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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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Seretse, Kgosi may walk free

30th October 2020
BAKANG SERETSE

The P250 million National Petroleum Fund (NPF) saga that has been before court since 2017 seems to be losing its momentum with a high possibility of it being thrown out as defence lawyers unmask incompetency on the part of the Directorate of Public Prosecution (DPP).

The Gaborone High Court this week ruled that the decision by the State to prosecute Justice Zein Kebonang and his twin brother, Sadique Kebonang has been reviewed and set aside. The two brothers have now been cleared of the charges that where laid against them three years ago.

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Understanding the US Electoral College and key election issues 

28th October 2020
Mark J Rozell

The United States (US) will on the 3rd of November 2020 chose between incumbent Donald Trump of the Republicans and former Vice President Joe Biden of the Democrats amid the coronavirus pandemics, which has affected how voting is conducted in the world’s biggest economy.

Trump (74) seeks re-election after trouncing Hillary Clinton in 2016, while Biden (77) is going for his first shot as Democratic nominee after previous unsuccessful spells.

US Presidents mostly succeed in their re-election bid, but there have been nine individuals who failed to garner a second term mandate, the latest being George W H. Bush, a Republican who served as the 41st US President between 1989 and 1993.

Dr Mark Rozell, a Dean of  the School of Policy and Government at George Mason University  in  Arlington, Virginia describes the complex US electoral system that will deliver the winner at the 3rd November elections.

“The founders of our Republic de-centralised  authority  significantly  in  creating  our  constitutional  system,  which  means that  they  gave  an  enormous  amount  of  independent  power  and  authority  to  State  and  local governments,” Dr Rozell told international media on Elections 2020 Virtual Reporting Tour.

Unlike  parliamentary  democracies, like Botswana the  United  States  does  not  have  all  of  the  national government elected in one year. They do not have what is commonly called mandate elections where  the  entire  federal  government  is  elected  all  in  one  election  cycle  giving  a  “mandate”  to  a particular political party to lead, and instead US have what are called staggered elections, elections over time.

The two house Congress, members of the House of Representatives have two-year long terms of office. Every two years the entire House of Representatives is up for re-election, but senators  serve  for  six  years  and  one  third  of  the  Senate is elected every  two  years.

For this election cycle, US citizens will be electing the President and Vice

President, the entire House of Representatives and one third of the open or contested seats in the Senate, whereas two thirds are still fulfilling the remainder of their terms beyond this year.

An  important  facet  of  US electoral  system  to  understand  given  the  federalism  nature  of  the republic, the US elect presidents State by State, therefore they do not have a national popular vote for the presidency.

“We have a national popular vote total that says that Hillary Clinton got three million more votes than Donald Trump or in Year 2000 that Al Gore got a half million more votes than George W. Bush, but we have what is called a State by State winner takes all system where each State  is  assigned  a  number  of  electors  to  our  Electoral  College  and  the  candidate  who  wins  the popular vote within each State takes 100 percent of the electors to the Electoral College,” explained Dr Rozell.

“And that is why mathematically, it is possible for someone to win the popular vote but lose the presidency.”

Dr Rozell indicated that in 2016, Hillary Clinton won very large popular majorities in some big population States like California, but the system allows a candidate to only have to  win  a  State  by  one  vote  to  win  a  100 percent of  its  electors,  the  margin  does  not  matter.

“Donald  Trump  won  many  more  States  by  smaller  margins,  hence  he  got  an  Electoral  College majority.”

Another interesting features by the way of US constitutional system, according to Dr Rozell, but extremely rare, is what is called the faithless elector.

“That’s the elector to the Electoral College who says, ‘I’m not going to vote the popular vote in my State, I think my State made a bad decision and I’m going  to  break  with  the  popular  vote,’’ Dr Rozell said.

“That’s constitutionally a very complicated matter in our federalism system because although the federal constitution says electors may exercise discretion, most States have passed State laws making it illegal for any elector to the Electoral College to break faith with the popular vote of that State, it is a criminal act that can be penalized if one is to do that. And we just had an important Supreme Court case that upheld the right of the states to impose and to enforce this restriction”

There are 538 electors at the Electoral College, 270 is the magic number, the candidate who gets 270 or more becomes President of the United States.

If however there are more candidates, and  this  happens  extremely  rarely,  and  a  third  candidate  got  some electors  to  the  Electoral  College  denying  the  two  major  party  candidates,  either  one  getting  a majority, nobody gets 270 or more, then the election goes to the House of Representatives and the House of Representatives votes among the top three vote getters as to who should be the next President.

“You’d have to go back to the early 19th century to have such a scenario, and that’s not going to happen this year unless there is a statistical oddity, which would be a perfect statistical tie of 269 to 269 which could happen but you can just imagine how incredibly unlikely that is,” stated Dr Rozell.

BLUE STATES vs RED STATES

Since the 2000 United States presidential election, red states and blue states have referred to states of the United States whose voters predominantly choose either the Republican Party (red) or Democratic Party (blue) presidential candidates.

Many  states  have  populations  that  are  so  heavily  concentrated  in  the  Democratic party or the Republican party that there is really no competition in those states.

California is a heavily Democratic State, so is New York and Maryland. It is given that Joe Biden will win those states. Meanwhile Texas, Florida and Alabama are republicans. So, the candidates will spent no time campaigning in those states because it is already a given.

However there are swing  states, where  there is a competition between about five and 10 states total in each election cycle that make a difference, and that is where the candidates end up spending almost all of their time.

“So  it  ends  up  making  a  national  contest  for  the  presidency  actually  look  like  several  state-wide contests with candidates spending a lot of time talking about State and local issues in those parts of the country,” said Dr Rozell.

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Masisi to make things right with Dangote

26th October 2020

High Commissioner of the Federal Government of Nigeria to Botswana, His Excellency Umar Zainab Salisu, has challenged President Dr Mokgweetsi Masisi to move swiftly and lobby Africa’s richest man, Nigerian Billionaire, Aliko Dangote to invest in Botswana.

Speaking during a meeting with President Masisi at Office of President on Thursday Zainab Salisu said Dangote has expressed massive interest in setting up billion dollar industries in Botswana.  “We have a lot of investors who wish to come and invest in Botswana , when we look at Botswana we don’t see Botswana itself , but we are lured by its geographic location , being in the centre of Southern Africa presents a good opportunity for strategic penetration into other markets of the region,” said Salisu.

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