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PAC: Suspend ‘cash cow’ Youth Fund

The Public Accounts Committee (PAC) has told the Ministry of Youth, Sport and Culture to consider suspending the Youth Development Fund (YDF) in order to develop essential frameworks necessary for the success of the programme.

It came to the attention of the PAC members this week that the YDF programme is now a cash cow and projects are financed in a haphazard manner without clearly outlined objectives.

Appearing before the committee, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry, Kago Ramokate acknowledged that government has no investment and monitoring framework that guides the fund; neither do they monitor successful beneficiaries. He had no idea of how much beneficiaries owed government through the same programme.

PAC member, Ndaba Gaolathe, who is also Member of Parliament for Gaborone Bonnington South, indicated that the status quo regarding the operations of YDF needs serious intervention.

“There is a serious problem here, and we cannot continue year after year putting out money under the current circumstances. We need to re-look it first and put in place necessary frameworks,” he said.

Notwithstanding that, when questioned on whether to suspend the YDF, Ramokate said suspending the programme would have a devastating impact on the beneficiaries.

However, Tati East MP, Guma Moyo, vehemently disagreed with the accounting officer, as he contended that prudent management of public resources should always take precedence.

“We cannot run government on policy of appeasement by continuing to pump up money and not knowing where it is going. Otherwise we are going to collapse government,’ he said.

“If it was your money which is being spent by government, were you going to continue doing it even when it’s clear that you are not getting return on your investments?” he asked the accounting officer.  

Moyo said suspending the programme would not mean stopping it for good, but for some time while necessary measures that will ensure that government gets value for its money are being put in place.

Biggie Butale, MP for Tati West warned that while YDF is a good initiative, it is however going to kill a whole generation of entrepreneurs because of the beneficiaries’ attitudes towards the financing.

He said beneficiaries are not taking it as a serious obligation for them to repay the money which is due to government even when their projects are doing well.

“We need to teach young people that there is an obligation to pay, just like when they go to borrow at commercial banks, and they should know this,” he said.

The Tati West legislator highlighted the need for government to instil a sense of responsibility on those who are funded to help in grooming young entrepreneurs with business acumen.

Butale also mentioned that in the past when people did not want to pay back the government, Former president Festus Mogae decisively responded by compelling the National Development Bank (NDB) to dispossess assets of those who owed the bank.

YDF was established during Mogae’s tenure as president as an empowerment programme aimed at promoting active participation of youth in the socio-economic development of the country.

It also sought to encourage the out-of-school, marginalised and unemployed youth to venture into sustainable and viable income generating projects.

Ramokate conceded to the PAC that his Ministry currently does not know the exact amount being owed to government by beneficiaries. He blamed poor records keeping especially with regards to projects funded in earlier years.

“We also did not have enough capacity to properly monitor the funded projects countrywide but there has been a great improvement in recent years,” said Ramokate.

PAC has established that since the initiative came into operation government has been failing to recover money owed by those who benefited from the fund. They also noted that most of the YDF projects were not doing and a sizeable number has collapse.

PAC also leant that some beneficiaries, dump their projects immediately after acquiring funding and spend the money elsewhere.  This came to light when the accounting officer revealed that one beneficiary, who was funded with P100 000, abandoned the project to pursue scholarship commitments.

The PAC members also raised concern over the fund’s lack of strategic direction and not knowing which niche sectors to tap from; and how the programme intends to address problems faced by the country.

Recently, the Ministry of Youth increased threshold of the Fund to P450 000 from the initial P100 000.

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DPP halts JSC, Judge’s back to work plan

25th January 2021
Kebonang

The Directorate of Public Prosecutions (DPP)’s decision to reject and appeal the High Court’s verdict on a case involving High Court Judge, Dr Zein Kebonang has frustrated the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) and Judge Kebonang’s back to work discussions.

JSC and Kebonang have been in constant discussions over the latter’s return to work following a ruling by a High Court panel of judges clearing him of any wrong doing in the National Petroleum Fund criminal case filed by the DPP. However the finalization of the matter has been hanged on whether the DPP will appeal the matter or not – the prosecution body has since appealed.

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BDP rejects Saleshando payment proposal

25th January 2021
MP saleshando

Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) top brass has declined a request by Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) to negotiate the legal fees occasioned by 2019 general elections petition in which the latter disputed in court the outcome of the elections.

