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BCA’s P160 million makeover on slippery grounds

The government’s move to transform the beleaguered Botswana College of Agriculture (BCA) into a sound, fully-fledged new university is said to be marred with mismanagement of resources and generally poor management.


It is understood that although the transformation agenda will cost the new institution a whooping 160 million pula to make it become an agricultural university of international repute, there are strong rumours doing the rounds inside the corridors of the BCA that the money is being spent willy-nilly. The transformation exercise, sources say, is treading on thin ice.


Of the 160 million pula earmarked for the university, 70% of the total is from government coffers, while BCA will contribute 30% which will be generated from student fees and revenue from the farm produce. The Ministry of Agriculture (MoA) has also allocated the College a substantial 10 million pula as part of the transformation exercise.  


When explaining the plump budget of the transformation, BCA Acting Principal Dr. Mataba Tapela, who also oversees the massive project, told Weekend Post that the budget in part will be used for recruitment of principal officials i.e. Vice Chancellor and the Deputies, Consultancies to develop the structure, Conditions of Service, Development of Faculties, Consultations, Benchmarking and Rebranding and Marketing.


This publication has gathered that there is growing animosity between the BCA management and employees with regard to the hefty transformation budget and the way it’s being spent. “So much is happening in the College: there is mismanagement of resources and generally poor management which has been going on for some time now,” an inside source, who preferred anonymity for fear of victimisation pointed out to this publication.


“As for the transformation money, part of the management is running around retreats with their chosen few and having cocktails and after parties at every opportunity,” he lamented.

    
According to the insider, he believes the BCA Executive management is made up of people who lack the understanding of the basic principles of management.


“There are so many unresolved issues, some basic, which they continually fail to address. If things are left as they are, the college will never reach its goal of transforming to a reputable university. The government is losing money already, and this can be addressed by engaging experienced consultants to assist us to transform.”


Weekend Post has established that currently there is an ongoing benchmarking exercise that saw the College spending close to an astonishing 1 million pula (only for benchmarking) and, this did not go down well with some staff members at the agricultural college.


It is understood that a union representative who went to enquire on what was happening was also given a slot to join the team to America and has since kept quiet. It is said that this has in turn divided the union committee members and  meetings are no longer convened as the representative now says members are now ‘jealous’ of him.


The inside source also asserted that more shocking is the terms of reference for the benchmarking teams: “how do you benchmark records management in America. And worst of all is that, no records management unit employee is involved in the exercise.” Conversely Dr. Tapela said that the Records Management employee who is among the Benchmarking team is a member nominated by the Union to represent the Staff Union.


More information turned up by Weekend Post suggests that the team is mostly made up of staff members who are not even performing at their respective offices and the criteria used is not known.


“Even the composition of the transformation team is shocking as the team is made up of people who are not and have never been exposed to such a huge project, but are loyal of the Acting Principal. The Governing Council is never given detailed information, and ends up making un-informed decisions that do not help the college,” he maintained.


Some BCA employees are said to be generally not happy with the transformation exercise and believe they are being neglected on the process.


Information reaching this publication further indicates that: “the Acting Principal has divided the employees and taken a leading hand in transforming the college on his own. No consultation was ever done with staff, except one or so general meetings in which staff members were told about the bill, but never had an opportunity to be consulted during the development of the draft.”


In justifying the costly benchmarking, Dr. Tapela said that there was the first phase which was benchmarking desktop to understand the best practices across the world, and then there was the second phase which consisted of regional travel to universities in Malawi, South Africa, Namibia. The third phase is travel to top universities in America, Europe and Australia, he added.


The international benchmarking team, he said consists of representatives from the Governing Council, Executive management, Academic Division, Administrative Division, and the Staff Union. The international benchmarking trips are on-going and will be completed at the end of October 2015.


The Acting principal emphasized that the objectives of the benchmarking exercise are to undertake: functional benchmarking – which focus on functional areas in the benchmarked university such as Human Resources, Finance, Information and Communication Technology, and Institutional Planning, and secondly, Process Benchmarking – which focuses on improving specific critical processes and operations especially in Academic Affairs and Student Services.


“These are critical areas that are core to smooth function of the new university and therefore have been given priority,” he stressed.


However, according to Dr. Tapela, the transformation team is at different levels being the Core Team, the Reference Committee, the Governing Council Transformation Sub-Committee and the Governing Council. “These are the people who drive the Vision and have professional expertise in Academic, Human Resource, Finance, Information Technology, Student Affairs etc.”


He pointed out that where expertise lacks, Consultants are engaged, for example, in the development of the schemes of service and conditions of service. Benchmarking also plays an important role to guide on the best practices across the world, he said.


However the Acting Principal insisted that there was a thorough consultation with all stakeholders. He asserted that the Transformation Plan was developed through a process of upward and downward consultation of staff representatives, student representatives, the Governing Council and the public.


“The structure of the development team consisted of a Core Team which did the drafting and reported to a Reference Committee of more than 50 people composed of representatives from Academic Staff, Support staff, the Staff Union and Students.”  


He also said that the general staff was periodically updated during staff meetings. The most recent consultation and update was from the 10th-12th September, 2015 when workshops were conducted for different groups of staff in Setswana on the first day, and English on the second day, he recalled.


The third day, he said was dedicated to student consultations and the program included transformation updates, consultations, change management and motivational presentations.


