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Govt overwhelmed by too many levies

DISCUSSION: BB CEO, Machailo Ellis and her President Mr Mosienyane.

Business Botswana (formerly Botswana Confederation of Commerce, Industry and Manpower (BOCCIM), wants the employment of some of the country’s many levies to be interrogated as they are seemingly compromising the efficiency of tax collection and good governance.


In its final draft report on the impact of commercial levies on businesses, BOCCIM reveals that with the many levies collected in the country, accountability has become an issue as Parliamentary oversight is lacking in respect of the collection and use of a lot of the revenues raised through levies.


“That certain of the levies do not go through the Consolidated Fund and therefore, are not subjected to the oversight of the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning has to be a worry. This is more so considering that no evidence exists to the effect that the Government agency, which has the mandate of collecting taxes, that is, Botswana Unified Revenue Services (BURS) is incapable of doing its work properly.”


It is the view of BOCCIM that allowing entities like the Gambling Authority to collect levies is inefficient because their competence regarding the comprehensiveness of systems management and optimising collections has not been proven.


“The collection of levies by some authorities other than constitutionally provided service, BURS, only serves to compromise the efficiency of the national revenue collection system. For instance, the environmental levy on shopping plastic bags stood uncollected by the appropriate authority for many years. Where some authorities collect, such as in the case of the Casino levy, it is doubtful as to whether the Casino control Board/ Gambling authority has the competence to optimise the intended revenue collection,” the report reads in part.


The contention by BOCCIM was that certain entities are in the habit of collecting levies and upholding funds in excess of what they require for their regulatory of or other such operations. In BOCCIM’s view, the surpluses are evidence that the levies are too high and that having these funds sitting outside the Consolidated Fund cannot be in line with good governance.


“It is desirable to account for all levies in a manner that would be recommendable by constitutional or approved public accounting offices such as that of the Auditor General and Accountant General. Actual practice has been determined to be a challenge or alternatively proven opaque and not consistent with the best practice,” the report further reads.


BOCCIM’s position on levies is that the plurality of levies raises the costs of doing businesses and therefore undermines competitiveness of firms in general. Based on this perspective it is the opinion of BOCCIM that any proven detrimental effect of levies be removed.


“What should be of concern all the time is to be able to review and discard what does not work as intended or what is inconsistent with good practice as supported by empirical evidence,” the reports pointed out.


Some of the levies that are perceived by the business community to be problematic include that of the UHT milk, wheat flour, alcohol, road safety, tourism training and BOTA training levies.


“To the extent that levies such as the one collected by BOTA mainly come from and are meant to aid the private sector’s development, there exists a valid question regarding whether the desired utility is being achieved. A further question is, whether the private sector is being adequately consulted on the utilization and otherwise of funds that pile, and remain unused. So the principle of equitable or recovery is an issue for consideration regarding what was intended and what is happening,” the report further pointed out.


BOCCIM therefore is recommending that a review and analytical work be undertaken by government to establish whether the use of levies and special funds should not be rationalised. Part of the review according to them should be to determine whether the households are in fact benefiting from levies and whether some of the levies are not unduly protective to a few corporate beings, at the cost of introducing anti-competitive tendencies.


“From the over-arching and good governance perspective, it cannot be sustainably argued against the following observation that, the issue of a plethora of “off-budget” levies and special funds undermines good and accountable governance when considering the authority and oversight of Parliament regarding public finances.”


However BOCCIM does acknowledge that there are certain levies that have possible long term justification such as the Road levy and the National Electrification Special Fund. Nonetheless, to the extent that these are taxes, it suggests that, for all intents and purposes, they must go through the designated and unified national revenue process and be accounted for through Parliament.


“It should be for the Parliament to sanction the collection and utilisation of these funds. That is how the efficacy and public financing system can be improved without compromising tax collection,” the reports added.


Renowned economists, Keith Jefferies and Bogolo Kenewendo, Thabelo Nemaorani, noted in a report that as at 2013, there were 37 special funds in existence, 19 of which are financed through levies that the government imposes on different activities.


During the fiscal year 2012/13, the different levies generated over P995 million in revenue, with the largest contributors being the National Electrification levy (P232 million), the Vocational training levy (VTF) (P215 million), the road collections levy (P210 million) and lastly the Alcohol levy (P162 million).


