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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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Major public services shake-up looms

24th January 2022
Emmah

Public Servants should brace themselves for some changes as the government is in an overdrive mode to overhaul the public sector. The government has also set the tone for the looming changes as it has added the public sector to its looming list of major and sweeping reforms.

This is contained in a savingram from the Permanent Secretary to the President (PSP) Emmah Peloetletse’s office showing how the government intends to “take stock” of all reforms in the public sector through the establishment of an inventory.  Peloetletse’s savingram addressed to various ministries and the Directorate of Public Service Management (DPSM) reveals that the government is working around the clock to implement some changes in the Public Service.

The savingram reminded Permanent Secretaries of various ministries and DPSM that the public sector reforms unit (PSRU) at the Office of the President is mandated with Coordinating Reforms across the Public Service.  “This essentially entails providing the strategic guidance and facilitation in the implementation of reforms across the Public Service. In this endeavour the Unit has in the past with Technical Assistance from European Union developed a template for documenting Reforms in the Public Service and documented ten (10) major reforms across the Public Service,” reads the savingram in part. It added that “The Unit has lately rolled out the Change Management Framework in an effort to facilitate effective and efficient management of change in the Public Service.”

According to the savingram, it has been noted that for a variety of reasons the use of the template for documenting reforms has not been universally used across the Botswana Public Service.  It further states that to facilitate the documentation of the reforms it is essential that an inventory of the various reforms across the Public Service (Central Government, Local Government and State Owned Entities) is established.

“By this correspondent we are seeking your assistance in populating the attached template to provide basic information on the various reforms. The PSRU will, through the various Coordination of focal Persons facilitate the full documentation of the reforms once the inventory is established,” the savingram further stated. The copy of the template among others calls on the focal persons to fill out them form under several headings; they include title of reform, start date, reform objectives, reform components, reform components, progress status.

The savingram echoes President Mokgweetsi Masisi’s announcement last year during his state of the nation address that as a nation Botswana has set itself a lofty goal of becoming a high income country by 2036 and has come up with a list of reforms among them digitisation of government infrastructure. He said the path to achieving this goal dictates that, Botswana takes deliberate steps that will transform its institutions; the way Batswana think and the way they act.

“It is with this in mind, that I presented a Reset Agenda in May 2021, with the following priorities: Save Botswana‘s population from COVID-19, by implementing a series of life saving measures that include a successful and timely vaccination programme, Adherence to COVID-19 health protocols remains key and align Botswana Government’s machinery to the Presidential Agenda, to ensure that the national transformation agenda will be embodied in the public service of the day,” said Masisi. He added that, “this will come with significant Government reforms in all public institutions. We need greater agility and responsiveness like never before in the delivery of public services.”

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Covid-19 Task Force meddled in tenders-report

24th January 2022
Dr. Kereng Masupu

The Presidential COVID-19 Task Force reportedly meddled in the awarding of tenders for COVID-19, a new Public Accounts Committee (PAC) report has revealed.

The Committee expressed concern that it has noted that there are two centres for covid procurement being the Ministry of Health and the Covid Task team in the Office of the President. The report says the Committee questioned the Accounting Officer on why the COVID 19 task team is usurping the powers of the Ministry of Health by engaging in covid procurement when the Ministry of Health is the one which has the experience and mandate of dealing with the pandemic. The report says clarification was also sought on why direct appointment is the preferred method for covid procurement.

“In her response the Accounting Officer stated that the task team was mainly engaged in the procuring of quarantine facilities and was assisting the Ministry of Health due to the heavy workload brought about by the COVID 19 pandemic,” the report says. The report says the Accounting Officer further stated that direct procurement was used because COVID 19 was treated as an emergency and that procurement was mainly from companies that have been traditionally used by the Ministry of Health.

“This however, is not the case as there has been report of new companies being awarded COVID -19 contracts. The use of direct procurement method should only be used in exceptional cases as it’s a non-competitive method which increases the risk of inflated pricing and close relations with particular suppliers to the detriment of others,” the report says.

It says since most covid procurement fell under emergency, there is need for openness and transparency regarding the procurement.  The PAC recommended that in order to ensure transparency and accountability all COVID 19 related procurement should be periodically published in the PPADB website giving full details of the companies receiving procurement contracts and the beneficial owners of the companies.

It says with the passage of time the impact of covid is no longer unexpected so direct awards should gradually be abandoned as the medium and long-term needs of the pandemic can now be predicted. “Judgement should be used even during direct awards to ensure that prices are not higher than the market prices,” the report says.

In a related matter, the report says the Central Medical Stores (CMS) was unable to cater for the required quantities of medical supplies with order fulfilments of about 35% resulting in shortages and insufficient drugs to Athlone Hospital and the surrounding clinics.
“In his submission the Accounting Officer had indicated that CMS was unable to supply the exact quantities required by the hospital and surrounding clinics due to the fact that supplies from CMS have to be rationed in order to cover other facilities around the country,” says the report.

The committee expressed concern about the inadequate supply of drugs to government facilities which puts the lives of patients at risk due to non- availability of essential supplies. It recommended that the Ministry identifies and prioritise measures that need to be taken to ensure that there is adequate supply of essential medicines which are needed in the public health system.

