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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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Botswana’s development agenda in jeopardy

21st September 2020
Botswana’s-development-agenda-in-jeopardy--water-construction

Stanbic Bank Botswana Quarterly Economic Review indicates that Botswana will fail to meet some of its Vision 2036 targets, particularly unemployment reduction and reaching high-income status.

The report says this is mainly due to the slow economic growth that the country is currently experiencing. This Quarterly Economic Review focuses on the 2020 Budget Speech.

The first paper reviews the entire budget with its key observations being that this budget is prepared as prescribed by the Public Finance Management Act; the priorities it seeks to address are drawn from Vision 2036 and the eleventh

The 2020 budget Speech, which was the maiden speech by the Minister of Finance and Economic Development, Dr. Thapelo Matsheka, and the first after the 2019 general elections, was delivered to Parliament on the 4th of February 2020.

It has been well received by the labour unions, business community, and the public at large as well as international organisations such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

It mainly derived its support from key facets including, emphasis on changing the business-as-usual approach to development; outlining the transformation agenda; fiscal reform that minimizes the negative impact on economic development and human welfare, competiveness and the decision to implement the 2019 negotiated and agreed public sector.

The budget’s progress review shows that economic growth was consistent with the NDP 11 projections, with growth of around 4 percent. At this growth rate, the country would neither ascend to a high-income status nor reduce unemployment towards the Vision 2036 target of a single digit.

Simple calculations of this review confirm that the economy will need to grow the Vision 2036’s target of 6 percent over the next 16 years for per capita income to increase from around USD 8,000.00 to above USD 12,000.00 in current prices.

Further, the population is anticipated to grow by only 2 percent per annum.

For this reason, the focal areas for the forthcoming FY’s budget include measures to increase economic growth towards an average of 6 percent per annum.

Economic diversification is reportedly progressing fairly well. The report says, the share of the non-mining private sector in value added has risen to 66 percent in 2018 from to 63 percent in 2015.

The sectoral pattern of growth showed that the performance of services sector (particularly transport & communications, trade, hotels & restaurants, and finance & business services) has been the silver lining and that of mining sector was subdued whilst the utility sector disappointed.

The drive towards the service sector of the economy, especially to low-productivity activities (tourism, public administration, wholesaling and retailing) does not bode well for the country’s development aspirations.

In the previous versions of this Quarterly Review, it was noted that there is need for the rethinking of economic diversification. Since the country’s domestic market is small, it is inevitable that economic diversification not only focus on broadening the product mix, but also the composition of exports and markets.

This understanding of economic diversification has not been embraced by this year’s budget. Consequently, Botswana’s exports are still overwhelmingly diamonds, which means that the rest of economic sectors are still highly dependent on foreign-exchange earnings from diamonds. Thus, “the transformation programme requires a review of the country’s entire ecosystem”.

The budget review of the economic context also depicts that an economy with positive medium-term prospects, with growth expected to recover to 4.4 percent in 2020 from the expected growth of 36 percent in 2019 largely due to faster growth of services sectors and, thereafter, to slow-down to 4 percent in 2021.

These projected growth rates are comparable to those of the IMF staff’s baseline scenario of 4.2 percent in 2020 and 4 percent in 2021. Thus, the business-as-usual scenario produces growth rates that are still too low to achieve Botswana’s development objectives and create enough jobs to absorb the new entrants into the labour market.

Trade tensions between the two major markets for diamond exports, viz., the United States of America and China, is one of the factors that are cited as contributing to, indeed, undermining not only the domestic growth, but also the fiscal position.

Another notable downside risk to both global and domestic growth is outbreak of the coronavirus in China around January 2020. This has been declared as a global health emergency. In an attempt to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus pneumonia, the Chinese authorities have ordered city lockdowns and extended holidays, of course, at the expense of near- term economic growth, according to the new Stanbic Bank Botswana report.

