Pressure mounts on Edwin Batshu to release Unions audit report
The Minister of Labour and Home Affairs, Edwin Batshu finds himself pelleted with strong words from union members who want the release of an audit report carried out on various unions in the country to establish if they were complying with requirements of the Societies’ Act.
Recently, concerned members of the Botswana Mine Workers Union (BMWU) wrote a letter (on 8 July 2015) to the minister demanding “a full report as the union will be going for an elective congress during the month of September 2015, so that members can have knowledge of what transpired.”
The letter, authored by the general secretary of the union, Bob Malele futher reads, “Notwithstanding that, we request for a meeting with the minister to motivate the issue whose meeting is proposed for Wednesday 15 July 2015 or Friday 17 July 2015 at your premises…” However the minister did not respond or give the concerned members an audience.
However, the President of the union, Jack Tlhagale on the 13 July 2015, wrote another letter requesting the national executive committee members of the union to urge Malele to withdraw the letter to the Minister: “…I therefore require of you to ask him to withdraw the letter immediately by lunch tomorrow failing which I will address the Minister directly on lack of internal consensus on the meeting being sought,” wrote Tlhagale.
Despite Tlhagale’s intervention, the concerned union members have now written a second letter to the minister in which they thank the minister for invoking powers invested in him by section 49 of the Trade Unions and Employers’ Organisations Act of 2004 to institute investigations into “what we suspect to be misappropriation of union funds and or maladministration at Botswana Mine Workers Union,” reads the letter. They state that it is on this basis that they demanded answers on the outcome of the investigation.
The investigation by the Ministry was headed by the deputy head of the Criminal Investigations Department (CID) who was seconded to the Ministry. Union members suspected that the outcome of the audit has been communicated to their leaders and were not sharing it.
However WeekendPost has established that the investigating team came out empty handed across most unions because there is no evidence and there is no filing or documentation that could help inform an investigation, instead, the investigating team could only offer recommendation in regard to filing information and keeping track of members’ subscriptions.
A CASE OF MISSING FUNDS
Further to the Minister’s investigation, BMWU executive instituted another investigation into the use of union funds. The audit was conducted by Ernest & Young Management Services, this came after one of the union employees was found to be involved in fraud activities in connection with union funds.
“The report of the investigation has also been availed to us and its findings are also noted with concern. In addition to the above investigations, the audited financial statements for the year ending the 31st December 2011 and 31st December 2012 were presented to us and the disclaimer opinion by the auditors for both years have also been noted with great concern,” reads the letter to Batshu.
The members wrote that they have observed that generally no financial records of any other signed minutes of the NEC meeting authorising payment as per the requirement of the constitution were kept. They also noted discrepancies in the union’s internal control systems or that no systems were in place at all. In addition there are no adequate backup procedures for the union’s financial payroll systems implemented or maintained. “Despite tax being deducted from employees over the period 2004-2010, no amount was remitted to Botswana Unified Revenue Services (BURS).”
They further state that BURS has requested a detailed breakdown of employees and their remunerations over the period 2004-2010 for which deductions were made but not remitted to BURS, but BMWU is currently unable to provide required information because the information is not there, they state.
“Audited financial statements for the years 2006-2012 were not submitted to the registrar as required by law or were not done at all up until the registrar threatened to deregister the union. They were urgently done by the current NEC albeit with some difficulties in finding relevant information and were submitted towards the end of 2012. It is apparent as stated in the reports that all the above failures or administrative lapses occurred between the years 2004-2010 and escalated to the 2011/12 financial year,” reads the report to Batshu.
In May 2009 about six cheques were removed from the union cheque book and there is no bank statement for the same period. “It is our considered view as members that information was not kept or destroyed deliberately in order to conceal the truth. We believe there was a beneficiary of the missing cheques and that they were obtained fraudulently. We are concerned that our information was not kept in an appropriate manner and in accordance with international best practice.”
The concerned members state that failure to keep records and or submit audited financial statements as required by section 29 and 30 of the Trade Union and Employers’ Organisation Act is by itself an offence punishable under the same Act. BMWU has 8000 plus members, and the multitudes who signed the concern letter to Batshu want action to be taken against those who perpetrated the alleged fraud at the organisation. “If they are in leadership they must be removed and prosecuted,” they charge.
In addition to the misappropriation of funds and the maladministration, the concerned union members allege that they have discovered that union funds were used for personal gain by some individuals and there is also evidence that there is money that went missing at the hands of certain individuals, “…but because of favouritism or maladministration entrenched in our organisation, leadership has failed to take appropriate action to protect union funds,” they wrote.
