Allegations of conflict of interest and vindictiveness were flying this week after it emrged that BOT 50 member and also businessman, Jacob Sesinyi had prior contact with one of the companies that participated in a tender floated by the organisation he presides over as a board member.
A case between local advertising company, Dialogue Group and Botswana 50 Celebrations (BOT 50) Secretariat, in which the former wanted to stop the evaluation process for the multimillion pula contract to procure Choreography services for the opening ceremony of Botswana’s 50th independence celebrations was settled this week, at the centre of it was Sesinyi who is accused of having possibly influenced the decision to disqualify Dialogue Group.
On Monday 31st March 2016, Dialogue Group lost their urgent application with costs. A technicality of not submitting a valid Tax Clearance Certificate cost them, according to the court. It has emerged in court papers that the BOT 50 project evaluation team disqualified Dialogue Group citing invalid tax clearance even though BOT 50 was in possession of a valid tax clearance certificate which was submitted by the Dialogue Group together with their expression of interest documents. It is this admitted error on their part which explains their unsuccessful bid.
In the court papers, the Dialogue Group expressed concern that one of the BOT 50 Board Members who was part of the evaluation team, Jacob Sesinyi may have influenced the team to disqualify the Dialogue Group from the tender because one Terry Behan had refused to partner with Sesinyi on the project and instead chose to work with the Dialogue Group.
As part of the evidence presented before court, the Dialogue group presented copies of e-mail correspondence between Sesinyi and Terry Behan. At the time, Behan was CEO of VWV’s EMEA division, producers together with The Dialogue Group of the Africa 2014 African Youth Games opening and closing ceremonies.
In his response Jacob Sesinyi said his company has not participated in, expressed interest nor tendered for any of the BOT 50 tenders or projects whether invited or otherwise.
“The issues in question makes reference to a business email correspondence dated 13th April, 2015, sent by myself on behalf of my Company to one Terry Behan who was by then an employee of VWV,” said Sesinyi.
As at the date of that e mail, i.e. 13th April, 2015, Jacob Sesinyi was not a member of the BOT 50 Organizing Committee, but a Director of a business entity that has been in existence for almost a decade looking for opportunities locally and abroad. Most importantly as at that date there was absolutely neither conceptualization nor procurement process that had commenced in relation to the Opening Ceremony of the 50th Anniversary celebrations in 2016.
Meanwhile, as was stated by the Coordinator of the 50th Anniversary committee in her letter to the Dialogue Group Attorneys dated 18th March 2016, “The Dialogue Group cannot, and should not, have expected the evaluating panel to pull out the valid certificate from their previous Expression of Interest submission and add it to the Tender submission on their behalf.”
“This would have been tantamount to tempering with your client submission and therefore iniquitous and prejudicial to other bidders, and we are convinced your client would have objected to if it were another bidder. The Dialogue Group, like all other bidders, simply had to comply with the requirement of the invitation to tender to submit a valid Tax Clearance Certificate on their own,” she further expressed.
Sesinyi said further what they failed to convey, is that the desired collaboration by his company and VWV, was in relation to possible general national projects. This was even before the 49th anniversary, and was totally unrelated to the ongoing 50th Anniversary celebrations Opening ceremony, with which he subsequently became involved.
Sesinyi said part of his response to Terry was, “Thanks for the note, well appreciated. May I know if your current partnership does allow you to collaborate with any other party in Botswana on a project by project basis?” This according to Sesinyi they have chosen to omit his response in the sequence of correspondence exchanged between Terry and him and presumably this is because the aforementioned communication does not support the supposedly ongoing rancour or resentment on his part at the failed collaboration with Terry Behan.
In a written statement to this publication, Sesinyi posits: “I can confirm that I own and operate a communication consultancy that amongst other things develops and delivers communication solutions and events for various clients both locally and internationally. This consultancy has been in operation for almost a decade.
A significant number of solutions to our clients are delivered either on our own or in partnership with various partners both locally and internationally. We are therefore always on the look out for potential partners that can help us deliver to our clients’ needs either on a project by project basis or on a more permanent basis. It is in this context that we approached VWV for potential partnership. I can advise that at the same time, we approached other potential partners in other parts of the world. As a result, when VWV reverted advising that they were not able to partner with us, we happily moved on. We harbor no grudge or resentment towards VWV whatsoever.
I hasten to point out that upon being approached for BOT50, I immediately declared my business to both the Chairman and the appointing authority. Both encouraged me to take up the appointment nonetheless, and in consideration of my knowledge, skills and experience that BOT50 and the country requires.
