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.
Botswana Telecommunications Corporation Limited (BTC) has announced that its 3rd Francistown Marathon will be held on Saturday 20th April 2024 at Obed Itani Chilume Stadium in Francistown. The BTC Francistown Marathon is officially recognised by World Athletics and a Comrades Marathon Qualifier will offer race categories ranging from 42.2km, 21.1 km, 10km, 5km fun run, 5km peace run for children and has introduced a 5km and 10km categories for wheelchairs athletics.
BTC also used this opportunity to announce beneficiaries who received donations from proceeds made from the 2nd BTC Francistown Marathon that was held on April 23rd 203. BTC donated a play area, plastic chairs and wooden tables for pupils worth a total of thirty eight thousand, one hundred and three pula, fifty thebe each (P38, 103.50) to Monarch Primary School, Tatitown Primary School, Mahube Primary School and Gulubane Primary School. Ditladi and Boikhutso clinics each received a donation of benches, television sets and 10, 000 litre water tanks worth thirty seven thousan, eight hundred and ninety eight pula (P 37, 898.00). Additionally, BTC also donated seventy thousand pula (P70,000.00) to their marathon technical partner, Francistown Athletics Club (FAC) which will be used for daily operations as well as to purchase equipment for the club.
The BTC Francistown Marathon aligns seamlessly with BTC’s corporate social investment programme, administered through the BTC Foundation. This programme is a testament to BTC’s dedication to community development, focusing on key areas such as health promotion. The marathon, now in its third year, not only promotes a healthy lifestyle but also channels all proceeds to carefully chosen charities as part of BTC’s commitment to impactful and sustainable projects.
Speaking at the launch, the BTC Managing Director Mr Anthony Masunga stated that the marathon underscores BTC’s commitment to community upliftment and corporate social investment. He stated that “the annual event which has been in existence since 2016, having taken a break due to the covid and other logistical issues, is instrumental to the economic upliftment of the city of Francistown”. He congratulated all the beneficiaries for having been nominated to receive the donations, adding that “the donation of proceeds from the 2023 marathon aims to highlight BTC’s commitment and heart for Batswana and our continued impact in the different industries”.
He further stated that through this marathon, “we demonstrate our steadfast commitment to having a good influence on our communities, this event is a manifestation of our dedication to promoting education and a healthier, more active society”. He concluded by stating that “BTC looks forward to another successful marathon that will leave a lasting positive influence on the greater Francistown community and the country at large” he said.
Giving welcome remarks, the Councillor for Donga, Honourable Morulaganyi Mothowabarwa stated that “he is ecstatic that BTC is collaborating with the City of Francistown on yet another installment of the Marathon”. He continued to offer his support to BTC to enable this marathon to continue over the coming years, stating that the “CSI element is a welcome development that helps empower our communities”, he said.
The 3rd BTC Francistown Marathon is officially open for registrations and athletes may use the following platforms to register and pay; through Smega by dialling *173# and choosing opton 5, then choose Option 3 for the Francistown marathon, at any BTC store or by visiting the BTC website and clicking on the BTC Francistown Marathon and choosing the relevant options.
Thapelo Letsholo, Member of Parliament for Kanye North, delivered a moving speech at the United Nations International Anti-Corruption Day commemoration, praising President Dr. Mokgweetsi Eric Keabetswe Masisi’s digitalization initiative in the fight against corruption. Letsholo highlighted the importance of embracing digitalization in governance as a crucial step in curbing corrupt practices.
According to Letsholo, the implementation of digital systems in government services can significantly reduce direct interactions between citizens and officials, which often serve as fertile grounds for corruption. By minimizing these opportunities for illicit activities, the efficiency and transparency of public services can be enhanced. Letsholo pointed to Estonia’s success in digital governance as an example, where public services have become more transparent, accessible, and efficient.
The MP commended President Masisi’s commitment to digitalization and E-Governance, emphasizing that it aligns with global anti-corruption standards. He called for full support and active participation from all sectors to ensure the success of this initiative.
