The President of the Botswana Public Employees Union (BOPEU), Andrew Motsamai has disposed a loaded affidavit in which he dismisses the legality of the National Amalgamated Local Central Government and Parastatal Workers Union aka Manual Workers Union; he also quashes Botswana Federation of Public Sector Unions (BOFEPUSU)’s call for an expedited appeal to the ruling of the Industrial Court which set aside public servants salary negotiations.
Before pouring cold water over BOFEPUSU’s request that the appeal be heard on urgency basis, Motsamai directed his thoughts at Manual Workers Union cited as 4th responded in the court papers: “I dispute that the 4th applicant is a trade union duly registered and recognised in terms of the Trade Unions and Employers Organisations’ Act and the Trade Disputes Act, as alleged or at all. I therefore strictly put the 4th applicant to the proof that it is a registered and recognised trade union and I hereby call upon the 4th applicant, in reply, to produce before Court the necessary documentation in proof of its registration and recognition in terms of the Trade Unions and Employers Organisation Act and the Trade Disputes Act, as alleged in the founding affidavit.”
Motsamai further writes, “I must point out that at the time that the application was launched before the Industrial Court, it was assumed by all parties involved , including the 1st respondent, that the 4th applicant was duly registered and recognised trade union. In fact all past dealings involving the collective bargaining process within the public service, it has always been taken that the 4th applicant was a registered and recognised trade union.”
According to the BOPEU President, it has only recently come to the attention of the 1st respondent that the 4th applicant has not been registered nor is it recognised by the employer. Motsamai says his union therefore avers that the 4th respondent lacks necessary locus standi in judicio to have participated in this matter and that it cannot therefore continue to participate in the matter.
In his replying affidavit Motsamai points out that there is no provision for the hearing of Appeals on urgency before the Court of Appeal. He also notes that the record of proceedings for the purposes of Appeal have not been settled yet. He says the applicants should have availed the copy of the Industrial Court Judgement to their records because it is their obligation to place all relevant materials before court for the court to arrive at a judicious conclusion.
Responding to why the matter was urgent before the Industrial Court, Motsamai posits that, “the matter before the Industrial Court was urgent because of the fact that it affects the negotiation of the terms and conditions of service of multitudes of civil servants, a process which the Public Service Bargaining Council (PSBC) has by its resolution No. 2 of 2016, resolved that it should continue within 5 days from the 18 February 2016.
The 1st respondent had then argued that it had a right to participate in that negotiation process and that pending the decision of the court on the matter, the negotiation process be suspended. The Industrial Court had then suspended the negotiation process and the dates that the PSBC had set for the negotiation have since passed. The applicants do not state in their founding affidavit that the negotiations have a new date,” writes Motsamai.
Motsamai further argues that the Industrial Court has provided for a substantial recourse in this matter by directing that the parties attend a mediation process within 30 days.
“The applicants do not allege in their founding affidavit that the mediation, if attended, will not resolve the matter let alone that the mediation would not be concluded within a sufficient period to enable the salary negotiation process to be held and closed.”
According to the BOPEU president, BOFEPUSU has failed to demonstrate that if the public service salary increments are made after the 01st April, such will in any way cause irreparable harm to the public servants. “I aver that salary back-pays can always be made, as has been the case in other similar instances in the past. I aver that the fact that public servants are affected by the pending negotiation process does not on its own automatically render appeal urgent. The applicants still have to demonstrate exceptional circumstances and irreparable harm,” Motsamai contends.
ON SALARY NEGOTIATIONS
BOPEU president further states that the interdict is a necessary evil, to ensure that there is inclusiveness in terms of representation of public servants at the Bargaining Council. The sanctity and legality of the Bargaining Council participation ought to be secured first before any earnest bargaining process can ensue. He is convinced that mediation as directed by the Industrial Court could help secure substantial relief to the “crisis” which “they allege presently exists within the public service”.
Motsamai says the salary negotiations as the position stands now have been interdicted by the Court and “I contend that upon resuming and a figure arrived at, the implementation if made after 1st April 2016, shall be retrospectively effected.”
Further Motsamai blames BOFEPUSU for the delay in salary negotiations. He says they failed to submit their proposal on salary negotiations in time, such that a bargaining process which ought to have commenced in or around September/October 2015 was only started in 2016. He says the employer party to the PSBC has not even delivered its counter proposal to the proposal made by the trade unions. He argues that the founding affidavit provided by BOFEPUSU does not say whether Employer party will provide the counter proposal on time and the bargaining process concluded before 01 April 2016 if the appeal is expedited. Motsamai says this makes the argument of concluding the case before 01 April immaterial. He concludes that the applicants in BOFEPUSU have failed to demonstrate exceptional circumstances that should compel the Appeal Court to allow them to jump the queue.
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.