One of the members is alleged to have defrauded the union over P10 000 during the period 2009 and 2013. “He was only dismissed from work and no criminal case was opened against him.”
“An amount of P51 000 was cashed at Jwaneng branch account after signatures were forged. BMWU cheque was used to cash from this account. The matter was reported to the police but no follow up was ever made by the leadership.
BCL branch leadership failed to account for P10 000 which was given to the branch for administrative purposes. The NEC then instituted investigation which was carried by a private company called Financial Modellers & Business Consultants. After the conclusion of the investigation, the report implicated them on criminal deception over the money. During the investigation period, the concerned office bearers were suspended from office by the NEC, surprisingly they were reinstated immediately after the report was handed to the leadership,” reads part of the detailed letter.
“Having elaborated more on criminal acts, poor administration, lack of corporate governance, non-compliance to laws of the land, favouritism and opportunism bedevilling our organisation, we have decided to stand up as active members to protect our organisation and resources from any further damage by some individual leaders who are not even paying any subscriptions to the union. Subsequently we hereby make an appeal to the Registrar to invoke his powers under section 44 of the Trade Unions and Employers Organisation Act to prosecute and interdict these leaders from holding office and controlling union funds,” they wrote.
When asked to comment on the issues, general secretary, Bob Malele, could not deny or confirm the allegations. He said if there are internal matters they will be addressed at the appropriate forums. As the union prepares for its congress, the financial pitfalls are expected to play a major role in the campaigns and the lobbying.
President Dr Mokgweetsi Masisi has been touring the entire world since occupying Presidential office in 2018. Few months down the line, he flew to Florida in the United States of America where he landed at the Disney World.
This is the world’s largest entertainment complex opened in 1971, with four theme parks (consisting of Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Disney’s Hollywood Studios, and Disney’s Animal Kingdom).
Upon his return in the country from the fairytale land, Masisi said Botswana struck a partnership with Disney World. The partnership primarily focused on turning the country’s capital, Gaborone, into an international tourism and leisure destination.
“We have struck a partnership with Disney World as a company. They focus on making people happy and bringing tourists. I want tourists in this country. Visa restrictions are out. They will be issued on arrival. I have tasked Minister Makgato’s Ministry to categorize taxis so that there can be value in the taxi industry.
I am very committed to making Gaborone an international venue center and this will bring revenue to our country,” Masisi said at the time. Masisi, has now appointed Makgato as Botswana’s High Commissioner – designate to the Commonwealth of Australia.
However, two years later, there is no sign of Gaborone being turned into a tourism hub. In fact, the partnership Masisi struck with Disney World never emerged. It is now becoming more of a pipeline dream, and politicians are keen to know what really transpired.
In a dramatic turn of events, Masisi’s flanking Minister, Minister for Presidential Affairs, Governance and Public Administration, Kabo Morwaeng, slammed Vice President Slumber Tsogwane with questions on this said ghost partnership, demanding answers on Masisi’s long dead promise.
Vice President Tsogwane told Parliament on Thursday that Masisi was looking for investors to come and do business in Botswana, either in partnership with government or the private sector.
“The President and his delegation engaged in meetings with the management of Disney World to identify opportunities for the company to collaborate with in Botswana. There were a number of opportunities Mr. Speaker for collaboration that were identified to be followed up with by bilateral negotiations with various institutions.
The key area that was identified for collaboration was the implementation of an enhanced customer care training and development akin to that of Disney World.
The Botswana Public Service College was assigned to collaborate with Disney World, to roll out a training programme which will achieve excellent customer service for the public sector in Botswana, Tsogwane said via virtual Parliament.
He further said representatives of Disney World visited Botswana on a fact finding mission in May 2019.
“While in Botswana, the team toured selected sites such as Gaborone bus rank, Tlokweng Boarder post, and Department of Roads, Training and Safety offices amongst others. Following this, Disney World produced a scoping report which detailed training and engagement timelines for consideration by government,” said Tsogwane.
In fulfilment of their procurement requirement, Tsogwane said Disney Institute was requested to submit a proposal based on their scoping report indicating associated cost implications. He said, Disney declined to submit citing that it does not deal directly with government.
“After being advised by their Disney World Board, they therefore advised Botswana government to deal with another company in the United States of America, which according to them does the Disney World way. This never proceeded because our interest was on Disney World and not any other company that point in time.”
As a result, Tsogwane told Parliament that no deal or contract was signed with Disney World. “The issue of easing of restrictions which is part of the question, between any two countries is a matter that is negotiated through diplomatic channels and whenever agreements are reached, proper communication is made. With regard to Visa restrictions between Botswana and the US, Tsogwane says they will continue discussions on how to ease restrictions,” he said on Thursday.
