The Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC) has launched an investigation into the awarding of P4 million worth of projects approved by the Youth Development Fund (YDF) in Maun constituencies following allegations of rampant corruption in the awarding process.
According to a reliable source, the DCEC instigated the investigations following an alert by the Ministry of Youth, Sports and Culture that the youth offices in Maun had gone beyond the usual practice in approval of projects for the youth programme. MYSC’s Permanent Secretary, Kago Ramokate is said to have halted the funding of projects following emergence of reports relating to malpractice and un-procedural approval of business proposals in the Maun YDF offices.
According to one of the applicants, whose proposal got the nod, the application process closed in July 2015, and the successful proposals were approved in February this year. However, it emerged that those who presided over the approval of projects had allegedly erred by approving proposals worth more than the P4 million available budget.
The said constituencies consist of Maun West and Maun East, and are awarded P2 million each every financial year to fund viable youth projects.
This publication is also informed that, consequent to the malpractice, the funding was delayed because the YDF did not have sufficient money to fund the approved projects.
Ramokate ordered for a probing, with preliminary findings revealing that various malpractices and corrupt activities happened. These include; overfunding of projects which would ordinarily have been funded with less money, funding of ghost companies, and funding of undeserving projects owned by relatives.
Despite MYSC having promised to disburse funds for the projects which were successful and deserved funding, applicants are being moved from pillar to post, with no signs of progress in the matter.
“On the 21st of July this year, the Ministry promised that the assessment will be done by the 31st of August and then the funds will be disbursed to beneficiaries,” said the source.
“But on 1st of September, we were informed that someone will be sent to do the auditing, and that our funds will only be available after the process which is about to begin is completed.”
The development further means that, the funding of projects for the current financial year will also not go through, putting another P4 million worth of projects in abeyance.
The delay in the matter has lead to the applicants writing a letter, to the Minister of Youth, Sports and Culture, Thapelo Olopeng requesting his audience. The action is likely to delay funding of youth projects at least for two financial years, totalling P8 million.
Olopeng has reportedly declined to meet the concerned youth but instead referred them to the PS, Ramokate who had been handling the issue.
The affected group since resolved to seek the intervention of Office of the President after losing patience with Olopeng over the possibility of him resolving the matter. The youth wants President Lt Gen Ian Khama to hasten the process, and direct for those who were deservedly approved to be given their funds.
The source has revealed to this publication that the desperation from applicants is brought by the fact that they have, prior to applying and getting approval for youth fund, entered into several agreements with various players for services such as office rentals, banks and other suppliers.
“Further delay may affect the viability of some projects; property owners may lease the office to somebody else, and some applicants are already paying for rentals even before their projects commence just to secure the office,” said the source.
The source further suggested that the whole process had been marred by deceit and corruption which has brought desperation on other applicants who were successfully approved.
Government is currently sitting on 4 400 vacant posts that remain unfilled in the civil service. This is notwithstanding the high unemployment rate in Botswana which has been exacerbated by the recent outbreak of the deadly COVID-19 pandemic.
Just before the burst of COVID-19, official data released by Statistics Botswana in January 2020, indicate that unemployment in Botswana has increased from 17.6 percent three years ago to 20.7 percent. “Unemployment rate went up by 3.1 percentage between the two periods, from 17.6 to 20.7 percent,” statistics point out.
Leading commercial bank, First National Bank Botswana (FNBB), expects the central bank to sharpen its monetary policy knife and cut the Bank Rate twice in the last quarter of 2020.
The bank expects a 25 basis point (bps) in the beginning of the last quarter, which is next month, and another shed by the same bps in December, making a total of 50 bps cut in the last quarter. According to the bank’s researchers, the central bank is now holding on to 4.25 percent for the time being pending for more informed data on the economic climate.
An audit of the accounts and records for the supply of food rations to the institutions in the Northern Region for the financial year-ended 31 March 2019 was carried out. According to Auditor General’s report and observations, there are weaknesses and shortcomings that were somehow addressed to the Accounting Officer for comments.
Auditor General, Pulane Letebele indicated on the report that, across all depots in the region that there had been instances where food items were short for periods ranging from 1 to 7 months in the institutions for a variety of reasons, including absence of regular contracts and supplier failures. The success of this programme is dependent on regular and reliable availability of the supplies to achieve its objective, the report said.
There would be instances where food items were returned from the feeding centers to the depots for reasons of spoilage or any other cause. In these cases, instances had been noted where these returns were not supported by any documentation, which could lead to these items being lost without trace.
The report further stressed that large quantities of various food items valued at over P772 thousand from different depots were damaged by rodents, and written off.Included in the write off were 13 538 (340ml) cartons of milk valued at P75 745. In this connection, the Auditor General says it is important that the warehouses be maintained to a standard where they would not be infested by rodents and other pests.
Still in the Northern region, the report noted that there is an outstanding matter relating to the supply of stewed steak (283×3.1kg cans) to the Maun depot which was allegedly defective. The steak had been supplied by Botswana Meat Commission to the depot in November 2016.
In March 2017 part of the consignment was reported to the supplier as defective, and was to be replaced. Even as there was no agreement reached between the parties regarding replacement, in 51 October 2018 the items in question were disposed of by destruction. This disposal represented a loss as the whole consignment had been paid for, according to the report.
“In my view, the loss resulted directly from failure by the depot managers to deal with the matter immediately upon receipt of the consignment and detection of the defects. Audit inspections during visits to Selibe Phikwe, Maun, Shakawe, Ghanzi and Francistown depots had raised a number of observations on points of detail related to the maintenance of records, reconciliations of stocks and related matters, which I drew to the attention of the Accounting Officer for comments,” Letebele said in her report.
In the Southern region, a scrutiny of the records for the control of stocks of food items in the Southern Region had indicated intermittent shortages of the various items, principally Tsabana, Malutu, Sunflower Oil and Milk which was mainly due to absence of subsisting contracts for the supply of these items.
“The contract for the supply of Tsabana to all depots expired in September 2018 and was not replaced by a substantive contract. The supplier contracts for these stocks should be so managed that the expiry of one contract is immediately followed by the commencement of the next.”
Suppliers who had been contracted to supply foodstuffs had failed to do so and no timely action had been taken to redress the situation to ensure continuity of supply of the food items, the report noted.
In one case, the report highlighted that the supplier was to manufacture and supply 1 136 metric tonnes of Malutu for a 4-months period from March 2019 to June 2019, but had been unable to honour the obligation. The situation was relieved by inter-depot transfers, at additional cost in transportation and subsistence expenses.
In another case, the contract was for the supply of Sunflower Oil to Mabutsane, where the supplier had also failed to deliver. Examination of the Molepolole depot Food Issues Register had indicated a number of instances where food items consigned to the various feeding centres had been returned for a variety of reasons, including food item available; no storage space; and in other cases the whole consignments were returned, and reasons not stated.
This is an indication of lack of proper management and monitoring of the affairs of the depot, which could result in losses from frequent movements of the food items concerned.The maintenance of accounting records in the region, typically in Letlhakeng, Tsabong, and Mabutsane was less than satisfactory, according to Auditor General’s report.
In these depots a number of instances had been noted where receipts and issues had not been recorded over long periods, resulting in incorrect balances reflected in the accounting records. This is a serious weakness which could lead to or result in losses without trace or detection, and is a contravention of Supplies Regulations and Procedures, Letebele said.
Similarly, consignments of a total of 892 bags of Malutu and 3 bags of beans from Tsabong depot to different feeding centres had not been received in those centres, and are considered lost. These are also not reflected in the Statement of Losses in the Annual Statements of Accounts for the same periods.