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Civic organs’ Umbrella bickers over makeover

  • BOCONGO’s confidential proposals have ignited boardroom wars
  • Board wants to change BOCONGO name, constitution, vision, mission
  • Changes face resistance from some of the BOCONGO members
  • Existing staff members to be wiped out in the transformation agenda
  • NGO Council not immediately featured in the organisation change plan


Botswana Council of Non-Governmental Organisations (BOCONGO) has compiled a strategy paper proposing drastic changes to the organisation’s constitution. The changes call for a new name, vision, mission and objective statements.


The changes are capsulated in the confidential report leaked to this publication titled “BOCONGO Moving forward 2016 – 2019” which is also referred to as “a new strategy for a membership driven network delivering change in Botswana.”


It is understood that the new vision will be “NGO’s working together for a more just, equal and integrated Botswana” and has been revised to be “BOCONGO members working effectively with other actors for inclusive development.”


This publication has gathered that imaginable names dropped around to be considered for replacement of BOCONGO in the new change-plan. Some of the suggested names include, NGO Forum Botswana (NGOFB), Alliance of Botswana NGO’s (ABNGO), Botswana NGO’s Bongos (BNGOB) and Botswana Coalition of NGO’s (BOCONGO).


WeekendPost can safely reveal that the new change implications for BOCONGO will include a change in membership representation on the board; revision to BOCONGO Secretariat’s support to members; and new framework for member collaboration and active engagement.  


However, the new proposal by the board has been met with resistance from BOCONGO members who are questioning the motive of the amendments while emphasising that as members they have not initiated such change – particularly since BOCONGO’s mandate and agenda is membership driven.


According to some members of BOCONGO who spoke to this publication on condition of anonymity, “there was a meeting on Thursday (last week) in Gaborone that have put together member representation organisations of BOCONGO and we out rightly spoke against the change-plan because we don’t really understand this concept and we believe we were not satisfactorily consulted. The board just want to impose,” a member stated.

BOCONGO Secretariat also confirmed such a meeting.

According to the report, there will be not only a revised vision, mission but also a new strategic goals and thematic grouping of members that will require significant change in the way that BOCONGO operates.


“The main changes required are a new membership commitment and criteria as well as a new name and new logo to represent these changes,” states the classified report.


It is understood that the changes, once agreed upon after further consultations, will have to necessitate and be reflected in the constitutional revisions or amendments as BOCONGO is governed by a constitution.


The report acknowledges that the 81 currently active BOCONGO members are of critical importance to the changes proposed by the new strategy. In the strategy it is understood that NGO’s will be the main members and membership should include only NGO’s across the country.


It is said a significant change in the “new BOCONGO” will shift from sectors to thematic group (communities of interest) and more decentralised collaboration at regional level (communities of place).


Even as unemployment has ballooned in the country reaching approximately 22%, it is anticipated that the Secretariat may lay down some of the existing staff members who include Administration Assistant, Accounts Assistant, Desk Officer and others in their transformation agenda – as they are also ‘seen’ as resistant to the new change.


It is said that the Secretariat will require only new Executive Secretary, Finance and Administration Manager, and two administration staff. They will also need two project officers responsible for research and advocacy and the other one in Communication and Information and Technology.


The challenges and risks faced by the transformation entailed in the report indicate that there was acknowledgement that there may be opposition to the new plan: “the board and Secretariat will have to ensure clear communication of the way forward and accept that some NGO’s will not support the shift.”


It was earnestly, however, highlighted that “in this context, it was agreed that the current board would continue in order to guide the first year of the strategy. The Secretariat will work on the supporting change and identifying areas in the constitution which will need to be changed.”


According to the report, member ownership of the new strategy and the fundamental changes to way of working and structure of BOCONGO, are essential if the change process is to succeed.


The newly introduced NGO Council derived from the NGO Policy, which is to some extent seen as a duplicate of BOCONGO is not represented or featured in the new arrangement proposal. The report indicated that “the board and Executive Secretary may request a meeting with the NGO Council to clarify the new direction and implications for the relationship.”


“As expectation of the board throughout was that the strategic process would clarify the respective roles of BOCONGO and the NGO Council. The new strategic framework should help the board and the NGO Council clarify their respective roles in relation to the NGO’s in Botswana.”