Morwaeng wanted Tsogwane to update Parliament on: Government’s deal with Disney World, the terms of the deal propounded by the President in March 2019; Whether the deal was signed, when it was signed and clear specifics of the deal and its benefits to Botswana tourism; when visa restrictions between the two countries (Botswana and the United States of America) will be eased and visas issued on arrival as per the Disney World deal pronouncement; and If the deal struck with Disney World was not just mere electioneering talk that will never see the light of the day.
Despite the government of Botswana’s ambition to have one of its own to lead Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) since its establishment in 1980, the Presidency says there is no budget specifically dedicated to the campaign.
The Government has released the name of Permanent Secretary to the President, Elias Mpedi Magosi, as the candidate for the SADC Executive Secretary position. Magosi is expected to face off with Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) candidate, Faustin Mukela. The position will become vacant in August this year.
However, despite the optimism the Botswana Government has not yet set aside a budget to assist Magosi to win against the seemingly DRC giant. “We all know that the COVID-19 pandemic has negatively affected the country’s ability to effectively fund any new project. This campaign is not an exception. As such, we do not have any budget for the campaign. However, we have so far managed to take advantage of His Excellency the President’s working visits to the neighbouring countries to also carry out the campaigns,” Press Secretary to the President, Batlhalefi Leagajang, explained.
Botswana has housed SADC since the establishment of the then SADCC in 1980, but has never occupied top most leadership positions at the SADC Secretariat. “We therefore, strongly believe that we should also have an opportunity to contribute to the management of our regional body as it continues to drive the important issues of regional integration industrialization and socio-economic development.
This will also profile Botswana as a strong advocate of regional integration,” he responded to this publication’s questionnaire as to why the Government wants to occupy the plum post. SADC is a Member State driven organization. As such, Leagajang said, needs a well-grounded Executive Secretary with a blend of management and leadership acumen; a transformational leader with political awareness and integrity; private and public sector experience; a deep culture of corporate governance; as well as strategic agility and result-oriented consummate diplomat.
“These are the unique attributes of our candidate,” he said. So far President Mokgweetsi Masisi has visited nine out of 16 SADC member states on a working visit and also taking an opportunity to present to them his candidate.
“The countries have appreciated this effort and we remain hopeful. However, it is important to note that this is a democratic and competitive process which must be respected,” he responded when asked about the reception and assurances from various countries to cast a vote for Magosi.
In 2018, when Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi challenged for the Africa Union (AU) Chairperson, the government appointed former President Festus Mogae to be the campaign leader. Does the Government have anyone apart from Masisi to help with the campaign?
“The campaigns for the candidate are strictly led by the Government of Botswana. Since this is a candidate for Botswana, not just the Government, it will be appreciated if all Batswana, including the media, could also shoulder the responsibility to campaign for the candidate in their own spheres of influence,” Leagajang responded.
While there are sceptics on Magosi winning against the DRC man, the Government is confident and believes that with the unique traits that he possess, Magosi stands a chance. He is said to be a strong advocate of justice and fairness as he has played this role in his current role as PSP and in his previous roles as PS and in the private sector. He has helped individuals and companies to find justice and fairness in most of their dealings with Government.
Magosi is also said to be a proponent of corporate governance and which he has relentlessly pursued in most of his career including in Government and other sectors. A strong believer in following laid down procedures and laws. “He carries a variety of skills as an HR expert with experience in different sectors, a strategist and an Organization development specialist.
His experience and exposure spans government, parastatal, private sector and at regional level as well, thus making him a suitable candidate for the regional role. He has worked with governments, businesses, development partners and politicians and is comfortable navigating through all of them,” Leagajang concluded.
The Minister of Land Management, Water and Sanitation Services, Kefentse Mzwinila looked a politician set to shoot the moon as he laid bare his billions of pula development agenda recently in Parliament.
His Ministry’s combined Recurrent and Development Budget Proposals for the 2021/ 2022 Financial Year is pegged at Four Billion, Three Hundred and Sixty – Five Million, two Hundred and Nineteen Thousand, Five Hundred and Sixty Pula (P4, 365, 219, 560). This is a budget 38.3% more than the allocation for the 2020/2021 Financial Year.
Mzwinila preluded his request to parliament with a demonstration that his Ministry has no champagne taste on a beer budget – indicating that his ministry’s expenditure at the end of February 2021P2.111 Billion or 96% of development budget; and P910 million or 90% of the recurrent budget.
