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Education loses millions of pula as cartels raid

Minister of Education, Skills Development, Dr Unity Dow

Partial investigations on the declining pass rates at primary, junior and secondary schools and the state of affairs in the education sector have unearthed wasteful expenditure running into millions of pula, cronyism and mediocrity at the Ministry of Education Skills Development (MoESD).

Early last year, the Ministry was said to have launched a committee of inquiry to self-probe the declining pass rates at primary, junior and secondary schools and the state of affairs in the education in the country.

The investigation came at a time when President Lt Gen Ian Khama decided to send cabinet ministers, including him, permanent secretaries and their deputies across the country to compile an audit on the state of schools.

However, last year, partial investigations of the then Deputy Permanent Secretary Mr. Montshiwa assigned at the ministry as part of measures to improve efficiency is said to have unearthed serious irregularities affecting the overall operations of the Ministry.
 

The Ministry is said to have lost millions of pula through book publishing companies operating in collusion with headmasters, ministry officials and Tender Committees at the Ministry. Some Ministry staff are said to have been on the payrolls of some unscrupulous publishers while some actually being shadowy book writers themselves creating a serious conflict of interest which went undetected for years.  

Sources familiar to the work of the Deputy Permanent Secretary (DPS) say some headmasters were allegedly creating artificial shortages of some text books in schools in order to create business for book publishers who in turn paid them kickbacks. Last year a lot of books that were deliberately hidden in some schools, were recovered by the Montshiwa led team saving the ministry millions of pula.

The work of the deputy permanent secretary is said to have unsettled textbook “tenderpreneurs” who are now threatened with bankruptcy as a result of tightened measures in book orders implemented late last year.    

Other areas that the DPS was yet to investigate were allegations in the photocopying/printing system in schools. Reports state that companies in cohorts with some senior staff in the ministry were overcharging in maintenance services on the copier machines.

These charges were passed for payment to the Ministerial Tender Committee (MTC) without detection and the scales of losses are not yet ascertained but run into millions of pula. The Directorate of Corruption and Economic Crimes (DCEC) is currently investigating allegations of inappropriate procurement of heavy duty machines at the Ministry.   

A hushed campaign calling for “#@bring back Montshiwa” is said to be gaining traction at the ministry as concerned staff feel he represents the only hope to fix the problem.

Some senior management staff spoken to, by the Weekend Post say Mr. Montshiwa was slowly getting to the bottom of these problems but his withdrawal has worsened the ministry’s situation

The ministry’s woes have been further compounded by a new Minister and a new Permanent Secretary who are unfamiliar with the workings of the Ministry, but unfortunately are dependent on the guidance of the same old staff that are part of greedy cohorts operating at the ministry.   

The opposition leader Duma Boko recently said in a statement to parliament that the declining performance of the education system has far reaching implications for the country. Beyond the obvious fact that the poor performance means that the country may not be able to produce the human resources robust enough to drive economic development, therefore, national security implications for the position of education as the greatest equalizer.

The 2014 Botswana General Certificate of Secondary Education Examination results released by the Botswana Examinations Council, (BEC) indicate there were  37, 384 candidates who sat for the examination. Candidates in full time attendance in Government schools numbered 25, 186 while 2, 936 were in full time attendance at privately owned schools.

The remaining 9, 266 were private candidates, (i.e. independent learners and students from BOCODOL as well as back-to-school candidates.) Overly, these figures represented a 9.73% increase in the number of candidates compared to the previous year.

Of the total students who sat the 2014 examination, only 5, 796 obtained Grade C or better. This represents only 25.75% pass rate.

The rest of the candidates obtained Grade D or below. The overall results have been declining since 2006. For instance, in 2013, the   performance for Government schools at Grade C or better had declined by 2.02%.

In terms of overall school performance, the story emerging from government owned schools is rather alarming. Schools in major cities and towns perform better than those in rural and remote areas.

For example, St. Joseph’s College tops the list at 38% pass rate for 2014.

The same school was on top again in 2013 at a somewhat similar pass rate.ʉ۬Shakawe Senior Secondary School a government school, in the far North West District, once again sat at the bottom of the ladder with a pass rate of just 7% as was the case last year. Its pass rate has not improved in any significant way at all.


A committee of inquiry to probe the declining pass rates at primary, junior and secondary schools and the state of affairs in the education sector was supposed to have been established to investigate the Ministry’s problems.
 

WeekendPost established that a committee of inquiry tasked with drafting the terms of reference was supposed to have been headed by University of Botswana academic, Professor Bagele Chilisa. â€¨â€¨Stakeholders to sit on the committee were to include the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Education and Skills Development and members from public service unions. 