“These platforms provided opportunity for staff and students to express their concerns, suggestions and recommendations. The proceedings were recorded and recommendations duly considered. Other platforms include departmental boards, and open fora.”


Dr. Tapela said other consultation with concerned stakeholders (including University of Botswana) and planning for the new Faculties is on-going, and four Faculty conveners have been appointed to facilitate establishment of new faculties and rationalization of academic staff.


The BCA Acting Principal also revealed that a consultancy to review the proposed University structure, develop job profiles, grade positions and propose a remuneration structure will be completed next year (2016) in January.


The transformation will see the new institution operating as an independent entity from the University of Botswana. BCA currently enrolls around 1 000 students and the number is anticipated to heighten to an estimated 5 000 at the new BUAN. It is anticipated that a full rollout of the Transition will commence at the beginning of the 2016/17 financial year.


The (BUAN) Bill establishing the new university was passed by parliament on 16 July 2015, and this publication has gathered that President Ian Khama has since assented to the Bill and the College expects the new BUAN Act to commence on 1st December 2015.


BCA was established on 31st May 1991 through Act no. 9 of the Parliament of Botswana. The Act abolished the then Botswana Agricultural College (BAC) which had existed since 1967.


The new university is also believed it will address the national development priorities of food security, rural development, economic diversification, youth empowerment and sustainable use of natural resources.

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Khan: Boko, Masisi are fake politicians

18th January 2021
Masisi & Boko

While there is no hard-and-fast rule in politics, former Molepolole North Member of Parliament, Mohamed Khan says populism acts in the body politic have forced him to quit active partisan politics. He brands this ancient ascription of politics as fake and says it lowers the moral compass of the society.

Khan who finally tasted political victory in the 2014 elections after numerous failed attempts, has decided to leave the ‘dirty game’, and on his way out he characteristically lashed at the current political leaders; including his own party president, Advocate Duma Boko. “I arrived at this decision because I have noticed that there are no genuine politics and politicians. The current leaders, Boko and President Dr Mokgweetsi Masisi are fake politicians who are just practicing populist politics to feed their egos,” he said.

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Ookeditse rejects lobby for BPF top post

18th January 2021
LAWRENCE-OOKEDITSE

Former Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) parliamentary hopeful, Lawrence Ookeditse has rejected the idea of taking up a crucial role in the Botswana Patriotic Front (BPF) Central Committee following his arrival in the party this week. According to sources close to development, BPF power brokers are coaxing Ookeditse to take up the secretary general position, left vacant by death of Roseline Panzirah-Matshome in November 2020.

Ookeditse’s arrival at BPF is projected to cause conflicts, as some believe they are being overlooked, in favour of a new arrival. The former ruling party strategist has however ruled out the possibility of serving in the party central committee as secretary general, and committed that he will turn down the overture if availed to him by party leadership.

Ookeditse, nevertheless, has indicated that if offered another opportunity to serve in a different capacity, he will gladly accept. “I still need to learn the party, how it functions and all its structures; I must be guided, but given any responsibility I will serve the party as long as it is not the SG position.”

“I joined the BPF with a clear conscious, to further advance my voice and the interests of the constituents of Nata/Gweta which I believe the BDP is no longer capable to execute.” Ookeditse speaks of abject poverty in his constituency and prevalent unemployment among the youth, issues he hopes his new home will prioritise.

He dismissed further allegations that he resigned from the BDP because he was not rewarded for his efforts towards the 2019 general elections. After losing in the BDP primaries in 2018, Ookeditse said, he was offered a job in government but declined to take the post due to his political ambitions. Ookeditse stated that he rejected the offer because, working for government clashed with his political journey.

He insists there are many activists who are more deserving than him; he could have chosen to take up the opportunity that was before him but his conscious for the entire populace’s wellbeing held him back. Ookeditse said there many people in the party who also contributed towards party success, asserting that he only left the BDP because he was concerned about the greater good of the majority not individualism purposes.

According to observers, Ookeditse has been enticed by the prospects of contesting Nata/Gweta constituency in the 2024 general election, following the party’s impressive performance in the last general elections. Nata/Gweta which is a traditional BDP stronghold saw its numbers shrinking to a margin of 1568. BDP represented by Polson Majaga garnered 4754, while BPF which had fielded Joe Linga received 3186 with UDC coming a distant with 1442 votes.

There are reports that Linga will pave way for Ookeditse to contest the constituency in 2024 and the latter is upbeat about the prospects of being elected to parliament. Despite Ookeditse dismissing reports that he is eying the secretary general position, insiders argue that the position will be availed to him nevertheless.

Alternative favourite for the position is Vuyo Notha who is the party Deputy Secretary General. Notha has since assumed duties of the secretariat office on the interim basis. BPF politburo is expected to meet on 25th of January 2020, where the vacancy will be filled.

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BDP cancels MPs retreat

18th January 2021
President Masisi

Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) big wigs have decided to cancel a retreat with the party legislators this weekend owing to increasing numbers of Covid-19 cases. The meeting was billed for this weekend at a place that was to be confirmed, however a communique from the party this past Tuesday reversed the highly anticipated meeting.

“We received a communication this week that the meeting will not go as planned because of rapid spread of Covid-19,” one member of the party Central Committee confirmed to this publication.
The gathering was to follow the first of its kind held late last year at party Treasurer Satar Dada’s place.

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