Notwithstanding the budget dust, the Minister justified this year’s increase in the Ministry’s total budget. He attributed the escalation to the commencement of major projects under the water sector. These include the implementation of the North South Carrier (NSC) 22.2 covering various sub projects. Mzwinila noted that these are all public value projects which are aimed at improving the lives of Batswana.
Mzwinila’s Ministry has projected that the sum of Nine Hundred and Sixty –Three Million, Nine Hundred and Forty – Seven Thousand, Five Hundred and Sixty Pula (P963, 947, 560) be permitted for the Recurrent Budget and stand part of the 2021 / 2022 Appropriation Bill ( No. 1 of 2021).
“55% of the Recurrent Budget is geared towards the Revenue Support Grant for 12 Land Boards and their subordinate authorities while the sum of P5 Million is allocated to the Real Estate Advisory Council (REAC). The remaining 44% is proposed for the Ministry Departments.”
The sum of Three Billion, Four Hundred and One Million, Two hundred and Seventy –Two Thousand Pula (P3, 401, 272, 000), for the Development Budget was approved and stand part of the same schedule of the appropriation (2021/2022).
When breaking down the Development Budget, Minister Mzwinila noted that Water Supply and Sanitation projects will account for P1.098 Billion to finance the Maun Water and Sanitation project, Molepolole Sanitation projects and the Shakawe Water Treatment Plant Rehabilitation.
With all the implementation bottlenecks troubling several projects in the country, Mzwinila had to satisfy the question of whether his Ministry demonstrated a dire need for the budget with reference to its execution of the budget for the financial year 2020/2021 and its delivery of strategic initiatives and projects?
Mzwinila’s pitch found favour with parliament and his ministry will get an aggregate budget of P3.198 Billion for the 2020/ 2021 Financial Year. Within this allocation, P2.188 Billion is for the Development Budget and P1.010 Billion will cover the Recurrent Budget.
The Minister revealed his strategic interventions for land management, water and sanitation services. Highlighting that efforts by Government to provide serviced residential land to citizens on the waiting list are being hampered by limited resources. He shared that his ministry needs P94 Billion to cover such costs which will directly link to water, sewage, roads, electricity, telecommunications and storm water drainage leading to the allocation of 4 587 plots on un-serviced land.
The minister projected that 22 952 un-serviced residential plots are planned to be allocated in the next financial year. However, there is a trend where allocated land remains fallow and undeveloped which raises misgivings that the requests could have been made on speculative plans.
Mzwinila noted that in the spirit of forging stronger International connections, the Ministry will in June 2021 sign a Memorandum of Understanding on Land matters between Namibia and Botswana with the aim of opening doors to the creation of Dry Ports in the country, facilitate international trade through Walvis Bay Sea Port.
Botswana is already challenged by scarcity of naturally occurring water resources due to the aridity of the country creating persistent water shortages. The type of infrastructure required to improve national water security is a true reflection of intensive investment needed in the water sector The Minister stressed.
“An emerging issue such as the COVID -19 pandemic poses serious challenges as the control of the virus requires reliable water supply. In an effort to mitigate the challenge, the Ministry has undertaken extensive bowsing throughout the country which included the provision of additional capacity for supplementary bowsing to areas with pervasive water shortages, plus an additional forty one (41) un-gazetted settlements.
Operational costs due to bowsing were at an average of P6 Million per month before the COVID-19 pandemic and increased to an unsustainable amount of the order of P13 Million per month, since the beginning of the State of Emergency in April 2020,” the minister shared.
Through the support of a World Bank Loan, the Ministry is implementing several initiatives under the Botswana Emergency Water Security and Efficiency (BEWSE) project. Through BEWSE the Raw Water Pricing and Abstraction Strategy will assess the pricing of water in a manner that enables the provision of water to support new economic development, the strategy is planned to be completed in June 2021.
The Ministry has commenced the development of a long term National Water Security Strategy to improve resilience to climate change impacts. The strategy development entails prioritization of the proposed future mega water transfers such as the Chobe – Zambezi water transfer, the Atlantic Ocean water transfer to Botswana through Namibia and Lesotho – Botswana water transfer.
Following the signing of the tripartite Memorandum of Agreement (MoA) between Botswana, Lesotho and South Africa in November 2017 for the Lesotho –Botswana Water Transfer project, a 24 months contract for a combined prefeasibility and feasibility study for the development of a bankable Lesotho – Botswana Water Transfer project feasibility study was signed and is to be completed in 2022.
One of the Ministry’s famous major water supply projects such as the North South Carrier (NSC) 2.2 has experienced hiccups; having tenders for contract 1 (Masama to Mmamashia Pipeline) and Contract 2 (Mahalapye to Masama Pipeline) cancelled due to budgetary constraints.