Selibi-Phikwe Diversification Unit (SPEDU) is possibly an endangered organisation at the moment, after falling under the stewardship of two men who are currently embroiled in financial mess at other entities they lead, that is, Bammangwato Concessions Limited (BCL) and Botswana Meat Commission (BMC).
Even Parliament is worried about the direction in which SPEDU is seemingly headed. Parliamentary Committee on Statutory Bodies and Enterprises was this week not convinced with the ambition of the SPEDU project given the poor level of success since its formation. The committee is of the view that there could be a leadership problem at SPEDU, given the ability of the organisation’s failure to appreciate the real reason it was formed.
The current chairperson of SPEDU board is BCL’s general manager, Daniel Mahupela. His deputy is BMC’s Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Akolang Tombale.
One committee member, speaking off the proceedings, highlighted that at Board level, the organisation is steered by the people who themselves are struggling to salvage their entities from financial crisis they are ensnared in, yet SPEDU is expected to successfully fulfil its mandate under their leadership.
Chairman of Parliamentary Committee, Samson Guma also expressed concern at the manner in which SPEDU is running its affairs. Guma stated that the organisation’s management does not indicate if indeed it appreciates the reason behind its formation.
Guma is of the opinion that the CEO of SPEDU and its Board should know what is going on with BCL affairs because, SPEDU was formed to respond to BCL’s situation. He mentioned his concern that such is not the case and is a grave error, given the dire situation that BCL is in.
Ndaba Gaolathe, a committee member was worried about SPEDU’s seemingly lack of familiarity with the affairs of BCL. Gaolathe said at present moment, SPEDU should know how they want Selibe- Phikwe economy to look like without the mining activities.
The committee was also not impressed by SPEDU’s spending. Out of its total expenditure, salaries accounts to more than 50 percent of the money, and in the next few years the salaries are event expected to account for more than 60 percent of the organisation’s expenditure.
Mahupela – General Manager of BCL and Chairperson of SPEDU
Daniel Mahupela, the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Bammangwato Concessions Limited (BCL) is the Board Chairperson of SPEDU, while Dr Akolang Tombale, the CEO of Botswana Meat Commission (BMC).
Mahupela took over the reign at BCL in 2011 following the departure of Montwedi Mphathi, who left to join Botash. Mahupela joined BCL Limited in 2008 as Divisional Manager of Resource Planning prior to his ascendance to the top position. While during Mphathi’s tenure, BCL endured profitability, Mahupela has watched BCL failing to near collapse, with government coming to its rescue on more than two occasions.
While the BCL situation have also been brought by external factors such as falling commodity prices, there have been reports that lack of shrewd administration have led to the dire financial crisis which the organisation found itself in. Commodity prices fell by more than 57 percent earlier this year making it one of the worst falls in history.
Amid this crisis, Mahupela has resisted calls for him to resign despite mounting pressure that including job losses. Government has engaged a consultant on the future of BCL, which will lead the way on what government would do next with the mine.
SPEDU formation, had anticipated that should BCL close, they would be great economic shock to the Selibi Phikwe economy and surrounding areas. Mahupela as the chairperson of Board is not only entrusted with saving BCL, but leading an organisation which would transform the economy of Selibi Phikwe away from the mining activities.
When the chairperson of the parliamentary committee asked for the professional opinion on whether or not government should put more money into the BCL, SPEDU’s CEO, Mokubung Mokubung noted that, while it could be important to do so to save jobs, there is no “business case” for doing that.
A common concern has always been whether it would make business sense for injecting money into BCL without change of model which will ensure that the entity is able to be financial stable again.
Tombale- BMC CEO and Vice Chairperson of SPEDU
Tombale first came into BMC picture in 2012, after being appointed on the initial agreement of 12 months. This was the time when reports were emerging about BMC corruption and dubious business practices which led to an instigation of commission on inquiry.
