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MPs demand salary raise

Liakat Kablay, MP for Letlhakeng/ Lephephe

Members of Parliament from across the political divide have expressed frustration and vexation at what they termed deplorable, appalling and atrocious working conditions.

They are very clear on their demands – a salary increase, and improved conditions of service.

More than a dozen Members of Parliament told this publication on the side lines of the ongoing Budget session that they were not at all pleased and satisfied with their conditions of service. But they are up against it because President Dr Lt Gen Ian Khama is the final arbitrator on this matter regardless of how much they lobby their line minister in Presidential Affairs and Public Administration Minister, Eric Molale.

In this debate, both the opposition and the ruling party are singing from the same hymn book. Four ministers who also spoke to this publication on condition of anonymity said they want a salary increase. One actually suggested that Ministers should be earning P100 000 a month, if regional trends were anything to go by. He said MPs should at least earn in the region of P45 000 a month.

Ninety percent of my salary spent on constituency – Salakae

Noah Salakae of Ghanzi North has a strong opinion on the subject. He said legislators are not happy with the fact that they are not provided with official transport when addressing kgotla meetings. To add salt to injury, he said, they are expected to hire public address system at their own expense.

“I am a proponent of salary increment and I am unapologetic about it. I am representing a vast constituency which is a size of Sweden and Switzerland combined. Ghanzi has poor road network and I dig deep into my pocket to hire suitable vehicles to traverse the constituency,” lamented Salakae.

The Ghanzi legislator further observed that he spends ninety per cent of his monthly salary on the constituency.

“Our salaries, benefits and allowances must be reviewed and should be comparable with other countries in the region. An MP in South Africa earns a basic salary of R120 000, meaning that his single salary can pay about five Botswana legislators but our GDP per capita income exceed that of South Africa. Some of us we have quit our plum posts because we were driven by passion   and desire to serve our people. As Parliamentarians our salaries must be augmented and we be barred from making any business. Today most legislators are tenderpreneurs and that is a breeding ground for corruption as they end up abusing their powers,” he further stated.

MINISTERS ARE ABUSING THE GREEN BOOK – KABLAY

Liakat Kablay of Letlhakeng/ Lephephe said conditions of service for legislators are a disgrace and shaming the name of Botswana.

“Being an MP is an esteemed and high profile job which the general public hold in high regard. I spend a lot of money on my constituency and the party. I use my own private car to attend party events and demands of the constituency. Senior government officials are provided with transport but that is not extended to us,” bemoaned Kablay who is also the ruling party chief whip.

He noted that some former MPs died as paupers while majority of those who are still alive are impoverished and bankrupt. He proposed that their gratuity be increased from the current P300 000 to at least P1.2 million.

Kablay further complained about the disparity of benefits between ordinary MPs and ministers alleging that ministers can amend the Green Book to their own advantage as and when they want.

I COULD BE ATTRACTING 70 PERCENT SCARCE SKILL IN PUBLIC SERVICE – MZWINILA

Mmadinare legislator, Kefentse Mzwinila also complained about his salary and benefits. He said he was among highly qualified legislators with experience and expertise.

“Some of us we are well educated. I am a graduate of Yale University, while Duma Boko and Ndaba Gaolathe earned their masters’ degrees at Harvard and Wharton respectively. I don’t understand the criterion that was used to determine our salaries because what I get is not commensurate with my qualification,” he asserted.

Mzwinila said that if he was a civil servant, he would be at least a Permanent Secretary. “I am a qualified economist and psychologist and if I was working for government, I would be the highest paid civil servant because I would be having seventy per cent scarce skill allowance for psychology and economics,” he contended. He said the days when being an MP was regarded as volunteerism were long gone by.

An ordinary MP earns a basic monthly salary of P22 000, constituency allowance worth P7 500 per month, P2 000 hospitality allowance, P2 000 for telephone bills and sitting allowance of P320 per day. MPs are also given free housing and free tablets.

MPS MUST BE PAID MORE THAN PERMANENT SECRETARIES – LELATISITSWE

Setlhomo Lelatisitswe of Boteti East said none of the legislators is satisfied with their conditions of service. He said even though an MP is a high profile person in the society he earns less than the Deputy Permanent Secretary and Managing Directors of parastatals.

“I don’t care what people will say, being an MP is more of sitting in a board of directors because we craft laws to be implemented by civil servants but they earn more than us and to me that is totally unacceptable,” he avowed.

Lelatisitswe said it was disheartening that his constituents expect him to sponsor events such as prize giving at schools yet he is paid peanuts. Lelatisitswe suggested that an MP’s salary should we at par with that of a high court judge.