I would like to state for the record, that neither myself nor my company have expressed any interest or tendered for any of the BOT50 jobs or tenders.”
Here is how one Permanent Secretary encapsulates the clear tension between democracy and bureaucracy in Botswana: “President Mokgweetsi Masisi’s Government is behaving like a state surrounded with armed forces in order to capture it or force its surrender. The situation has turned so volatile, for tomorrow is not guaranteed for us top civil servants.
These are the painful results of a personalized civil service in our view as permanent secretaries”. Although his deduction of the situation may be summed as sour grapes because he is one of the ‘victims’ of the reshuffle, he is convinced this is a perfect description of the rationale behind frequent changes and transfers characterising the current civil service.
The result of it all, he said, is that “there is too much instability at managerial and strategic levels of the civil service leading to a noticeable directionless civil service.” He continued: “Changes and transfers are inevitable in the civil service, but to a permissible scale and frequency. Think of soccer team coach who changes and transfers his entire squad every month; you know the consequences?”
The Tsunami has hit hard at critical departments and Ministries leaving a strong wave of uncertainty, many demoralised and some jobless. In traditional approaches to public administration, democracy gives the goals; and bureaucracy delivers the technical efficiency required for implementation. But the recent moves in the civil service are indicative of conflicting imperatives – the notion of separation between politicians and administrators is becoming blurred by the day.
“Look at what happened to Prisons and BDF where second in command were overlooked for outsiders, and these are the people who had sacrificially served for donkey’s years hoping for a seat at the ladder’s end. The frequency of the changes, at times affecting the same Ministry or individual also demonstrates some level of ineptitude, clumsiness and lack of foresight from those in charge,” remarked the PS who added that their view is that the transfers are not related to anything but “settling scores, creating corruption opportunities and pushing out perceived dissident and former president, Ian Khama’s alleged loyalists and most of these transfers are said to be products of intelligence detection.”
Partly blaming Khama for the mess and his unwillingness to let go, the PS dismissed Masisi for falling to the trap and failing to outgrow the destructive tiff. “Khama is here to stay and the sooner Masisi comes to terms with the fact that he (Masisi) is the state President, the better. For a President to still be making these changes and transfers signals signs of a confused man who has not yet started rolling his roadmap, if at all it was ever there. I am saying this because any roadmap comes with key players and policies,” he concluded.
The Ministry of Health and Wellness seems to be the most hard-hit by the transfers, having experienced three Permanent Secretaries changes within a year and a half. Insiders say the changes have everything to do with the Ministry being the centre of COVID-19 tenders and economic opportunities. “The buck stops with the PS and no right-thinking PS can just allow glaring corruption under his watch as an accounting officer. Technocrats are generally law abiding, the pressure comes with politically appointed leaders racing against political terms to loot,” revealed a director in the Ministry preferring anonymity.
The latest transfer of Kabelo Ebineng she says was also motivated by his firm attitude against the President’s blue-eyed Task Team boys. “The Task Team wants to own the COVID-19 pandemic and government interventions and always cry foul when the Ministry reasserts itself as mandated by law,” said the director who added that Masisi who was always caught between the crossfire decided on sacrificing Ebineng to the joy of his team as they (Task Team) were in the habit of threatening to resign citing Ebineng as the problem.
Ebineng joins the Office of the President as a deputy Coordinator (government implementation and coordination office).The incoming PS is the soft-spoken Grace Muzila, known and described by her close associates as a conformist albeit knowledgeable.
One of the losers in the grand scheme is Thato Raphaka who many had seen as the next PSP because of his experience and calm demeanour following a declaration of interest in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Secretary post by the current PSP, Elias Magosi.
But hardly ten months into his post, Raphaka has been transferred out to the National Strategy Office in what many see as a demotion of some sort. Other notable changes coming into OP are Pearl Ramokoka formerly with the Employment, Labour and Productivity Ministry coming in as a Permanent Secretary and Kgomotso Abi as director of Public Service Reforms.
One of the ousted senior officers in the Office of the President warned that there are no signs that the changes and transfers will stop anytime soon: “If you are observant you would have long noticed that the changes don’t only affect senior officers but government decisions as well. A decision is made today and the government backtracks on it within a week. Not only that, the President says this today, and his deputy denies it the following day in Parliament,” he warned.
