A damning report to the Office of the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Lands and Housing has jabbed at the characters behind the failure of the Land Administration Procedures Capacity and Systems (LAPCAS) and praised its original intentions.
LAPCAS was conceived in 2009 in partnership with the Swedish Government. The intentions were to improve land administration in Botswana by impacting on procedures, capacity of personnel and systems.
According to a report authored a consultant once engaged by the Ministry, LAPCAS was to ensure that all plots in Botswana are surveyed, legally owned as verified by the Land Authority resolution, captured both manually and electronically; in short, where it is clear where which plot is and as to who it belongs to. There was also an intention to give each plot a unique identity.
It is understood that the programme was seen as the springboard for socio-economic development of the country through electronic based service delivery. LAPCAS was also linked to e-Governance which was developed to know where each individual resides, each plot in the country must be registered, surveyed and captured in the national electronic data base, it must be adjudicated; it must have a unique ID; it must have a location address; land information so generated must reside in a secure platform; with a system that enables interaction with all government departments and agencies.
In the LAPCAS manuscript, development planning was to become easy when all land information in Botswana has been entered into the national data base. It was envisaged that with a plot a national planner would know how many people reside in that plot, their age, education profile, number of livestock, incapacities, number of vehicles, number of plots they own, at home and elsewhere – and thereby facilitating equity and easy decision making as to where and when to intervene.
LAPCAS was aimed at enabling government to know at touch button where priority areas are, for instance in the provision of bitumen road, schools, hospitals, police posts, releasing more land for settlement expansion or even determining new political wards and constituencies. LAPCAS was to arrest voter trafficking among other things. Those who came up with the idea of LAPCAS thought rates collection will be eased, there would be no need for Population and Housing Census and Delimitation Commissions as this information will be readily available at any given time.
WHY LAPCAS FAILED OR IS LAGGING BEHIND
Reports indicate that the programme failed because it had the same Project Manager to lead the Programme starting with formulation of prototypes through implementation.
The current head of LAPCAS has been with the project for seven years now, since 2009. His approach was to be hands on in every component and in the process stifled creativity, spontaneity and ownership of processes. He was the means and the end. Consequently, he starved himself time to coordinate, to set timelines and demand results.
After the components were not load enough, he still maintained, to this day, his position as Director of Surveys and Mapping. He allocates himself juicy assignments mainly international travel to the exclusion of the Acting Director DSM.
Currently he is the Acting Deputy permanent Secretary at the same time retaining his two portfolios of LAPCAS Head and DSM Director. The permanent secretary was told that the danger of allocating the same officer a lot of functions is that if they are less effective and respected then the collapse of the intent and the vision is guaranteed.
The person leading LAPCAS presided over Ghanzi Land Board in 2001/2002 where he often recorded below 50 percent in performance assessment reviews. He maintained his trend to Kweneng Land Board, DSM and LAPCAS to this day.
The plan was to have all land in the Land Boards registered by 2016. About One million plots were to be covered in 2016, but this has not happened because only 10 percent of the proposed number has been covered in over three years. About 100 project officers were hired for this project on a three year term and the project budget end mid-2016 and this has come to naught.
Realising that the project was failing, the head of LAPCAS decided to transfer Land registration exercise to individual Land Boards Secretaries. The role of a national coordinator was removed such that the exercise runs without a pivotal person to provide direction, support and much needed supervision.
Land registration was poorly marketed as LAPCAS. Instead of talking to the bigger government intent of easy service provision, the protagonists went for the most resented purpose, of knowing where one resides, thus dealing with the means and not the end to the general collapse of the land registration exercise.
Land Registration needs to be revitalised and rebranded. It has to be given dominance over other components, without neglecting concurrency, as all other components are dependent on it as a basis for land information. It will become of no use if there is no land information to manage and inform quality decision making to advance delivery across all sectors of the economy.
Of the entire country only three localities have been addressed (given location addresses). About 90 percent of tribal land was unregistered in the last quarter of 2015. This publication learns that the LAPCAS team has failed to establish a land information centre, a project that was agreed upon some years back. The Land Information Centre was to act as a hub for all land information across the three tenure system.
Botswana has made improvements on preventing and ending arbitrary deprivation of liberty, but significant challenges remain in further developing and implementing a legal framework, the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention said at the end of a visit recently.
Head of the delegation, Elina Steinerte, appreciated the transparency of Botswana for opening her doors to them. Having had full and unimpeded access and visited 19 places of deprivation of liberty and confidentiality interviewing over 100 persons deprived of their liberty.
She mentioned “We commend Botswana for its openness in inviting the Working Group to conduct this visit which is the first visit of the Working Group to the Southern African region in over a decade. This is a further extension of the commitment to uphold international human rights obligations undertaken by Botswana through its ratification of international human rights treaties.”
Another good act Botswana has been praised for is the remission of sentences. Steinerte echoed that the Prisons Act grants remission of one third of the sentence to anyone who has been imprisoned for more than one month unless the person has been sentenced to life imprisonment or detained at the President’s Pleasure or if the remission would result in the discharge of any prisoner before serving a term of imprisonment of one month.
On the other side; The Group received testimonies about the police using excessive force, including beatings, electrocution, and suffocation of suspects to extract confessions. Of which when the suspects raised the matter with the magistrates, medical examinations would be ordered but often not carried out and the consideration of cases would proceed.
“The Group recall that any such treatment may amount to torture and ill-treatment absolutely prohibited in international law and also lead to arbitrary detention. Judicial authorities must ensure that the Government has met its obligation of demonstrating that confessions were given without coercion, including through any direct or indirect physical or undue psychological pressure. Judges should consider inadmissible any statement obtained through torture or ill-treatment and should order prompt and effective investigations into such allegations,” said Steinerte.