It was understood then that after completion of the terms of reference the Ministry was supposed to float an advert inviting Consultancy Company to conduct an inquiry into the decline of the pass rate in schools and other challenges currently facing the ministry. â€¨â€¨The consultancy company was going to be reporting to Chilisa’s committee. 

The consults was going to investigate the core of the problems as they varied between vacant teaching posts, syllabus and the standard of classrooms, teachers’ welfare among others things.

The Ministry of Education has, in the 2014 national budget, been given a lion’s share – 29 percent – of overall public expenditure during the forthcoming, 2014-15, financial year, with the Ministry alone being allocated P 9.26 billion in recurrent expenditure. â€¨â€¨

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Civil Service volatility: Democracy vs Bureaucracy

19th April 2021
President Masisi

Here is how one Permanent Secretary encapsulates the clear tension between democracy and bureaucracy in Botswana: “President Mokgweetsi Masisi’s Government is behaving like a state surrounded with armed forces in order to capture it or force its surrender. The situation has turned so volatile, for tomorrow is not guaranteed for us top civil servants.

These are the painful results of a personalized civil service in our view as permanent secretaries”. Although his deduction of the situation may be summed as sour grapes because he is one of the ‘victims’ of the reshuffle, he is convinced this is a perfect description of the rationale behind frequent changes and transfers characterising the current civil service.

The result of it all, he said, is that “there is too much instability at managerial and strategic levels of the civil service leading to a noticeable directionless civil service.” He continued: “Changes and transfers are inevitable in the civil service, but to a permissible scale and frequency. Think of soccer team coach who changes and transfers his entire squad every month; you know the consequences?”

The Tsunami has hit hard at critical departments and Ministries leaving a strong wave of uncertainty, many demoralised and some jobless. In traditional approaches to public administration, democracy gives the goals; and bureaucracy delivers the technical efficiency required for implementation. But the recent moves in the civil service are indicative of conflicting imperatives – the notion of separation between politicians and administrators is becoming blurred by the day.

“Look at what happened to Prisons and BDF where second in command were overlooked for outsiders, and these are the people who had sacrificially served for donkey’s years hoping for a seat at the ladder’s end. The frequency of the changes, at times affecting the same Ministry or individual also demonstrates some level of ineptitude, clumsiness and lack of foresight from those in charge,” remarked the PS who added that their view is that the transfers are not related to anything but “settling scores, creating corruption opportunities and pushing out perceived dissident and former president, Ian Khama’s alleged loyalists and most of these transfers are said to be products of intelligence detection.”

Partly blaming Khama for the mess and his unwillingness to let go, the PS dismissed Masisi for falling to the trap and failing to outgrow the destructive tiff. “Khama is here to stay and the sooner Masisi comes to terms with the fact that he (Masisi) is the state President, the better. For a President to still be making these changes and transfers signals signs of a confused man who has not yet started rolling his roadmap, if at all it was ever there. I am saying this because any roadmap comes with key players and policies,” he concluded.

The Ministry of Health and Wellness seems to be the most hard-hit by the transfers, having experienced three Permanent Secretaries changes within a year and a half. Insiders say the changes have everything to do with the Ministry being the centre of COVID-19 tenders and economic opportunities. “The buck stops with the PS and no right-thinking PS can just allow glaring corruption under his watch as an accounting officer. Technocrats are generally law abiding, the pressure comes with politically appointed leaders racing against political terms to loot,” revealed a director in the Ministry preferring anonymity.

The latest transfer of Kabelo Ebineng she says was also motivated by his firm attitude against the President’s blue-eyed Task Team boys. “The Task Team wants to own the COVID-19 pandemic and government interventions and always cry foul when the Ministry reasserts itself as mandated by law,” said the director who added that Masisi who was always caught between the crossfire decided on sacrificing Ebineng to the joy of his team as they (Task Team) were in the habit of threatening to resign citing Ebineng as the problem.

Ebineng joins the Office of the President as a deputy Coordinator (government implementation and coordination office).The incoming PS is the soft-spoken Grace Muzila, known and described by her close associates as a conformist albeit knowledgeable.

One of the losers in the grand scheme is Thato Raphaka who many had seen as the next PSP because of his experience and calm demeanour following a declaration of interest in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Secretary post by the current PSP, Elias Magosi.

But hardly ten months into his post, Raphaka has been transferred out to the National Strategy Office in what many see as a demotion of some sort. Other notable changes coming into OP are Pearl Ramokoka formerly with the Employment, Labour and Productivity Ministry coming in as a Permanent Secretary and Kgomotso Abi as director of Public Service Reforms.

One of the ousted senior officers in the Office of the President warned that there are no signs that the changes and transfers will stop anytime soon: “If you are observant you would have long noticed that the changes don’t only affect senior officers but government decisions as well. A decision is made today and the government backtracks on it within a week. Not only that, the President says this today, and his deputy denies it the following day in Parliament,” he warned.

