Matambo advised that disciplined forces live in institutional houses
The Minister of Finance and Development Planning, Kenneth Matambo is said to have been the one who raised his hand against the inclusion of the disciplined forces in the housing and upkeep allowance, subsequently forcing the government to withdraw the money and make gradual deductions of the overpays.
The housing and upkeep allowance was introduced in April by a Service Management Directive No. 7 of 2015, dated 8th April, 2015 for lower bands, currently finding it hard to make ends meet under the prevailing harsh economic situation. The allowance was expected to avert situations where workers would experience dilemmas once the recession allowance stops because they would have already been accustomed to that money.
The allowance which followed the six percent public service salary increase was introduced together with initiatives to allow public servants to run their own businesses to supplement their salaries because government may not be able to meet all their financial demands. The allowance was rolled down to the low earning officers in which was hailed as a wise move by the government.
However the move was short-lived, after Minister Matambo protested that the disciplined forces and other public servants live in institutional houses but continue to get the housing and upkeep allowance, the government resolved to stopping the allowance and making deductions of the said overpays.
The Police Commissioner in June 18, 2015 after learning of the issue informed his officers that ‘police officers across all ranks do not qualify for this allowance by virtue of already enjoying free housing’.
The circular read, “reference is made to Public Service Management Directive No. 7 of 2015, dated 8th April, 2015, which amongst others, introduced housing and upkeep allowance. The necessary clarifications have been sought from the employing authority regarding entitlement and payment of the housing and upkeep allowance. Subsequently, addressees are hereby informed that police officers across all ranks do not qualify for this allowance by virtue of already enjoying free housing. Ensure this message reaches the rest of the service.”
The issue angered the officers who threatened to embark on a go slow and wondered why the Commissioner discriminated against the police officers while others had been spared. They further argued that the Public Service Bargaining Council (PSBC) never said that the housing and upkeep allowance would be enjoyed by those who do not stay in institutional houses.
This week Prisons officers were jaw dropped upon receiving their pay slips after learning of deductions in their monthly pay.
More shocking for them was that unlike the Police officers they were never alerted or prepared for the changes or allowance stoppage. They further argue that they have learnt that the Botswana Defence Force (BDF) once again has received preferential treatment as their salaries remain intact and enviable.
Asked to shed some light on the issue, the Permanent Secretary to the President, Carter Morupisi said that the April 2015 Public Service Management Directive No. 7 of 2015 was wrongly implemented and created problems and confusions hence the mix up.
“Directives are made and implemented in haste. When they are made you will find that no one knows what do to and how to do it but there is also a deadline for its implementation. This often leads to the implementers committing some errors and confusions,” he said.
Morupisi further said that the changes in the allowance withdrawals should not cause any confusion, “that is a housing allowance and you can’t be living in an institutional house and still expect it. I think it’s just a matter of basics,” he said.
He further reasoned that the government workforce is too big, further adding that “such mistakes are justifiable”. “So we have decided to correct and normalise things. We will be making deductions every month for those who have been overpaid as a result of the wrongful receipt of the allowance,” he said.
Asked why the Botswana Defence Force has been excluded the PSP said he doesn’t want to get into BDF issues as they are a separate body, “I am not sure whether they are affected or not, ask them,” he said.
University of Botswana academic, Professor Emmanuel Botlhale conceded that the government erred and should do better than that in the future.
“The Public Service Management Directive No. 7 of 2015, dated 8th April, 2015, should have indicated that there were exceptions and the exceptions should have been explicitly communicated so that the affected communities get to know that they were not eligible to benefit from the housing allowance since they are already enjoy housing allowances,” he said.
Professor Botlhale continued that matters of emolument and related matters such as staff benefits are sensitive and once staff benefits are extended, withdrawing them, expectedly, occasions a lot of discomfort on the part of the beneficiaries, particularly, if they are expected to pay back the money.
“Of course, if the legal position is that police officers across all ranks do not qualify for this allowance by virtue of already enjoying free housing, then, the status quo should obtain and corrective action be taken. Moving forward, management must be very vigilant so that incidences of this nature do not occur again because if and when one unduly benefits from state resources, even if not through a fault of one’s own, one is expected to make recompense to the state,” he advised.
Meanwhile, observers maintain that the government must get its house in order to avoid re-occurrence of similar mishaps in the future as this doesn’t portray them well. They further argue that the mistakes often lead to serious challenges on the part of government as well as the beneficiaries.
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.
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.
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.