“Since the levies do not go through the normal budgetary process and legislative scrutiny, they compromise tax efficiency and transparency. Some stakeholders argue that the funds collected from the levies are utilised without fully involving those who contribute, such as the private sector, and as a result, channels of accountability have become blurred. The lax tax system and lack of transparency also provides an opportunity for exploitation,” the economists wrote.

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Botswana still weighing in on Maseko’s assassination

27th January 2023

The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Dr. Lemogang Kwape says Botswana has not taken any position regarding the killing of a renowned human rights lawyer, Thulani Maseko, who was gunned down at his house in Mbabane, Eswatini.

In a brief interview with WeekendPost, Dr Kwape said Botswana has not yet taken any position regarding his death. He said the purported incident should be thoroughly probed before Botswana can form an opinion based on the findings of the inquiries.

“Botswana generally condemns any killing of human life by all means,” says Dr. Kwape. He wouldn’t want to be dragged on whether Botswana will support the suspension of Eswatini from SADC.

“We will be guided by SADC organ Troika if they can be an emergency meeting. I am not sure when the meeting will be called by Namibian president,“ he said.

However, the Namibian president Hage Geingob notes with deep concern reports coming out of Eswatini about the killing of Mr. Maseko. In a statement, he called upon the “Government of the Kingdom of Eswatini to ensure that the killing of Maseko is swiftly, transparently and comprehensively investigated, and that any or all persons suspected of committing this heinous crime are brought to justice.”

Maseko was chairperson of the Multi-Stakeholder Forum which was established as a coalition of non-State actors to advocate for a process of national political dialogue aimed at resolving the security and political challenges confronting the Kingdom.

“SADC expresses its deepest and heartfelt condolences to the family of Mr. Maseko, his friends, colleagues, and to the people of the Kingdom of Eswatini for the loss of Mr. Maseko. In this context, SADC further calls upon the people of the Kingdom of Eswatini to remain calm, exercise due care and consideration whilst the appropriate structures conduct the investigations and bring the matter to completion,” the statement says.

Geingob reiterated the need for peaceful resolution of the political and security challenges affecting the country.

Meanwhile political activists are calling on SADC to suspend Eswatini from the block including the African Union as well.

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Kopong Murder: Accused interferes with witnesses again!

27th January 2023

State prosecutor, Seeletso Ookeditse revealed before the Broadhurst Magistrate Jobbie Moilatshimo that the third accused involved in the murder of Barulaganye Aston, has interfered with the State witnesses again.

The second and third accused (Lefty Kosie and Outlwile Aston) were previously accused of interference when they were caught in possession of cellphones in prison. They were further accused of planning to kill the deceased’s brother, who is currently the guardian to the children of the deceased.

Ookeditse indicated that Outlwile had earlier went to challenge the magistrate’s decision of denying him bail at the High Court before Judge Michael Motlhabi.

“The third accused approached the High Court and made a bail application, which was dismissed on the same day,” Ookeditse said.

However, even after the High Court verdict on their bail application, the duo (Kosie and Aston) has once again applied for bail this week.

Ookeditse plead with the court to stop the accused from abusing the court process.

“Yesterday, Directorate of Public Prosecutions (DPP) received papers of his bail application filed before the Broadhurst Magistrates Court. However, the papers do not speak to changed circumstances, therefore this back and forth about bail must be put to a stop,” said the State prosecutor.

While giving evidence before court, the Investigations Officer, Detective Inspector Quite Zhalamonto, said his investigations have proved that there is interference continuing regarding the accused trio.

He told the court that on the 12th of January 2023, he received a report from Thato Aston, who is the son of the accused and the deceased. The son had alleged to the Investigation Officer that he received a call from one Phillip Molwantwa.

According to Zhalamonto, Thato revealed that Molwatwa indicated that he was from prison on a visit to the Outlwile Aston and went on to ask where he was staying and where his siblings (Aston’s children) are staying.

“Thato revealed that Phillip went on to ask if he or his siblings saw their father murdering their mother, and he was referring to the crime scene. Thato told me that he, however, refused to answer the questions as he was afraid especially because he was asked about where him and his siblings stay,” said Zhalamonto.

Zhalamonto alluded to the court that he then went to Orange to confirm the communication between Thato and Molwantwa where he found the case.

“I have arrested Philip yesterday and when I interviewed him, he did not deny that he knows Aston and that he has indeed called Thato and asked questions as to where him and his siblings resides even though he failed to give reasons for asking such questions,” Zhalamonto told the court.