What prompted the transformation?

When reached for comment to explain what necessitated the need to change direction, BOCONGO Chairperson, Oscar Motsumi told Weekend Post that throughout the years BOCONGO had experienced operational constraints, “Therefore, there was a need to take stock of our organisations and re-position them for the current and future needs.”  


With the new Strategy, he said members will increase their role and active engagement in policy dialogue organised through the four thematic groups that is led by NGO members and supported by the BOCONGO Secretariat.  He added that NGOs will receive greater recognition for the contributions they make as development partners in Botswana.


According to Motsumi there were extensive consultation where members throughout the country identified changes that needed to be made. He added that the Board then presented the proposed Strategy at the last Annual General Meeting which members endorsed and adopted, subject to a few changes.

On staff resistance…

The BOCONGO Chairman stated that matters of organisational transformation and their impact on Staff will be discussed internally and with other relevant bodies such as the Labour Department to ensure that they are implemented in a fair manner, according to labour laws and that any anxieties or concerns by Staff are managed in the best manner possible through the structures they have set up.


“So, this is still very much an internal process whose detail cannot be divulged. In doing so, we are also taking into account that our Staff Contracts are tied to various donors/development partners who have also set their own terms and conditions.  Ultimately, however, BOCONGO’s objective is to ensure that as many jobs as possible are preserved.”

Financial standing of BOCONGO

Although some donors have pulled out of late, Motsumi said BOCONGO is in a stable financial position.


“We still need to attract more partners to ensure that our member activities are implemented without any interruptions,” he said.


He further explained that the organisation’s financial standing has improved greatly from the time the current Board came into office.


“When we took over, the organisation was in a lot of debt. However, the board worked very closely with the Secretariat to manage costs. During the last AGM we received a clean audit and it is our desire to improve our financial status by exploring other income generating opportunities to ensure organizational sustainability,” Motsumi added.

Way forward for BOCONGO

According to the board chair, the current board was mandated by the General Assembly in 2013 to review the Strategic Positioning for BOCONGO.


“The strategic review has become an absolute priority at this point in time because of the need to produce tangible benefits for BOCONGO Members and the NGO sector as a whole.”


Motsumi said that they want to ensure that BOCONGO is put in a position of being able to address any future challenges in an effective manner as is expected by its Members.


“To achieve this, BOCONGO members will continue to be encouraged to work collaboratively. The organization’s processes and systems, as well as human resources, will also be streamlined for better focus.”


According to Motsumi, these are challenging but exciting times at BOCONGO as “we chart a new vision and articulate a new future for the Civil Society movement. This watershed moment requires all to pull together for our goals to be achieved.”


Out of the estimated130 (active and inactive) member organisations, the BOCONGO board members are derived from 11 sectors which include Agriculture and Environment; Arts and Culture; Development arm of the Church; Disability; Gender and Development; Health and HIV and AIDS; Human Rights; Media; Microfinance; Credit and Empowerment; Science, Technology and Training, Youth and Children.


WeekendPost has established that the proposal changes are the hobbyhorse of the new board composed of current Chairman Oscar Motsumi who is deputised by Olebile Machete and with Jerry Moloko serving as its Treasurer.


Motsumi is from Botswana Network for AIDS Service Organisations (BONASO) while Machete from Child line Botswana and with Botswana Coalition on Education for All (BOCEFA) represented at BOCONGO by Moloko.


Some additional members in the board include outspoken Alice Mogwe of Ditshwanelo, Idah Mokreitane from Emang Basadi, Douglas Thamage standing in for Cheetah Conservation, while Bible Life is represented by Gabriel Tsuaneng and Arnold Kepaletswe in lieu of House of Men and others on behalf of other BOCONGO member organisations.


The Motsumi-led board which was nominated to office on 2013 is currently serving its second and last term destined to end in 2017.

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Major public services shake-up looms

24th January 2022
Emmah

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.”

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Covid-19 Task Force meddled in tenders-report

24th January 2022
Dr. Kereng Masupu

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.

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BDF killings of Namibians: Court unable to rule on missing gun

24th January 2022
BDF

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.”

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