According to Nomura Holdings Inc., fewer migrant workers returned for work than in previous years and business activities have been slow to pick up. The havoc wreaked by the virus on the world’s second largest economy is likely to spill over to the global economy. In fact, it has resulted in a glut in crude oil and, thereby placed oil markets into a contango, i.e., a market structure where near-term prices trade at a discount to future contracts.

It also presents significant risks one of Botswana’s main drivers of economic growth, diversification and foreign exchange earnings. According to the Financial Times (February 13, 2020), Chinese tourists spent $130 billion overseas in 2018. Regardless of whether the growth materializes, the projected domestic growth rate would not transform the economy to a high-income one.

Progress towards reduction of unemployment, to a target of single digit, and poverty and achieving inclusive growth has also been relatively slow, the Stanbic Bank Botswana Review says.

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OP leases Orapa House

21st September 2020
Orapa House

Ministry of Presidential Affairs, Governance and Public Administration (MOPAGPA) has through the Office of the President (OP) proposed to avail Orapa House for use by private training institutions as well as research institutions involved in the area of technology development.

For a very long time the monumental building located in the heart of the city has been a white elephant, despite government purchasing it for nearly P80 million from De Beers in 2012.

However, government has now identified a productive use for the iconic building. “The overall vision is for the building to be transformed into a hub for digital technology research and development to be carried-out by institutions, such as; Limkokwing University, BIUST, BITRI and other relevant stakeholders.”

The decision was taken as government traverse a new path of transforming the economy from a mineral led economy to a knowledge based economy through the promotion of research and innovation. However, the facility will need major maintenance to be carried-out in order to meet the requirements of the proposed change in use.

“The work will include provision of laboratories, work stations, production areas and seminar rooms; audio visual centre, high speed internet connectivity, exhibition areas and offices,” reads the proposal note for the development.

These developments will be done through the refurbishment and maintenance of the main building, workshop, and ablution block, gate house, parking area, grounds, and access control and security service.

“There will be minimal modifications to the structure as it stands. The project is estimated to cost approximately P50, 000, 000,” says the report. In this regard, it is said, the initial scope of the OP facility will be modified to accommodate the envisaged digital technology research and development hub.

With funds needed to improve the building, OP has requested that; “the 2020/21 annual budget provision for Orapa House will need to be increased by P37,500,000 from P2,500,000 to P40,000,000 to kick start the maintenance works.” Funds will be sourced from the projects that have been delayed due to Covid-19 protocols during the 2020/21 financial year.

The building has been a thorny issue for government for years. Initially, OP was expected to move there but the move never materialised. At one point it was a question of whether the Office of the President and the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development were planning to override a decision by Parliament which rejected the proposal to buy Orapa House under the belief that government may be buying its own property. The building was to be bought at a negotiated cost of P79 million.

Again in 2012, Government had wanted to buy Orapa House for a negotiated P79m but the Finance and Estimates Committee of Parliament had rejected the request because of the inconsistencies realised in the supporting documents of the proposed procurement. The valuation of the building was put at P74 million.

The Ministry of Lands and Housing had initially offered De Beers P73, 000,000 as the purchase price. However, De Beers countered with P85, 000,000. On negotiation and converging of the minds, the selling price was finally agreed at P79, 000,000.

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Sad state of Brigades: dumped and ignored!

21st September 2020
Brigades

Auditor General, Pulane Letebele, has expressed discontentment at the worrying and deteriorating state of brigades in the country.

In an audit inspection which was carried out at Tshwaragano Brigade in Gabane, a number of observations showed weaknesses and shortcomings in the conduct of the financial affairs of the institution.

According to Letebele’s report, former students of the brigade had been engaged to carry out maintenance works on the school premises, comprising of painting, tiling, plumbing and electrical works, which covered the period from July 2017 to June 2018.

Although the agreed maintenance period had elapsed, the works had not been completed because of unavailability of funds and this situation had persisted up till the time of inspection in November 2019.