Tombale, with a background in Geology, has spent the better part of his career as a civil servant and had the opportunity to serve in boards such as of Debswana Diamond Company. He was brought to the BMC with clear believe that he will effectively turn its fortunes around over a short period of time
However, Tombale has not been able to transform BMC from its crisis, despite his assurance when he was appointed four years back that he will ‘fix’ BMC. For the past three years, BMC has continued to make perennial losses, and government have had to come to its rescue on number of occasions.
Until recently, Tombale was resistant to efforts of ending BMC monopoly as a way of ending BMC troubles. BMC has also been accused by parliamentary committee, under Tombale for failing to practise best management as far as public procurement procedures are concerned.
Both Tombale and Mahupela will be in charge of SPEDU direction, but are still fighting their own wars and from a spectator’s view, they are on the losing side. Both BMC and BCL are still in dire financial crisis, their situations have not improved over the last few years, and they would still rely on government for survival.
Tombale and Mahupela have even been associated before. Until June this year, Tombale was the chairperson of the troubled BCL board of directors. The two have worked closely together at BCL, and presided over the mine’s possible worst crisis in its own history.
SPEDU’s risky investment
Meanwhile, SPEDU could be headed for a partnership with an undisclosed company in taking over the business operations of Talana Farms. Talana Farms was operated by Botalana Ventures, which Botswana Development Corporation (BDC) was equity partner. The business involves the horticultural projects, ostrich farming and crocodile farming.
Although SPEDU CEO told parliamentary committee that it is an “ambitious project” the project had failed to produce desired results under Botalana Ventures.
BDC has been operating Talana Farms jointly with Botalana Ventures since 2006 and the two entities had enjoyed what looked like a breakthrough for Botswana’s horticultural produce sufficiency. Talana Farms’ General Manager, Jan Willemse, revealed in the past that for future growth the farm was targeting the South African and Namibian market for their produce.
Following the appointment of Bashi Gaetsaloe as Managing Director of BDC, the partnership was sacrificed leading to liquidation of Botalana Ventures.
Mokubung revealed that already the equity partner, identified by SPEDU have paid P1.5 million deposits to secure the farm.
Public Servants should brace themselves for some changes as the government is in an overdrive mode to overhaul the public sector. The government has also set the tone for the looming changes as it has added the public sector to its looming list of major and sweeping reforms.
This is contained in a savingram from the Permanent Secretary to the President (PSP) Emmah Peloetletse’s office showing how the government intends to “take stock” of all reforms in the public sector through the establishment of an inventory. Peloetletse’s savingram addressed to various ministries and the Directorate of Public Service Management (DPSM) reveals that the government is working around the clock to implement some changes in the Public Service.
The savingram reminded Permanent Secretaries of various ministries and DPSM that the public sector reforms unit (PSRU) at the Office of the President is mandated with Coordinating Reforms across the Public Service. “This essentially entails providing the strategic guidance and facilitation in the implementation of reforms across the Public Service. In this endeavour the Unit has in the past with Technical Assistance from European Union developed a template for documenting Reforms in the Public Service and documented ten (10) major reforms across the Public Service,” reads the savingram in part. It added that “The Unit has lately rolled out the Change Management Framework in an effort to facilitate effective and efficient management of change in the Public Service.”
According to the savingram, it has been noted that for a variety of reasons the use of the template for documenting reforms has not been universally used across the Botswana Public Service. It further states that to facilitate the documentation of the reforms it is essential that an inventory of the various reforms across the Public Service (Central Government, Local Government and State Owned Entities) is established.
“By this correspondent we are seeking your assistance in populating the attached template to provide basic information on the various reforms. The PSRU will, through the various Coordination of focal Persons facilitate the full documentation of the reforms once the inventory is established,” the savingram further stated. The copy of the template among others calls on the focal persons to fill out them form under several headings; they include title of reform, start date, reform objectives, reform components, reform components, progress status.
The savingram echoes President Mokgweetsi Masisi’s announcement last year during his state of the nation address that as a nation Botswana has set itself a lofty goal of becoming a high income country by 2036 and has come up with a list of reforms among them digitisation of government infrastructure. He said the path to achieving this goal dictates that, Botswana takes deliberate steps that will transform its institutions; the way Batswana think and the way they act.