He further revealed that Molwantwa indicated that he had received a call from an unknown man who refused to reveal himself.

“Phillip told me that the unknown man said he was sent by the accused (Aston), and that Aston had instructed him to tell me to check if there was still some money in his bank accounts, and he also wanted to know where the kids were residing, the unknown man even asked him to meet at Main Mall” the Investigation Officer told the court.

He further informed the court that he is working tirelessly to identify the “unknown caller” and the route of the cell number.

Furthermore, the fourth accused, Kebaleboge Ntsebe, has revealed to the court through a letter that she was abused and tortured by the Botswana Police Services. She wrote in her letter that she suffered miscarriage as a result of being beaten by the police.

Ntsebe is on bail, while a bail ruling for Aston and Kosie will be delivered on the 6th of next month

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Ngamiland Cattle Farmers Gain Green Zone Revenue

27th January 2023

Cattle farmers from Eretsha and Habu in the Ngamiland district, supported by the Community Based Trade (CBT) project, recently generated over P300 000.00 for sales of 42 cattle to the Botswana Meat Commission (BMC) in Maun. This milestone was achieved through support from various stakeholders in conservation, commodity-based trade and the government, in collaboration with farmers. Ordinarily, these farmers would not have made this direct sale since the area is a designated Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD) Red Zone.

Traditional livestock farming contributes toward livelihoods and formal employment in the North-West District (Ngamiland) of Botswana. However, primarily due to the increase in FMD outbreaks over the past two decades and predation by wildlife, the viability of livestock agriculture as a source of income has declined in the region. This has led to a greater risk of poverty and food insecurity. Access across the Okavango River (prior to the construction of a bridge) restricted access for farmers in Eretsha. This lack of access hampered sales of cattle beyond Shakawe, further discouraging farmers from investing in proper livestock management practices. This resulted in negative environmental impacts, poor livestock health and productivity.

To address this challenge, farmers are working with a consortium led by Conservation International (CI), with funding secured from the European Union (EU) to pilot a CBT beef project. The project focuses on supporting and enabling communal farmers to comply with standards and regulations that will improve their chances to access markets. An opportunity to earn higher income from cattle sales could incentivize the adoption of restorative rangelands management practices by farmers.

These collaborative efforts being piloted in Habu and Eretsha villages also include the Pro-Nature Enterprises Project for the People of Southern Africa, funded by Agence Française de Développement (AFD) and Le Fonds français pour l’environnement mondial (FFEM). This complementary funding from AFD and FFEM supports the implementation of the Herding4Health (H4H) model and Rangeland Stewardship Agreements across four rangeland sites in Southern Africa, including Habu and Eretsha, to incentivize best practices that could offer sustainability in the long term for livelihoods, conservation and human-wildlife coexistence.

“We spend a lot of money getting our cattle to Makalamabedi quarantine site, the herder spends on average two months taking care of the cattle before they are taken into quarantine – that needs money. All these costs lead to us getting less money from BMC,” said one of the farmers in the programme, Mr Monnaleso Mosanga.

Farmers that participate in the project agree for their cattle to be herded and kraaled communally by fulltime professional herders (eco-rangers). At the core of this pilot is the use of predator-proof bomas (cattle kraals), planned grazing systems and mobile quarantine bomas (electrified enclosures) for the cattle, facilitated in support with the Department of Veterinary Services. The first successful exit from the mobile quarantine bomas in the Habu and Eretsha villages, in December 2022, saw cattle quarantined on-site and directly transported to BMC in Maun. Farmers received almost double the average sales within this region, as costs including transportation to quarantine sites, herder’s fees and other associated costs incurred before qualifying for BMC sales were no longer included.

“This pilot mobile quarantine is leveraging the techniques and protocols we are using at our current permanent quarantine sites, and we are still observing the results of the project. The outcome of this pilot will be presented to the World Organisation of Animal Health to assess its effectiveness and potentially be approved to be used elsewhere,” said Dr Odireleng Thololwane, the Principal Veterinary Officer (Maun).

Through co-financing of almost P1 billion from the Botswana government and Green Climate Fund, these interventions will be replicated, through The Ecosystem Based Adaptation and Mitigation in Botswana’s Communal Rangelands project, across the country. Both projects aim to improve the economic benefits of cattle owners and multitudes of Batswana households, while contributing to land restoration and climate change efforts by the Botswana government

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