This publication is made aware that UDC Vice President Dumelang Saleshando was left with an egg on his face after the BDP big wigs, comprising of party Chairman Slumber Tsogwane and Secretary General Mpho Balopi rejected his plea.

“He was told that this is a legal matter and therefore their (UDC) lawyer should engage ours (BDP) for negotiations because it is way far from our jurisdiction,” BDP Head of Communications, Kagelelo Kentse, told this publication.

This spelt doom for the main opposition party and Saleshando who seems not to have confidence and that the UDC lawyers have the dexterity to negotiate these kind of matters. It is not clear whether Saleshando requested UDC lawyer Boingotlo Toteng to sit at the table with Bogopa Manewe, Tobedza and Co, who are representing the BDP to strike a deal as per the BDP top echelons suggested.

“From my understanding, the matter is dealt with politically as the two parties are negotiating how to resolve it, but by far nothing has come to me on the matter. So I believe they are still substantively engaging each other,” Toteng said briefly in an interview on Thursday.

UDC petitioners saddled with costs after mounting an unprecedented legal suit before the court to try and overturn BDP’s October 2019 victory. The participants in the legal matter involves 15 parliamentary candidates’ and nine councillors. The UDC petitioned the court and contested the outcome of the elections citing “irregularities in some of the constituencies”.

In a brief ruling in January 2020, Judge President Ian Kirby on behalf of a five-member panel said: “We have no jurisdiction to entertain these appeals. These appeals must be struck out each with costs including costs of counsel”. This was a second blow to the UDC in about a month after their 2019 appeals were dismissed by the High Court a day before Christmas Day.

This week BDP attorneys decided to attach UDC petitioners’ property in a bid to settle the debts. UDC President Duma Boko is among those that will see their property being attached with 14 of his party members. “We have attached some and we are on course. So far, Dr. Mpho Pheko (who contested Gaborone Central) and that of Dr, Micus Chimbombi (who contested Kgalagadi South) will have their assets being sold on the 5th of February 2021,” BDP attorney Basimane Bogopa said.

Asked whether they met with UDC lawyers to try solve the matter, Bogopa said no and added. “Remember we are trying to raise the client’s funds, so after these two others will follow. Right now we are just prioritising those from Court of Appeal, as soon as the high court is done with taxation we will attach.”

Saleshando, when contacted about the outcomes of the meeting with the BDP, told WeekendPost that: “It would not be proper and procedural for me to tell you about the meeting outcomes before I share with UDC National Executive Committee (NEC), so I will have to brief them first.”

UDC NEC will meet on the 20th of next month to deal with a number of thorny issues including settling the legal fees. Negotiations with other opposition parties- Alliance for Progressives and Botswana Patriotic Front (BPF) are also on the agenda.

Currently, UDC has raised P44 238 of the P565 000 needed to cover bills from the Court of Appeal (CoA). This is the amount in a UDC trust account which is paltry funds equating 7.8 per cent of the overall required money. In the past despite the petitioners maintaining that there was promise to assist them to settle legal fees, UDC Spokesperson, Moeti Mohwasa then said the party has never agreed in no way to help them.

“We have just been put in debt by someone,” one of the petitioners told this publication in the past. “President’s (Duma Boko) message was clear at the beginning that money has been sourced somewhere to help with the whole process but now we are here there is nothing and we are just running around trying to make ends meet and pay,” added the petitioner in an interview
UDC NEC has in December last year directed all the 57 constituencies to each raise a minimum of P10, 000. The funds will be used to settle debts that are currently engulfing the petitioners with Sheriffs, who are already hovering around ready to attach their assets.

The petitioners, despite the party intervention, have every right to worry. “This is so because ‘the deadline for this initiative (P10, 000 per constituency) is the end of the first quarter of this year (2021),” a period in which the sheriffs would have long auctioned the properties.

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Boko-Khama axis viewed with suspicion

25th January 2021
boko-and-khama

President of the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) Duma Boko’s alliance with former President Lt Gen Ian Khama continues to unsettle some quarters within the opposition collective, who believe the duo, if not managed, will once again result in an unsuccessful bid for government in 2024.

While Khama has denied that he has undeclared preference to have Boko remaining as leader of UDC, many believe that the two have a common programme, while other opposition leaders remain on the side-lines.

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