“It is with this in mind, that I presented a Reset Agenda in May 2021, with the following priorities: Save Botswana‘s population from COVID-19, by implementing a series of life saving measures that include a successful and timely vaccination programme, Adherence to COVID-19 health protocols remains key and align Botswana Government’s machinery to the Presidential Agenda, to ensure that the national transformation agenda will be embodied in the public service of the day,” said Masisi. He added that, “this will come with significant Government reforms in all public institutions. We need greater agility and responsiveness like never before in the delivery of public services.”
The Presidential COVID-19 Task Force reportedly meddled in the awarding of tenders for COVID-19, a new Public Accounts Committee (PAC) report has revealed.
The Committee expressed concern that it has noted that there are two centres for covid procurement being the Ministry of Health and the Covid Task team in the Office of the President. The report says the Committee questioned the Accounting Officer on why the COVID 19 task team is usurping the powers of the Ministry of Health by engaging in covid procurement when the Ministry of Health is the one which has the experience and mandate of dealing with the pandemic. The report says clarification was also sought on why direct appointment is the preferred method for covid procurement.
“In her response the Accounting Officer stated that the task team was mainly engaged in the procuring of quarantine facilities and was assisting the Ministry of Health due to the heavy workload brought about by the COVID 19 pandemic,” the report says. The report says the Accounting Officer further stated that direct procurement was used because COVID 19 was treated as an emergency and that procurement was mainly from companies that have been traditionally used by the Ministry of Health.
“This however, is not the case as there has been report of new companies being awarded COVID -19 contracts. The use of direct procurement method should only be used in exceptional cases as it’s a non-competitive method which increases the risk of inflated pricing and close relations with particular suppliers to the detriment of others,” the report says.
It says since most covid procurement fell under emergency, there is need for openness and transparency regarding the procurement. The PAC recommended that in order to ensure transparency and accountability all COVID 19 related procurement should be periodically published in the PPADB website giving full details of the companies receiving procurement contracts and the beneficial owners of the companies.
It says with the passage of time the impact of covid is no longer unexpected so direct awards should gradually be abandoned as the medium and long-term needs of the pandemic can now be predicted. “Judgement should be used even during direct awards to ensure that prices are not higher than the market prices,” the report says.
In a related matter, the report says the Central Medical Stores (CMS) was unable to cater for the required quantities of medical supplies with order fulfilments of about 35% resulting in shortages and insufficient drugs to Athlone Hospital and the surrounding clinics. “In his submission the Accounting Officer had indicated that CMS was unable to supply the exact quantities required by the hospital and surrounding clinics due to the fact that supplies from CMS have to be rationed in order to cover other facilities around the country,” says the report.
The committee expressed concern about the inadequate supply of drugs to government facilities which puts the lives of patients at risk due to non- availability of essential supplies. It recommended that the Ministry identifies and prioritise measures that need to be taken to ensure that there is adequate supply of essential medicines which are needed in the public health system.
Meanwhile the report says the Ministry of Health and Wellness coordinates the operations and functions of some institutions which receive government subventions and secondment of staff from the government. These institutions include 10 NGO’s, two mission Hospitals, three mission clinics and two schools of Nursing.
It says in its endeavour to enhance efficiency and effectiveness of government support to NGOs the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development developed some Policy Guidelines for Financial Support to Non- Governmental Organisations. According to the PAC report, the guidelines were meant to ensure that there is consistency, accountability and transparency in administering public funding to NGOs. However, the Ministry of Health did not comply with the very important guidelines.
“The main areas of non-compliance were the following: (i) There was no Evaluation Committee to vet proposals from NGOs, in some instances NGOs had formed part of the evaluation forum when their requests were being considered,” the report says. It says there was continued funding of NGOs even when they failed to submit narrative and financial progress reports; and (iv) Continued funding of NGOs that failed to submit audited financial statements and management letters as required. The Committee expressed concern at the lapses in the administration of grants by the Ministry despite the large sums of public money awarded to these NGOs.