Lelatisitswe is to table a motion in Parliament requesting government to provide legislators with executive types of vehicle and a driver.

Sharing the same sentiments was Ramotswa legislator, Samuel Rantuana who complained that they had too much workload yet they are poorly paid. He lamented that they are not equipped with professionals at their constituency offices yet they are expected to have vast knowledge about lots of issues including budget and labour issues.

He also said they fund democracy due to lack of political party funding. Rantuana said each month on top of his low salary; he has to pay monthly subscriptions of P800 to his party, opposition Botswana Congress Party, in order to rescue it from bankruptcy.

“The free housing provided for us is not habitable as we can go for days without water. Some of us are still battling to pay debts we incurred during the 2014 general election campaign,” he charged.

Rantuana said Parliament does not have incentives to attract people who possess different skills and expertise hence politics will forever remain a hobby that the youth may difficult to join.

PAY POLITICIANS MORE TO AVOID CORRUPTION – GUMA

Another law maker, Samson Moyo Guma told this publication that being a Parliamentarian is a very sensitive job as they are custodians of the country’s assets.

“We were supposed to declare our assets first before being in charge of the public purse because failure to do so will lead to temptation for corruption. It is so unfortunate that Parliament rejected a motion on the declaration of assets,” he said.

Guma observed that there was no job security for an MP explaining that the public should not expect a lot from them because if the government decides to pay them peanuts, in return people will get junk.

“It is not wrong for us to advocate for our welfare, my colleagues have told me that they will lose elections should they table a motion concerning their conditions of service. A Minister is responsible for his ministry’s budget including projects worth million of Pula yet he is paid less than P50 000, does that make sense?” he asked rhetorically.

Guma, who doubles as a businessman made a shocking revelation that ever since he was elected MP in 2004, he has donated his salary to his constituents. He called on the government to pay councillors and legislators adequately and advised that the privileges extended to former presidents should be extended to former legislators and councillors.

Meanwhile, another outspoken legislator who spoke on condition of anonymity said he will table a motion in Parliament requesting government to come up with a comprehensive package for legislators and increase basic salaries of councillors to at least P17 000 per month.

However the Chairman of rights and privileges of MPs committee, Haskins Nkaigwa said he is yet to present a recommendation to the minister of Presidential Affairs and Public Administration on how the conditions of service for legislators can be improved. This publication understands that Nkaigwa went for a benchmarking exercise on welfare of MPs at Uganda, Kenya and South Africa.

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Botswana’s development agenda in jeopardy

21st September 2020
Botswana’s-development-agenda-in-jeopardy--water-construction

Stanbic Bank Botswana Quarterly Economic Review indicates that Botswana will fail to meet some of its Vision 2036 targets, particularly unemployment reduction and reaching high-income status.

The report says this is mainly due to the slow economic growth that the country is currently experiencing. This Quarterly Economic Review focuses on the 2020 Budget Speech.

The first paper reviews the entire budget with its key observations being that this budget is prepared as prescribed by the Public Finance Management Act; the priorities it seeks to address are drawn from Vision 2036 and the eleventh

The 2020 budget Speech, which was the maiden speech by the Minister of Finance and Economic Development, Dr. Thapelo Matsheka, and the first after the 2019 general elections, was delivered to Parliament on the 4th of February 2020.

It has been well received by the labour unions, business community, and the public at large as well as international organisations such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

It mainly derived its support from key facets including, emphasis on changing the business-as-usual approach to development; outlining the transformation agenda; fiscal reform that minimizes the negative impact on economic development and human welfare, competiveness and the decision to implement the 2019 negotiated and agreed public sector.

The budget’s progress review shows that economic growth was consistent with the NDP 11 projections, with growth of around 4 percent. At this growth rate, the country would neither ascend to a high-income status nor reduce unemployment towards the Vision 2036 target of a single digit.

Simple calculations of this review confirm that the economy will need to grow the Vision 2036’s target of 6 percent over the next 16 years for per capita income to increase from around USD 8,000.00 to above USD 12,000.00 in current prices.

Further, the population is anticipated to grow by only 2 percent per annum.

For this reason, the focal areas for the forthcoming FY’s budget include measures to increase economic growth towards an average of 6 percent per annum.

Economic diversification is reportedly progressing fairly well. The report says, the share of the non-mining private sector in value added has risen to 66 percent in 2018 from to 63 percent in 2015.

The sectoral pattern of growth showed that the performance of services sector (particularly transport & communications, trade, hotels & restaurants, and finance & business services) has been the silver lining and that of mining sector was subdued whilst the utility sector disappointed.

The drive towards the service sector of the economy, especially to low-productivity activities (tourism, public administration, wholesaling and retailing) does not bode well for the country’s development aspirations.