Meanwhile the report says the Ministry of Health and Wellness coordinates the operations and functions of some institutions which receive government subventions and secondment of staff from the government. These institutions include 10 NGO’s, two mission Hospitals, three mission clinics and two schools of Nursing.

It says in its endeavour to enhance efficiency and effectiveness of government support to NGOs the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development developed some Policy Guidelines for Financial Support to Non- Governmental Organisations.  According to the PAC report, the guidelines were meant to ensure that there is consistency, accountability and transparency in administering public funding to NGOs. However, the Ministry of Health did not comply with the very important guidelines.

“The main areas of non-compliance were the following: (i) There was no Evaluation Committee to vet proposals from NGOs, in some instances NGOs had formed part of the evaluation forum when their requests were being considered,” the report says.  It says there was continued funding of NGOs even when they failed to submit narrative and financial progress reports; and (iv) Continued funding of NGOs that failed to submit audited financial statements and management letters as required. The Committee expressed concern at the lapses in the administration of grants by the Ministry despite the large sums of public money awarded to these NGOs.

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BDF killings of Namibians: Court unable to rule on missing gun

24th January 2022
BDF

The Kasane Regional Magistrate Court refused this week to rule on whether three Namibians and their Zambian cousin shot dead by members of the Botswana Defence Force (BDF) were in possession of a rifle or not prior to their deaths.

Ruling in favour of the BDF members, Regional Magistrate Taboka Mopipi who presided over the inquest said, “It is acknowledged that no rifle has been produced before court to confirm that indeed the deceased were armed and or that there was indeed a gun shot.”  She said the evidence before the court is that search for the rifle(s) that allegedly triggered the gunfire exchange was done by both Namibia and Botswana SCUBA divers and nothing was found. She said when the said search was done, an area of search was demarcated around the scene area which was partly searched due to water animals such as hippos that launched an attack at the area during the search.

“The search was therefore never concluded. This therefore leaves a gap. To that end, the area not extensively searched, the court cannot make a finding whether the rifle in issue was there or not. This is a very crucial piece of evidence,” added Mopipi. She said the joint search did not conclude the exercise and I cannot properly make a finding of fact adding that that the rifle was there as the BDF allege can therefore not be ruled out.

The deceased are Martin Munilweye Nchindo, Ernest Nchindo, Tommy Sinvula Nchindo and Sivula Munyeme. The four deceased persons died on the night of the 5th November 2020, in the waters of the Chobe River (Southern Channel) near Sedudu/Kasikili Island in Botswana. Mopipi said the incident took place at night, in a gloomy atmosphere and that as at the time, movement in that particular area was restricted and or not permitted.

She said it was the evidence of some of the witnesses that the injuries as observed on the four deceased reflected that they were brutally assaulted and or beaten either before or after being shot. “Their evidence gained support from Witness 34, Dr. Bithoma Thotho Amis who observed post mortem on behalf of the families of the deceased and Government of Namibia. This witness however conceded during cross-examination that the injuries as observed have been caused by other contacts and or impacts such as falling and hitting the hard surface of a wooden canoe,” said Mopipi.

She emphasized that inquest proceedings have very serious consequences and therefore, whatever evidence brought before court must be produced by persons of right qualifications particularly the post mortem report which the court has to rely upon.
“The qualification of the expert is crucial in determining the credibility of the report. Upon assessment of both experts, I am inclined to adopt the reports from Witness 18, who is a qualified pathologist. A closer look at the other report indicates that the author, Witness 34 is not a qualified pathologist and it is meddled by issues outside an expert opinion,” she said.

Mopipi said reports compiled by a consultant Forensic Pathologist Dr. Kaone Panzirah-Mabaka show the causes of death as follows; Sivula Munyeme, gunshot injury to the chest and extremities, Martin Nchindo, gunshot wound to the abdomen and pelvis, Ernest Nchindo, multiple gunshot injuries to the chest and extremities and Tommy Nchindo, gunshot wound to the chest and abdomen.

“Medical evidence therefore prove conclusively that the four deceased persons died due to gunshots injuries. It is undisputed that the injuries were inflicted by seven (7) members of the Botswana Defence Force; Lieutenant Moreri Kenneth Mphela, Sergeant Ndingisano Nfazo, Sergeant Puisano Pistor Kgokong, Private Mbikiso Tafila, Private Emmanuel Moganetsi Majuta, Private Barulaganyi Rannosang and Private Oromilwe Motlhabi,” said Mopipi.

Mopipi found that there was a gunshot from the direction of the men to the direction of the BDF section.  “The BDF members retaliated and returned fire. This was done in accordance with Standard Operation Procedures (SOPs) within the BDF. According to the SOPs, in case a soldier is being fired at, they fire back and do not have to wait for a command,” she said. She added that “The gunfire exchange was brief and after it ceased, they used a torch to light where the men were and established that all the four men were motionless, two in one canoe, one in the other and the other man lying on the edge of the river on the Island.”

She said, “The evidence of the witnesses is that, when they followed the intel, the intent was to conduct an investigation. There was clearly no intent on their part to shoot the deceased, they did that as an act of retaliation.”

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