Auditor General says arrangements should have been made in time for funds to be available to complete these relatively minor works even before the works commenced.

Various contractors had been engaged for clearing the bush and for the supply of concrete stones, pit and river sand and hiring equipment for digging the trench towards the construction of an auto mechanics workshop, the report said.

It stated that the cost of services and supplies provided totalled P117 949.80. However, despite the services and the supplies having been paid for, the construction works had not commenced for a long period afterwards, resulting in the trench filling back in.

The audit inquiries had not elicited satisfactory responses as both the institution and the Ministry had not accepted the responsibility for the project, although orders for the provision for the supplies had been made. For their part, the Ministry had stated that they had sub warranted funds for the purchase of porta cabins.

Letebele indicated that it is therefore confusing that a project which is critical to the functioning of an institution such as this one would commence without a well-defined plan.

Furthermore, the accounting and maintenance of records for the supplies items were not of the standard prescribed by the Supplies Regulations and Procedures in that the supplies ledger cards, the main accounting records for Government assets, were not properly maintained for the recording of receipts and issues.

This had resulted in significant discrepancies between physical and ledger balances, while in other instances the supplies items had not been recorded at all.

The report says 24 of the 91 new computers found in the computer laboratory at Kumakwane ABC campus were not recorded anywhere, as were the other computers in the storeroom which could not be counted due to the disorderly storage conditions.

The institution had entered into a contract agreement with a security company for the provision of security services at Tshwaragano Brigade, ABC and Horticulture campuses at Kumakwane for a 2-year period which ended in June 2018, WeekendPost learnt.

After the contract expired in June 2018, an extension was granted till the 30th September 2018. Since then, there has been no security service coverage for the institution to-date. According to Auditor General, in the face of prevailing crimes, it is of paramount importance that government properties be protected by provision of security services at all times.

At Tlokweng Brigade, it was noted that the kitchen staff were working under difficult conditions as the kitchen facilities and equipment, such as the cold room, tilting pot, food warmers and solar power for hot water were dysfunctional. The kitchen roof was leaking and men’s restrooms was not working. All these need to be brought to a reasonable and functional state of repair.

The kitchen staff should use a purpose-designed Rations Ledger for the recording of receipts and issues of foodstuffs to reflect the usage of those items. As far back as 2014 the Department of Buildings and Engineering Services had found that the house occupied by the bursar was uninhabitable on account of structural defects, the report said.

A site visit during the audit had established that the house was indeed unfit for occupation as there were cracks on the walls, power switches were not working and the roof was leaking. On a sadder note, there were a number of finished items of clothing, such as dresses, shirts, and jackets from students’ practical exercises from the Fashion Design Textiles Workshop.

Auditor General shared her take on this, saying: “I have not been able to ascertain the policy on the disposal of products from these practicals. A trace of 103 green acid-proof overalls which had been purchased in August 2018 had indicated that there was no record of these items having been recorded or issued, nor were they available in stock. I was not able to obtain any explanation for this situation.”

Kgatleng brigade was also audited and inspected by Auditor General who observed that the brigade has 26 institutional houses at Bokaa, both old campus and new campus. Some of these houses are very old and dilapidated, with two declared uninhabitable. The condition of the houses is a clear indication of lack of care and maintenance of these properties.

At the time of the audit, there was no contractor engaged for the provision of security guard services at the new campus, after expiry of the previous one in July 2019.  It is hoped that steps would be taken to safeguard the security of the premises and government properties against any acts of hooliganism.

In August 2019, there was a break-in at the electrical and at the plumbing maintenance workshops and a number of high value items, such as drilling machines, bolt cutters, spanners and cables, were stolen. The break-in and theft were reported to the police.

“However, at the time of writing this report I was not aware of the outcome of the police investigation, nor of any loss report submitted in terms of the Supplies Regulations and Procedures,” Letebele said.

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