In the previous versions of this Quarterly Review, it was noted that there is need for the rethinking of economic diversification. Since the country’s domestic market is small, it is inevitable that economic diversification not only focus on broadening the product mix, but also the composition of exports and markets.

This understanding of economic diversification has not been embraced by this year’s budget. Consequently, Botswana’s exports are still overwhelmingly diamonds, which means that the rest of economic sectors are still highly dependent on foreign-exchange earnings from diamonds. Thus, “the transformation programme requires a review of the country’s entire ecosystem”.

The budget review of the economic context also depicts that an economy with positive medium-term prospects, with growth expected to recover to 4.4 percent in 2020 from the expected growth of 36 percent in 2019 largely due to faster growth of services sectors and, thereafter, to slow-down to 4 percent in 2021.

These projected growth rates are comparable to those of the IMF staff’s baseline scenario of 4.2 percent in 2020 and 4 percent in 2021. Thus, the business-as-usual scenario produces growth rates that are still too low to achieve Botswana’s development objectives and create enough jobs to absorb the new entrants into the labour market.

Trade tensions between the two major markets for diamond exports, viz., the United States of America and China, is one of the factors that are cited as contributing to, indeed, undermining not only the domestic growth, but also the fiscal position.

Another notable downside risk to both global and domestic growth is outbreak of the coronavirus in China around January 2020. This has been declared as a global health emergency. In an attempt to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus pneumonia, the Chinese authorities have ordered city lockdowns and extended holidays, of course, at the expense of near- term economic growth, according to the new Stanbic Bank Botswana report.

According to Nomura Holdings Inc., fewer migrant workers returned for work than in previous years and business activities have been slow to pick up. The havoc wreaked by the virus on the world’s second largest economy is likely to spill over to the global economy. In fact, it has resulted in a glut in crude oil and, thereby placed oil markets into a contango, i.e., a market structure where near-term prices trade at a discount to future contracts.

It also presents significant risks one of Botswana’s main drivers of economic growth, diversification and foreign exchange earnings. According to the Financial Times (February 13, 2020), Chinese tourists spent $130 billion overseas in 2018. Regardless of whether the growth materializes, the projected domestic growth rate would not transform the economy to a high-income one.

Progress towards reduction of unemployment, to a target of single digit, and poverty and achieving inclusive growth has also been relatively slow, the Stanbic Bank Botswana Review says.

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OP leases Orapa House

21st September 2020
Orapa House

Ministry of Presidential Affairs, Governance and Public Administration (MOPAGPA) has through the Office of the President (OP) proposed to avail Orapa House for use by private training institutions as well as research institutions involved in the area of technology development.

For a very long time the monumental building located in the heart of the city has been a white elephant, despite government purchasing it for nearly P80 million from De Beers in 2012.

However, government has now identified a productive use for the iconic building. “The overall vision is for the building to be transformed into a hub for digital technology research and development to be carried-out by institutions, such as; Limkokwing University, BIUST, BITRI and other relevant stakeholders.”

The decision was taken as government traverse a new path of transforming the economy from a mineral led economy to a knowledge based economy through the promotion of research and innovation. However, the facility will need major maintenance to be carried-out in order to meet the requirements of the proposed change in use.

“The work will include provision of laboratories, work stations, production areas and seminar rooms; audio visual centre, high speed internet connectivity, exhibition areas and offices,” reads the proposal note for the development.

These developments will be done through the refurbishment and maintenance of the main building, workshop, and ablution block, gate house, parking area, grounds, and access control and security service.

“There will be minimal modifications to the structure as it stands. The project is estimated to cost approximately P50, 000, 000,” says the report. In this regard, it is said, the initial scope of the OP facility will be modified to accommodate the envisaged digital technology research and development hub.

With funds needed to improve the building, OP has requested that; “the 2020/21 annual budget provision for Orapa House will need to be increased by P37,500,000 from P2,500,000 to P40,000,000 to kick start the maintenance works.” Funds will be sourced from the projects that have been delayed due to Covid-19 protocols during the 2020/21 financial year.

The building has been a thorny issue for government for years. Initially, OP was expected to move there but the move never materialised. At one point it was a question of whether the Office of the President and the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development were planning to override a decision by Parliament which rejected the proposal to buy Orapa House under the belief that government may be buying its own property. The building was to be bought at a negotiated cost of P79 million.

Again in 2012, Government had wanted to buy Orapa House for a negotiated P79m but the Finance and Estimates Committee of Parliament had rejected the request because of the inconsistencies realised in the supporting documents of the proposed procurement. The valuation of the building was put at P74 million.