Some observers have blamed the turmoil in the civil service partly to lack of accountable presidential advisers or kitchen cabinet properly schooled on matters of statecraft. They point out that politicians or those peripheral to them should refrain from hampering the technical and organizational activities of public managers – or else the party (reshuffling) won’t stop.
In the view expressed by some Permanent Secretaries, Elias Magosi, has not really been himself since joining the civil service; and has cut a picture of indifference in most critical engagements; the most notable been a permanent secretaries platform which he chairs. As things stand there is need to reconcile the imperatives of democracy and democracy in Botswana. Peace will rein only when public value should stand astride the fault that runs between politicians and public managers.
Former Permanent Secretary to the President, Carter Morupisi, is fighting for survival in a matter in which the State has charged him and his wife, Pinnie Morupisi, with corruption and money laundering.
Morupisi has joined a list of prominent figures that served in the previous administration and who have been accused of corruption during their tenure in office. While others have been emerging victorious, Morupisi is yet to find that luck. The High Court recently dismissed his no case to answer application.
United States President, Joe Biden, is faced with a decision to make relating to the Covid-19 vaccine intellectual property after 175 former world leaders and Nobel laurates joined the campaign urging the US to take “urgent action” to suspend intellectual property rights for Covid-19 vaccines to help boost global inoculation rates.
According to the world leaders, doing so would allow developing countries to make their own copies of the vaccines that have been developed by pharmaceutical companies without fear of being sued for intellectual property infringements.
“A WTO waiver is a vital and necessary step to bringing an end to this pandemic. It must be combined with ensuring vaccine know-how and technology is shared openly,” the signatories, comprising more than 100 Nobel prize-winners and over 70 former world leaders, wrote in a letter to US President Joe Biden, according to Financial Times.
A measure to allow countries to temporarily override patent rights for Covid related medical products was proposed at the World Trade Organization by India and South Africa in October, and has since been backed by nearly 60 countries.
Former leaders who signed the letter included Gordon Brown, former UK Prime Minister; François Hollande, former French President; Mikhail Gorbachev, former President of the USSR; and Yves Leterme, former Belgian Prime Minister.
In their official communication, South Africa and India said: “As new diagnostics, therapeutics and vaccines for Covid-19 are developed, there are significant concerns [about] how these will be made available promptly, in sufficient quantities and at affordable prices to meet global demand.”
While developed countries have been able to secure enough vaccine to inoculate their citizens, developing countries such as Botswana are struggling to source enough to swiftly vaccine their citizens, something which world leaders believe it would work against global recovery therefore proving counter-productive.
Since the availability of vaccines, Botswana has been able to secure only 60 000 doses of vaccines, 30 000 as donation as from the Indian government, while the other 30 000 was sourced through COVAX facility. Canada, has pre-ordered vaccines in surplus and it will be able to vaccinate each of its citizens six times over. In the UK and US, it is four vaccines per person; and two each in the EU and Australia.
For vaccines produced in Europe, developing countries are forced to pay double what European countries are paying, making it more expensive for already financially struggling economies. European countries however justify the price of vaccines and that they deserve to buy them cheap since they contributed in their development.
It is evident that vaccines cannot be made available immediately to all countries worldwide with wealthy economies being the only success story in that regard, something that has been referred to as a “catastrophic moral failure”, head of the World Health Organisation (WHO), Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.
The challenge facing developing countries is not only the price, but also the capacity of vaccine manufactures to be able to do so to meet global demand within a short time. The proposal for a patent waiver by India and South Africa has been rejected by developed countries, known for hosting the world leading pharmaceutical companies such US, European Union, the United Kingdom, and Switzerland.
According to the Financial Times, US business groups including pharmaceutical industry representatives, have urged Biden to resist supporting a waiver to IP rules at the WTO, arguing that the proposal led by India and South Africa was too “vague” and “broad”.
The individuals who signed the letter, including Nobel laureates in economics as well as from across the arts and sciences, warned that inequitable vaccine access would impact the global economy and prevent it from recovering.
“The world saw unprecedented development of safe and effective vaccines, in major part thanks to US public investment,” the group wrote. “We all welcome that vaccination rollout in the US and many wealthier countries is bringing hope to their citizens.”
“Yet for the majority of the world that same hope is yet to be seen. New waves of suffering are now rising across the globe. Our global economy cannot rebuild if it remains vulnerable to this virus.” The group warned that fully enforcing IP was “self-defeating for the US” as it hindered global vaccination efforts. “Given artificial global supply shortages, the US economy already risks losing $1.3tn in gross domestic product this year.”