One of the group’s main concern was the DIS held suspects for over 48 hours for interviews. Established under the Intelligence and Security Service Act, the Directorate of Intelligence and Security (DIS) has powers to arrest with or without a warrant.
The group said the “DIS usually requests individuals to come in for an interview and has no powers to detain anyone beyond 48 hours; any overnight detention would take place in regular police stations.”
The Group was able to visit the DIS facilities in Sebele and received numerous testimonies from persons who have been taken there for interviewing, making it evident that individuals can be detained in the facility even if the detention does not last more than few hours.
Moreover, while arrest without a warrant is permissible only when there is a reasonable suspicion of a crime being committed, the evidence received indicates that arrests without a warrant are a rule rather than an exception, in contravention to article 9 of the Covenant.
Even short periods of detention constitute deprivation of liberty when a person is not free to leave at will and in all those instances when safeguards against arbitrary detention are violated, also such short periods may amount to arbitrary deprivation of liberty.
The group also learned of instances when persons were taken to DIS for interviewing without being given the possibility to notify their next of kin and that while individuals are allowed to consult their lawyers prior to being interviewed, lawyers are not allowed to be present during the interviews.
The UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention mentioned they will continue engaging in the constructive dialogue with the Government of Botswana over the following months while they determine their final conclusions in relation to the country visit.
Standard Chartered Bank Botswana (SCBB) has informed the government that it will not be accepting new loan applications for the Government Employees Motor Vehicle and Residential Property Advance Scheme (GEMVAS and LAMVAS) facility.
This emerges in a correspondence between Acting Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Finance Boniface Mphetlhe and some government departments. In a letter he wrote recently to government departments informing them of the decision, Mphetlhe indicated that the Ministry received a request from the Bank to consider reviewing GEMVAS and LAMVAS agreement.
He said: “In summary SCBB requested the following; Government should consider reviewing GEMVAS and LAMVAS interest rate from prime plus 0.5% to prime plus 2%.” The Bank indicated that the review should be both for existing GEMVAS and LAMVAS clients and potential customers going forward.
Mphetlhe said the Bank informed the Ministry that the current GEMVAS and LAMVAS interest rate structure results into them making losses, “as the cost of loa disbursements is higher that their end collections.”
He said it also requested that the loan tenure for the residential property loans to be increased from 20 to 25 years and the loan tenure for new motor vehicles loans to be increased from 60 months to 72 months.
Mphetlhe indicated that the Bank’s request has been duly forwarded to the Directorate of Public Service Management for consideration, since GEMVAS and LAMVAS is a Condition of Service Scheme. He saidthe Bank did also inform the Ministry that if the matter is not resolved by the 6th June, 2022, they would cease receipt of new GEMVAS and LAMVAS loan applications.
“A follow up virtual meeting was held to discuss their resolution and SCB did confirm that they will not be accepting any new loans from GEMVAS and LAMVAS. The decision includes top-up advances,” said Mphetlhe. He advised civil servants to consider applying for loans from other banks.
In a letter addressed to the Ministry, SCBB Chief Executive Officer Mpho Masupe informed theministry that, “Reference is made to your letter dated 18th March 2022 wherein the Ministry had indicated that feedback to our proposal on the above subject is being sought.”
In thesame letter dated 10 May 2022, Masupe stated that the Bank was requesting for an update on the Ministry’s engagements with the relevant stakeholder (Directorate of Public Service Management) and provide an indicative timeline for conclusion.
He said the “SCBB informs the Ministry of its intention to cease issuance of new loans to applicants from 6th June 2022 in absence of any feedback on the matter and closure of the discussions between the two parties.” Previously, Masupe had also had requested the Ministry to consider a review of clause 3 of the agreement which speaks to the interest rate charged on the facilities.
Masupe indicated in the letter dated 21 December 2021 that although all the Banks in the market had signed a similar agreement, subject to amendments that each may have requested. “We would like to suggest that our review be considered individually as opposed to being an industry position as we are cognisant of the requirements of section 25 of the Competition Act of 2018 which discourages fixing of pricing set for consumers,” he said.
He added that,“In this way,clients would still have the opportunity to shop around for more favourable pricing and the other Banks, may if they wish to, similarly, individually approach your office for a review of their pricing to the extent that they deem suitable for their respective organisations.”
Masupe also stated that: “On the issue of our request for the revision of the Interest Rate, we kindly request for an increase from the current rate of prime plus 0.5% to prime plus 2%, with no other increases during the loan period.” The Bank CEO said the rationale for the request to review pricing is due to the current construct of the GEMVAS scheme which is currently structured in a way that is resulting in the Bank making a loss.
“The greater part of the GEMVAS portfolio is the mortgage boo which constitutes 40% of the Bank’s total mortgage portfolio,” said Masupe. He saidthe losses that the Bank is incurring are as a result of the legacy pricing of prime plus 0% as the 1995 agreement which a slight increase in the August 2018 agreement to prime plus 0.5%.
“With this pricing, the GEMVAS portfolio has not been profitable to the Bank, causing distress and impeding its ability to continue to support government employees to buy houses and cars. The portfolio is currently priced at 5.25%,” he said. Masupe said the performance of both the GEMVAS home loan and auto loan portfolios in terms of profitability have become unsustainable for the Bank.
Healso said, when the agreement was signed in August 2018, the prime lending rate was 6.75% which made the pricing in effect at the time sufficient from a profitable perspective. “It has since dropped by a total 1.5%. The funds that are loaned to customers are sourced at a high rate, which now leaves the Bank with marginal profits on the portfolio before factoring in other operational expenses associated with administration of the scheme and after sales care of the portfolio,” said the CEO.