Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Investment, Trade and Industry (MITI), Peggy Serame came under fire this week over failure to act on the instruction of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) regarding the acquisition and rent of Ministry’s headquarter buildings.
The ministry is accused of flouting procurement rules by bypassing Public Procurement and Assets Disposal Board (PPADB) and ignoring the latter’s guidelines.
When the matter resurfaced at the ongoing PAC deliberations, the permanent secretary, Serame had to answer to the Committee as to why she had failed to instigate an investigation into the matter, as was instructed by the PAC last year.
PAC learnt this week that Serame had not made any effort to investigate the acquisition of her ministry’s offices, prompting the PAC members to consider instituting own investigations on the matter to identify key players in the authorisation of the deal.
The acquisition of the office, the PAC learnt, was done without following the procurement rules which limit Ministerial Tender Committees (MTC) from adjudicating any tender beyond its threshold of P25 million. The MTI headquarters building was acquired on lease basis at the tune of P65 million.
MTI moved into the building in 2013, at the time when Dorcas Makgato was at its helm. Makgato is now Health Minister. The office is located at the Central Business District (CBD), where the Ministry of Trade currently operates.
The accounting officer, Serame told PAC that the ministry did not launch a probe into the matter because she was of the view that PAC did not expect her to be the one looking into the matter. However PAC member Dithapelo Keorapetse stated that Serame, as accounting officer, was liable to do such and report back to the PAC.
According to the PPADB Act, public procurements beyond the limits of the MTCs are sent to PPADB for adjudication which has the right to approve or reject them based on the factors prevailing.
PAC also established that the acquisition of the office space was done without an invitation to tender, raising eyes bows on how the ministry was able to identify the building without expressions of interest from property owners.
PAC members doubt DCEC role
Biggie Butale, Member of Parliament for Tati West and committee member questioned the involvement of Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC) as he remarked their coming on board under the pretext of investigating was a bluff while in fact they are trying to deploy delaying tactics and conceal the matter.
“I am sorry to say this as a member of the ruling party. We are not children, we can see, we know what the DCEC is doing,” he stated.
“Why is it that we see in the accounting officer’s report that the DCEC only came on board in February this year? Unless P65 million means nothing to you, the PAC cannot just allow this matter to go through without answers.”
DCEC has found itself at odds with parliament over investigations, with the former accusing the latter of interfering in its investigations. MPs on the other hand are of the view that DCEC is compromised, and cannot investigate scandals involving ministries, ministers in particular.
MP for Selebi Phikwe West, Keorapetse had wanted for the accounting officer to reveal the name(s) of people who authorised the procurement which violated the rules.
“We want to know why and who took this decision? You [accounting officer] are obviously privy to such information and you are trying to protect the person responsible,” he said.
Keorapetse was also of the view that the purported investigation launched by the DCEC should not deter PAC from probing and requesting to be furnished with the required information.
“We are not going to stop and hope that DCEC will investigate the matter, otherwise we will just be here doing nothing while everyone who asks is referred to DCEC,” he said.
Ignatius Moswaane, MP for Francistown West was convinced that there is criminal activity surrounding the procurement of the office in question and requested that the accounting officer, who was ordered to re-appear before the committee with explanations, to bring all documents necessary which led to procurement of the office building.
Moswaane said the accounting officer’s decision not to act on the matter following recommendation by PAC to do so in the last sitting, is a clear sign that accounting officers are taking for granted the PAC as an oversight institution.
It is becoming common that ministries procure office space without following proper procurement rules. In 2011, Ministry of Defence, Justice and Security also went ahead to procurer office space without authorisation of neither MTC nor PPADB. PAC went on to recommend rescission of the decision and an investigation into the matter.
Minister of Presidential Affairs, Governance and Public Administration, Kabo Morwaeng together with Permanent Secretary to the President (PSP) Elias Magosi, this week refused to name and shame the worst performing Ministries and to disclose the best performing Ministries since beginning of 12th parliament including the main reasons for underperformance.
Of late there have been a litany of complaints from both ends of the aisle with cabinet members accused of providing parliament with unsatisfactory responses to the questions posed. In fact for some Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) backbenchers a meeting with the ministers and party leadership is overdue to address their complaints. Jwaneng-Mabutsane MP, Mephato Reatile is also not happy with ministers’ performance.
Bokamoso Private Hospital is battling a P10 million legal suit for a botched fibroids operation which resulted in a woman losing an entire womb and her prospects of bearing children left at zero.
The same suit has also befallen the Attorney General of Botswana who is representing the Ministry of Health and Wellness for their contributory negligence of having the unlawful removal of a patient, Goitsemang Magetse’s womb.
According to the court papers, Magetse says that sometimes in November 2019, she was diagnosed with fibroids at Marina Hospital where upon she was referred to Bokamoso Private Hospital to schedule an appointment for an operation to remove the fibroids, which she did.
Magetse continues that at the instance of one Dr Li Wang, the surgeon who performed the operation, and unknown to her, an operation to remove her whole womb was conducted instead. According to Magetse, it was only through a Marina Hospital regular check-up that she got to learn that her whole womb has been removed.
“At the while she was under the belief that only her fibroids have been removed. By doing so, the hospital has subjected itself to some serious delictual liability in that it performed a serious and life changing operation on patient who was under the belief that she was doing a completely different operation altogether. It thus came as a shock when our client learnt that her womb had been removed, without her consent,” said Magetse’s legal representatives, Kanjabanga and Associates in their summons.
The letter further says, “this is an infringement of our client‘s rights and this infringement has dire consequences on her to the extent that she can never bear children again”. ‘It is our instruction therefore, to claim as we hereby do, damages in the sum of BWP 10,000,000 (ten million Pula) for unlawful removal of client’s womb,” reads Kanjabanga Attorneys’ papers. The defendants are yet to respond to the plaintiff’s papers.
What are fibroids?
Fibroids are tumors made of smooth muscle cells and fibrous connective tissue. They develop in the uterus. It is estimated that 70 to 80 percent of women will develop fibroids in their lifetime — however, not everyone will develop symptoms or require treatment.
The most important characteristic of fibroids is that they’re almost always benign, or noncancerous. That said, some fibroids begin as cancer — but benign fibroids can’t become cancer. Cancerous fibroids are very rare. Because of this fact, it’s reasonable for women without symptoms to opt for observation rather than treatment.
Studies show that fibroids grow at different rates, even when a woman has more than one. They can range from the size of a pea to (occasionally) the size of a watermelon. Even if fibroids grow that large, we offer timely and effective treatment to provide relief.
The Alliance for Progressives (AP) President Ndaba Gaolathe has said that despite major accolades that Botswana continues to receive internationally with regard to the state of economy, the prospects for the future are imperilled.
Delivering his party Annual Policy Statement on Thursday, Gaolathe indicated that Botswana is in a state of do or die, and that the country’s economy is on a sick bed. With a major concern for poverty, Gaolathe pointed out that almost half of Botswana’s people are ravaged by or are about to sink into poverty. “Our young people have lost the fire to dream about what they could become,” he said.