Some observers have blamed the turmoil in the civil service partly to lack of accountable presidential advisers or kitchen cabinet properly schooled on matters of statecraft. They point out that politicians or those peripheral to them should refrain from hampering the technical and organizational activities of public managers – or else the party (reshuffling) won’t stop.

In the view expressed by some Permanent Secretaries, Elias Magosi, has not really been himself since joining the civil service; and has cut a picture of indifference in most critical engagements; the most notable been a permanent secretaries platform which he chairs. As things stand there is need to reconcile the imperatives of democracy and democracy in Botswana. Peace will rein only when public value should stand astride the fault that runs between politicians and public managers.

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Morupisi fights for freedom in court

19th April 2021
morupisi

Former Permanent Secretary to the President, Carter Morupisi, is fighting for survival in a matter in which the State has charged him and his wife, Pinnie Morupisi, with corruption and money laundering.

Morupisi has joined a list of prominent figures that served in the previous administration and who have been accused of corruption during their tenure in office. While others have been emerging victorious, Morupisi is yet to find that luck. The High Court recently dismissed his no case to answer application.

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Pressure mounts on Biden to suspend Covid-19 vaccine patents

19th April 2021
Joe Biden

United States President, Joe Biden, is faced with a decision to make relating to the Covid-19 vaccine intellectual property after 175 former world leaders and Nobel laurates joined the campaign urging the US to take “urgent action” to suspend intellectual property rights for Covid-19 vaccines to help boost global inoculation rates.

According to the world leaders, doing so would allow developing countries to make their own copies of the vaccines that have been developed by pharmaceutical companies without fear of being sued for intellectual property infringements.

“A WTO waiver is a vital and necessary step to bringing an end to this pandemic. It must be combined with ensuring vaccine know-how and technology is shared openly,” the signatories, comprising more than 100 Nobel prize-winners and over 70 former world leaders, wrote in a letter to US President Joe Biden, according to Financial Times.

A measure to allow countries to temporarily override patent rights for Covid related medical products was proposed at the World Trade Organization by India and South Africa in October, and has since been backed by nearly 60 countries.

Former leaders who signed the letter included Gordon Brown, former UK Prime Minister; François Hollande, former French President; Mikhail Gorbachev, former President of the USSR; and Yves Leterme, former Belgian Prime Minister.

In their official communication, South Africa and India said: “As new diagnostics, therapeutics and vaccines for Covid-19 are developed, there are significant concerns [about] how these will be made available promptly, in sufficient quantities and at affordable prices to meet global demand.”

While developed countries have been able to secure enough vaccine to inoculate their citizens, developing countries such as Botswana are struggling to source enough to swiftly vaccine their citizens, something which world leaders believe it would work against global recovery therefore proving counter-productive.

Since the availability of vaccines, Botswana has been able to secure only 60 000 doses of vaccines, 30 000 as donation as from the Indian government, while the other 30 000 was sourced through COVAX facility.  Canada, has pre-ordered vaccines in surplus and it will be able to vaccinate each of its citizens six times over. In the UK and US, it is four vaccines per person; and two each in the EU and Australia.

For vaccines produced in Europe, developing countries are forced to pay double what European countries are paying, making it more expensive for already financially struggling economies.  European countries however justify the price of vaccines and that they deserve to buy them cheap since they contributed in their development.

It is evident that vaccines cannot be made available immediately to all countries worldwide with wealthy economies being the only success story in that regard, something that has been referred to as a “catastrophic moral failure”, head of the World Health Organisation (WHO), Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

The challenge facing developing countries is not only the price, but also the capacity of vaccine manufactures to be able to do so to meet global demand within a short time. The proposal for a patent waiver by India and South Africa has been rejected by developed countries, known for hosting the world leading pharmaceutical companies such US, European Union, the United Kingdom, and Switzerland.

According to the Financial Times, US business groups including pharmaceutical industry representatives, have urged Biden to resist supporting a waiver to IP rules at the WTO, arguing that the proposal led by India and South Africa was too “vague” and “broad”.

The individuals who signed the letter, including Nobel laureates in economics as well as from across the arts and sciences, warned that inequitable vaccine access would impact the global economy and prevent it from recovering.

“The world saw unprecedented development of safe and effective vaccines, in major part thanks to US public investment,” the group wrote. “We all welcome that vaccination rollout in the US and many wealthier countries is bringing hope to their citizens.”

“Yet for the majority of the world that same hope is yet to be seen. New waves of suffering are now rising across the globe. Our global economy cannot rebuild if it remains vulnerable to this virus.”
The group warned that fully enforcing IP was “self-defeating for the US” as it hindered global vaccination efforts. “Given artificial global supply shortages, the US economy already risks losing $1.3tn in gross domestic product this year.”

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