The Botswana Federation of Public Sector Unions (BOFEPUSU) intends to file an urgent application with the aim to nullify the Labour Advisory Board meeting which was held last week Thursday between the government and another public service union, the Botswana Federation of Trade Unions (BFTU).
BOFEPUSU contends that whatever was agreed upon at the meeting regarding the proposed amendment of the Trade Dispute Act cannot pass as consultation of the work force as long as BOFEPUSU which has a majority of public service membership was locked out.
On Thursday this week, the Federation, through its attorney, Onalethata Kambai of Kambai Attorneys served the statutory notice of their intended suit to both the Ministry of Labour and Home Affairs and BFTU.
“We wrote to the Minister and requested that the meeting be postponed. We told the Minister that we were yet to meet and agree with BFTU on how we would share the slots at the meeting, but the meeting went on anyway without our representation, yet the topic under discussion has direct implications to our members,” explained BOFEPUSU’s Secretary General Tobokani Rari in an interview this week.
BFTU and the government met to discuss the proposed Labour dispute Act amendment which aims at adding more cadres to the essential service bracket. Teachers who mostly fall under BOFEPUSU unions would be directly affected by the amendment which would see them being forced to take up extra duties as compulsory work and to some extend barred from engaging in “no work” kind of strikes.
BOFEPUSU insists that it was supposed to be part of last week’s meeting since the recommendations made from such a meeting are likely to be made part of the arguments tabled before Parliament by the Minister in the coming session of Parliament and that the bill is then likely to continue without their input.
BOFEPUSU failed to attend the meeting after BFTU refused to meet its members. BOFEPUSU wanted the two parties to agree on how they would divide between them the three seats reserved for the union at the Board.
“I wish to acknowledge you letter dated 16 November 2015. We have written a letter to the Ministry of Labour and Home Affairs seeking clarification on the matter. Until then we cannot meet. I thank you. Yours in Struggle, Gadzani Mhotsha (Mr), Secretary General,” BFTU responded to BOFEPUSU’s letter.
BOFEPUSU’s account of the story is that on the 18th August, 2015, the Ministry granted it the rights to represent its members in social dialogue structures such as the Labour Advisory Board, the Bargaining Council and others.
On the 16th October, 2015, BOFEPUSU wrote a letter to BFTU requesting for an urgent meeting to discuss the issue of representation in social Dialogue structures. However on the 18 November they received a response from BFTU indicating that they cannot meet BOFEPUSU on account that they have written to the Ministry seeking clarification on the matter. BOFEPUSU then tried to stop the meeting and wrote a letter to the Minister in the same Ministry, Edwin Batshu and requested him to intervene and possibly stop the meeting. The meeting went ahead anyway hence BOFEPUSU is seeking the intervention of an independent body, the Judiciary.
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.