The Kasane Regional Magistrate Court refused this week to rule on whether three Namibians and their Zambian cousin shot dead by members of the Botswana Defence Force (BDF) were in possession of a rifle or not prior to their deaths.
Ruling in favour of the BDF members, Regional Magistrate Taboka Mopipi who presided over the inquest said, “It is acknowledged that no rifle has been produced before court to confirm that indeed the deceased were armed and or that there was indeed a gun shot.” She said the evidence before the court is that search for the rifle(s) that allegedly triggered the gunfire exchange was done by both Namibia and Botswana SCUBA divers and nothing was found. She said when the said search was done, an area of search was demarcated around the scene area which was partly searched due to water animals such as hippos that launched an attack at the area during the search.
“The search was therefore never concluded. This therefore leaves a gap. To that end, the area not extensively searched, the court cannot make a finding whether the rifle in issue was there or not. This is a very crucial piece of evidence,” added Mopipi. She said the joint search did not conclude the exercise and I cannot properly make a finding of fact adding that that the rifle was there as the BDF allege can therefore not be ruled out.
The deceased are Martin Munilweye Nchindo, Ernest Nchindo, Tommy Sinvula Nchindo and Sivula Munyeme. The four deceased persons died on the night of the 5th November 2020, in the waters of the Chobe River (Southern Channel) near Sedudu/Kasikili Island in Botswana. Mopipi said the incident took place at night, in a gloomy atmosphere and that as at the time, movement in that particular area was restricted and or not permitted.
She said it was the evidence of some of the witnesses that the injuries as observed on the four deceased reflected that they were brutally assaulted and or beaten either before or after being shot. “Their evidence gained support from Witness 34, Dr. Bithoma Thotho Amis who observed post mortem on behalf of the families of the deceased and Government of Namibia. This witness however conceded during cross-examination that the injuries as observed have been caused by other contacts and or impacts such as falling and hitting the hard surface of a wooden canoe,” said Mopipi.
She emphasized that inquest proceedings have very serious consequences and therefore, whatever evidence brought before court must be produced by persons of right qualifications particularly the post mortem report which the court has to rely upon. “The qualification of the expert is crucial in determining the credibility of the report. Upon assessment of both experts, I am inclined to adopt the reports from Witness 18, who is a qualified pathologist. A closer look at the other report indicates that the author, Witness 34 is not a qualified pathologist and it is meddled by issues outside an expert opinion,” she said.
Mopipi said reports compiled by a consultant Forensic Pathologist Dr. Kaone Panzirah-Mabaka show the causes of death as follows; Sivula Munyeme, gunshot injury to the chest and extremities, Martin Nchindo, gunshot wound to the abdomen and pelvis, Ernest Nchindo, multiple gunshot injuries to the chest and extremities and Tommy Nchindo, gunshot wound to the chest and abdomen.
“Medical evidence therefore prove conclusively that the four deceased persons died due to gunshots injuries. It is undisputed that the injuries were inflicted by seven (7) members of the Botswana Defence Force; Lieutenant Moreri Kenneth Mphela, Sergeant Ndingisano Nfazo, Sergeant Puisano Pistor Kgokong, Private Mbikiso Tafila, Private Emmanuel Moganetsi Majuta, Private Barulaganyi Rannosang and Private Oromilwe Motlhabi,” said Mopipi.
Mopipi found that there was a gunshot from the direction of the men to the direction of the BDF section. “The BDF members retaliated and returned fire. This was done in accordance with Standard Operation Procedures (SOPs) within the BDF. According to the SOPs, in case a soldier is being fired at, they fire back and do not have to wait for a command,” she said. She added that “The gunfire exchange was brief and after it ceased, they used a torch to light where the men were and established that all the four men were motionless, two in one canoe, one in the other and the other man lying on the edge of the river on the Island.”
She said, “The evidence of the witnesses is that, when they followed the intel, the intent was to conduct an investigation. There was clearly no intent on their part to shoot the deceased, they did that as an act of retaliation.”