaccines to other countries in the sub-region.:
He has however declared that there is need for more help, saying “We need more capacitation to deal with and contain other types of microbial that affect both animals and human health.”
Masisi saddened by deaths of elephant attacks
President Mokgweetsi Masisi has expressed a strong worry over elephants killing people in Botswana. When speaking in Virginia this week, Masisi said it is unfortunate that Batswana have paid a price with their own blood through being attacked by elephants.
“Communities also suffer unimaginable economic losses yearly when their crops are eaten by the elephants. In spite of such incidents of human-elephant conflict, our people embrace living together with the animals. They fully understand wildlife conservation and its economic benefits in tourism.”
In 2018, Nthobogang Samokwase’s father was attacked by an elephant when travelling from the fields, where he stayed during the cropping season.
It was reported that the man couldn’t run because of his age. He was found trampled by the elephant and was pronounced dead upon arrival at the hospital.
In the same year, in Maun, a 57-year-old British woman was attacked by an elephant at Boro and died upon arrival at the hospital. The woman was with her Motswana partner, and were walking dogs in the evening.
Last month, a Durban woman named Carly Marshall survived an elephant attack while on holiday in the bush in Botswana. She was stabbed by one of the elephant’s tucks through the chest and was left with bruises. Marshall also suffered several fractured ribs from the ordeal.
President Masisi Botswana has the largest population of African elephants in the world, totaling more than 130 000. “This has been possible due to progressive conservation policies, partnerships with the communities, and investment in wildlife management programmes.”
In order to benefit further from wildlife, Masisi indicated that government has re-introduced controlled hunting in 2019 after a four-year pause. “The re-introduction of hunting was done in an open, transparent and democratic way, giving the communities an opportunity to air their views. The funds from the sale of hunting quota goes towards community development and elephant conservation.”
He stressed that for conservation to succeed, the local people must be involved and derive benefits from the natural resources within their localities.
“There must be open and transparent consultations which involve all sectors of the society. It is against this backdrop that as a country, we lead the continent on merging conservation, democracy and sustainable development.”
Masisi stated that Botswana is open to collaborative opportunities, “particularly with identifiable partners such as Virginia Tech, in other essential areas such as conservation, and the study of the interplay among the ecology of diseases of wild animals and plants, and their effects on human health and socio-economic development.”
Gov’t commit to injecting more funds in fighting HIV
Minister for State President Kabo Morwaeng says government will continue to make resources available in terms of financial allocations and human capital to ensure that Botswana achieves the ideal of eradicating HIV and AIDS as a public health threat by 2030.
Morwaeng was speaking this morning in Gaborone at the High-Level Advocacy event to accelerate HIV Prevention in Botswana. He said the National AIDS and Health Promotion Agency (NAPHA), in partnership with UNAIDS, UN agencies, the Global Fund and PEPFAR, have started a process of developing transition readiness plan for sustainability of HIV prevention and treatment programmes.
“It is important for us, as a country that has had a fair share of donor support in the response to an epidemic such as HIV and AIDS, to look beyond the period when the level of assistance would have reduced, or ceased, thus calling for domestic financing for all areas which were on donor support.”
Morwaeng said this is important as the such a plan will guarantee that all the gains accrued from the response with donor support will be sustained until the end when “we reach the elimination of HIV and AIDS as a public health threat by 20230,” he said.
“I commit to continue support efforts towards strengthened HIV prevention, accentuating HIV primary prevention and treatment as prevention towards Zero New Infections, Zero Stigma, Discrimination and Zero AIDS related death, to end AIDS in Botswana.”
He reiterated that government commits to tackle legislative, policy and programming challenges that act as barriers to the achievement of the goal of ending AIDS as a public health threat.
In the financial year 2022/2023, a total of 119 Civil Society Organizations, including Faith Based Organizations, were contracted with an amount of P100 million to implement HIV and NCDs prevention activities throughout the country, and the money was drawn from the Consolidated Fund.
Through an upcoming HIV Prevention Symposium, technical stakeholders will use outcomes to develop the Botswana HIV Prevention Acceleration Road Map for 2023-2025.
Morwaeng stated that government will support and ensure that Botswana plays its part achieving the road map. He said there is need to put hands on the deck to ensure that Botswana sustains progress made so far in the fight against HIV and AIDS.
“There are tremendous achievements thus far to, reach and surpass the UNAIDS fast track targets of 95%- 95%- 95% by the year 2025. As reflected by the BAIS preliminary results of 2021, we now stand at 95- 98- 98 against the set targets.”
“These achievements challenge us to now shift our gears and strive to know who are the remaining 5% for those aware of their HIV status, 2% of enrolment on treatment by those aware of their status and 2% of viral suppression by those on treatment.”
Explaining this further, Morwaeng said shift in gears should extend to coming up with robust strategies of determining where these remaining people are as well as how they will be reached with the necessary services.
“These are just some of the many variables that are required to ensure that as a country, we are well positioned to reaching the last mile of our country’s response to the HIV and AIDS pandemic.”