Letsholo also stressed the importance of improving detection methods and refining whistleblower laws to effectively combat corruption. He highlighted the unseen and unspoken facets of corruption as its lifelines, emphasizing the need for robust detection mechanisms and a system that encourages and protects whistleblowers.
Addressing the societal role in fighting corruption, Letsholo focused on the crucial role of everyday citizens and civil servants who often witness corrupt practices firsthand. He acknowledged the existing reluctance to report corruption due to the perceived risks of repercussions. To change this narrative, Letsholo advocated for creating an environment where staying silent is deemed more detrimental than speaking out. He called for a cultural shift where the potential benefits of exposing corruption outweigh the risks, ensuring that whistleblowers are protected and feel secure in coming forward.
Letsholo called for collective responsibility and action in creating a system that not only detects and reports corruption but also supports those who stand against it. He expressed hope that under President Masisi’s digitalization initiatives, the future of governance in Botswana will be characterized by integrity, transparency, and accountability. Letsholo’s speech resonated with the sentiments of hope and determination that permeated the commemoration, emphasizing the need for unity in the fight against corruption.
In summary, Letsholo lauded President Masisi’s digitalization initiative in the fight against corruption, highlighting its potential to curb corrupt practices, enhance efficiency and transparency in public services, and align with global anti-corruption standards. He emphasized the importance of improving detection methods, refining whistleblower laws, and creating an environment where speaking out against corruption is encouraged and protected. Letsholo called for collective responsibility and action in creating a future characterized by integrity, transparency, and accountability in governance.
FaR Property Company (FPC) Limited, a property investment company listed on the Botswana Stock Exchange, has recently announced its exceptional financial results for the year 2023. The company’s property asset value has risen to P1.47 billion, up from P1.42 billion in the previous year.
FPC has a diverse portfolio of properties, including retail, commercial, industrial, and residential properties in Botswana, South Africa, and Zambia. The company owns a total of 186 properties, generating rental revenues from various sectors. In 2023, the company recorded rental revenues of P11 million from residential properties, P62 million from industrial properties, and P89 million from commercial properties. Overall, the company’s total revenues increased by 9% to P153 million, while profit before tax increased by 22% to P136 million, and operating profit increased by 11% to P139 million.
One notable achievement for FPC is the low vacancy rate across its properties, which stands at only 6%. This is particularly impressive considering the challenging trading environment. The company attributes this success to effective lease management and the leasing of previously vacant properties in South Africa. FPC’s management expressed satisfaction with the results, highlighting the resilience of the company in the face of ongoing macroeconomic challenges.
The increase in profit before tax can be attributed to both an increase in income and effective control of operating expenses. FPC managed to achieve these results with fewer employees, demonstrating the company’s efficiency. The headline earnings per linked unit also saw an improvement, reaching 26.92 thebe, higher than the previous year.
Looking ahead, FPC remains confident in its competitiveness and growth prospects. The company possesses a substantial land bank, which it plans to develop strategically as opportunities arise. FPC aims for managed growth, focusing on consumer-driven developments and ensuring the presence of supportive tenants. By maintaining this approach, the company believes it can sustainably grow its property portfolio and remain competitive in the market.
In terms of the macroeconomic environment, FPC noted that inflation rates are decreasing towards the 3% to 6% range approved by the Bank of Botswana. This is positive news for the company, as it hopes for further decreases in interest rates. However, the fluctuating fuel prices, influenced by global events such as the war in Ukraine and oil output reductions by Russia and other Middle Eastern countries, continue to impact businesses, including some of FPC’s tenants.
FPC’s property portfolio includes notable assets such as a shopping mall in Francistown with Choppies Hyper as the anchor tenant, Borogo Mall located on the A33 main road near the Kazungula ferry crossing, and various industrial and commercial properties in Gaborone leased to Choppies, Senn Foods, and Clover Botswana. The company also owns a shopping mall in Mafikeng and Rustenburg in South Africa.
The majority of FPC’s properties, 85%, are located in Botswana, followed by 12% in South Africa and 3% in Zambia. With its strong financial performance, competitive position, and strategic land bank, FPC is well-positioned for continued growth and success in the property market.