The Ministry of Lands and Housing had initially offered De Beers P73, 000,000 as the purchase price. However, De Beers countered with P85, 000,000. On negotiation and converging of the minds, the selling price was finally agreed at P79, 000,000.

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Sad state of Brigades: dumped and ignored!

21st September 2020
Brigades

Auditor General, Pulane Letebele, has expressed discontentment at the worrying and deteriorating state of brigades in the country.

In an audit inspection which was carried out at Tshwaragano Brigade in Gabane, a number of observations showed weaknesses and shortcomings in the conduct of the financial affairs of the institution.

According to Letebele’s report, former students of the brigade had been engaged to carry out maintenance works on the school premises, comprising of painting, tiling, plumbing and electrical works, which covered the period from July 2017 to June 2018.

Although the agreed maintenance period had elapsed, the works had not been completed because of unavailability of funds and this situation had persisted up till the time of inspection in November 2019.

Auditor General says arrangements should have been made in time for funds to be available to complete these relatively minor works even before the works commenced.

Various contractors had been engaged for clearing the bush and for the supply of concrete stones, pit and river sand and hiring equipment for digging the trench towards the construction of an auto mechanics workshop, the report said.

It stated that the cost of services and supplies provided totalled P117 949.80. However, despite the services and the supplies having been paid for, the construction works had not commenced for a long period afterwards, resulting in the trench filling back in.

The audit inquiries had not elicited satisfactory responses as both the institution and the Ministry had not accepted the responsibility for the project, although orders for the provision for the supplies had been made. For their part, the Ministry had stated that they had sub warranted funds for the purchase of porta cabins.

Letebele indicated that it is therefore confusing that a project which is critical to the functioning of an institution such as this one would commence without a well-defined plan.

Furthermore, the accounting and maintenance of records for the supplies items were not of the standard prescribed by the Supplies Regulations and Procedures in that the supplies ledger cards, the main accounting records for Government assets, were not properly maintained for the recording of receipts and issues.

This had resulted in significant discrepancies between physical and ledger balances, while in other instances the supplies items had not been recorded at all.

The report says 24 of the 91 new computers found in the computer laboratory at Kumakwane ABC campus were not recorded anywhere, as were the other computers in the storeroom which could not be counted due to the disorderly storage conditions.

The institution had entered into a contract agreement with a security company for the provision of security services at Tshwaragano Brigade, ABC and Horticulture campuses at Kumakwane for a 2-year period which ended in June 2018, WeekendPost learnt.

After the contract expired in June 2018, an extension was granted till the 30th September 2018. Since then, there has been no security service coverage for the institution to-date. According to Auditor General, in the face of prevailing crimes, it is of paramount importance that government properties be protected by provision of security services at all times.

At Tlokweng Brigade, it was noted that the kitchen staff were working under difficult conditions as the kitchen facilities and equipment, such as the cold room, tilting pot, food warmers and solar power for hot water were dysfunctional. The kitchen roof was leaking and men’s restrooms was not working. All these need to be brought to a reasonable and functional state of repair.

The kitchen staff should use a purpose-designed Rations Ledger for the recording of receipts and issues of foodstuffs to reflect the usage of those items. As far back as 2014 the Department of Buildings and Engineering Services had found that the house occupied by the bursar was uninhabitable on account of structural defects, the report said.

A site visit during the audit had established that the house was indeed unfit for occupation as there were cracks on the walls, power switches were not working and the roof was leaking. On a sadder note, there were a number of finished items of clothing, such as dresses, shirts, and jackets from students’ practical exercises from the Fashion Design Textiles Workshop.

Auditor General shared her take on this, saying: “I have not been able to ascertain the policy on the disposal of products from these practicals. A trace of 103 green acid-proof overalls which had been purchased in August 2018 had indicated that there was no record of these items having been recorded or issued, nor were they available in stock. I was not able to obtain any explanation for this situation.”

Kgatleng brigade was also audited and inspected by Auditor General who observed that the brigade has 26 institutional houses at Bokaa, both old campus and new campus. Some of these houses are very old and dilapidated, with two declared uninhabitable. The condition of the houses is a clear indication of lack of care and maintenance of these properties.

At the time of the audit, there was no contractor engaged for the provision of security guard services at the new campus, after expiry of the previous one in July 2019.  It is hoped that steps would be taken to safeguard the security of the premises and government properties against any acts of hooliganism.

In August 2019, there was a break-in at the electrical and at the plumbing maintenance workshops and a number of high value items, such as drilling machines, bolt cutters, spanners and cables, were stolen. The break-in and theft were reported to the police.

“However, at the time of writing this report I was not aware of the outcome of the police investigation, nor of any loss report submitted in terms of the Supplies Regulations and Procedures,” Letebele said.

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