In an unprecedented move, President Lt. Gen. Seretse Khama Ian Khama has deferred the crucial pronouncement of his preferred Specially Elected Member of Parliament (SEMP) – as the national assembly opens next week Monday.
The constitution gives President Khama powers to present a specially elected MP subject to parliament’s endorsement through a normal voting process. SEMP position became vacant following resignation of Eric Molale who contested the Good Hope-Mabule bye election but lost to Lotlaamoreng Montshioa.
It has been largely believed that the 1st meeting of the 2nd session of the 11th parliament on Monday 9th November will usher in two new legislators being MP elect, Lotlaamoreng and a new unspecified nominated legislator.
However, speaker of parliament Gladys Kokorwe declared yesterday (Friday) during a press briefing that the SEMP nomination process will be delayed. “The election of a specially elected member of parliament will be done at a later date,” she told a group of journalists at the press conference.
In justifying this improbable move, Kokorwe said the State of the Nation Address (SONA) is supposed to be a stand-alone business on Monday and un-interfered by other businesses of the magnitude of electing SEMP in parliament.
She emphasized to inquisitive journalists that no date so far has been earmarked for the SEMP election dispensation but it would be communicated in due course as developments unravel.
While she stressed that the day would be busy, the second female Speaker of parliament told the journalists that the anticipated swearing in of MP-elect, Lotlaamoreng will take place.
“Batswana will have the opportunity to witness the swearing in of the new Member of Parliament for Good Hope Mabule constituency,” she said.
The 1st meeting, Kokorwe said is generally the beginning of Parliament year and it always commences with the delivery of SONA by the president.
According to the Speaker, parliament will have to spend more fifteen days responding to President Khama’s speech and also stating issues affecting their constituents – while the nominated MP portfolio remains vacant.
Constitutionally, Khama has the prerogative to cherry-pick from any citizen of good standing who is largely assumed to possess immaculate credentials, unlikely expertise and skills as well as a reputable track record usually missing in parliament – to complement the crop of the legislators.
It is understood that some in the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) are against the bouncing back of Eric Molale while he seems the most likely candidate for the position.
Eric Molale was chosen by Khama and endorsed by parliament; he then resigned to contest the Goodhope Mabule bye election and lost the constituency which was contested after James Mathokgwane resigned, in pursuit of greener pastures.
Other names being dropped around for the position include that of BDP Secretary General, Botsalo Ntuane.
The process of selection of SEMP, some observers say, has been used to appease political rejects who are part of the ruling elites and making the inner circle of the president.
While reasons for the delay are still unclear, observers believe Khama may be having a hard time choosing his preferred parliament entrant.
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.