Councillors around the country from accross the political divide are of the view that Cabinet rejected the proposal to have their salaries increased and only opted to re-adjust salaries for Members of Parliament and the Cabinet. Some point out that the decision has de-motivated them and have a serious backlash politically.
Following a six percent increase in salaries of public servants in April this year, Parliament approved increases of close to 40 percent for the President, Vice President, Leader of Opposition and Members of Parliament. Members of Parliament have conveniently justified their salary increase indicating that they are the lowest earning in the SADC region.
Most councillors who spoke to Weekend Post are of the view that the decision to increase salaries stemmed from the Dibotelo Commission which had made prescriptive recommendations on how politicians should be remunerated. It emphasised the need to look into the Politicians Salaries and made certain recommendations. Councillors earnings were to be realigned by 57 percent while MPs and Cabinet were at around 30 percent.
The Botswana Association of Local Authtorities (BALA) Chairperson , Mpho Moruakgomo said he was dissapointed that Councillors have once again been left behind. He said what they have been given is is far below what they expected.
“My view has always been that politiians should be respected as they are key to the lives of citizens. We should start by paying politicians well so that the world of politics may attract dignified men and women of substance who will be able to bring about change to the lives of the masses,” he observed.
Moruakgomo said they are unhappy at the recent realignment which benefitted the MPs and Cabinet members more as compared to councillors. “We will continue to engage the powers that be to look into this issue because Councillors do a lot of work but go unnoticed,” he said.
South East District Council, Phenyo Segokgo told this publication that the recent salary increment for Members of Parliament and Cabinet has widened income gap between MPs and Councillors.
“Councillors do a lot of ground work. They interact with the people on daily basis and make sure that services reach every one. Take an example of a Gaborone Mayor, he covers all the five constituencies whilst an MP is answerable to one constituency,” he said.
He added that the Councillors deserve to be rewarded as much as MPs because they are also responsible for formulating policies and implementing bylaws. “I agree with Councillors that we deserve better packages than the current.” Segokgo is a member of the country’s main opposition party, Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC).
Kgatleng District Council Chairperson, Mpho Morolong said they have given up on attaining better salaries, “It seems Councillors will never get a better pay, my view is that atleast we should be given Council transport and offices to conduct our duties instead of relying on these peanuts and ward allowances which are nothing but a rip off considering our heavy workload,” he said.
After the passing of the National Assembly Salaries and Allowances Amendment Bill of 2015 three months ago, President Lt Gen Ian Khama’s salary was increased by 26 percent to P651, 348 per annum while Vice President Mokgweetsi Masisi also had his salary increased to P501, 216 per annum or P41, 768 per month.
Meanwhile, cabinet ministers and the Speaker now earn P439, 656 per annum which translate to P36, 638 monthly. The leader of Opposition has his new salary pegged at P30, 891 per month or P370, 692 per annum, on par with that of assistant ministers and Deputy Speaker.
â€¨â€¨Ordinary Members of Parliament got their salaries increased by at least 32 percent from 201, 565.00 in 2014 to P266, 460 annually effective May this year. Under the new salaries, the chairpersons of parliamentary committees will receive a daily allowance of P59.31 if the committee conducts business on a day that Parliament is not sitting.
The Members of Parliament have also had allowances such as constituency, hospitality, communication and acting allowance increased by six percent.
Public sector unions have blasted members of Parliament for “selfishly” increasing their salaries double figures after failing to support the unions’ plea of a 16 percent salary hike. The Bargaining Council only approved a 6 percent salary increase for public servants. Currently employees of Botswana Unified Revenue Services (BURS) are on strike demanding an 11 percent salary increase.
There has not been a formal statement from various political representations at Parliament on the subject of salary increases save for individual knee-jerk reactions from MPs. â€¨
The decision to increase the salaries according to Assistant Minister of Local Government and Rural Development Botlhogile Tshireletso was a decision that was taken by the all party caucus.
“MPs voted with one voice and it is not true that Councillors did not get anything, they were part of the readjustment,” she said.
Government is currently sitting on 4 400 vacant posts that remain unfilled in the civil service. This is notwithstanding the high unemployment rate in Botswana which has been exacerbated by the recent outbreak of the deadly COVID-19 pandemic.
Just before the burst of COVID-19, official data released by Statistics Botswana in January 2020, indicate that unemployment in Botswana has increased from 17.6 percent three years ago to 20.7 percent. “Unemployment rate went up by 3.1 percentage between the two periods, from 17.6 to 20.7 percent,” statistics point out.
Leading commercial bank, First National Bank Botswana (FNBB), expects the central bank to sharpen its monetary policy knife and cut the Bank Rate twice in the last quarter of 2020.
The bank expects a 25 basis point (bps) in the beginning of the last quarter, which is next month, and another shed by the same bps in December, making a total of 50 bps cut in the last quarter. According to the bank’s researchers, the central bank is now holding on to 4.25 percent for the time being pending for more informed data on the economic climate.
An audit of the accounts and records for the supply of food rations to the institutions in the Northern Region for the financial year-ended 31 March 2019 was carried out. According to Auditor General’s report and observations, there are weaknesses and shortcomings that were somehow addressed to the Accounting Officer for comments.
Auditor General, Pulane Letebele indicated on the report that, across all depots in the region that there had been instances where food items were short for periods ranging from 1 to 7 months in the institutions for a variety of reasons, including absence of regular contracts and supplier failures. The success of this programme is dependent on regular and reliable availability of the supplies to achieve its objective, the report said.
There would be instances where food items were returned from the feeding centers to the depots for reasons of spoilage or any other cause. In these cases, instances had been noted where these returns were not supported by any documentation, which could lead to these items being lost without trace.
The report further stressed that large quantities of various food items valued at over P772 thousand from different depots were damaged by rodents, and written off.Included in the write off were 13 538 (340ml) cartons of milk valued at P75 745. In this connection, the Auditor General says it is important that the warehouses be maintained to a standard where they would not be infested by rodents and other pests.
Still in the Northern region, the report noted that there is an outstanding matter relating to the supply of stewed steak (283×3.1kg cans) to the Maun depot which was allegedly defective. The steak had been supplied by Botswana Meat Commission to the depot in November 2016.
In March 2017 part of the consignment was reported to the supplier as defective, and was to be replaced. Even as there was no agreement reached between the parties regarding replacement, in 51 October 2018 the items in question were disposed of by destruction. This disposal represented a loss as the whole consignment had been paid for, according to the report.
“In my view, the loss resulted directly from failure by the depot managers to deal with the matter immediately upon receipt of the consignment and detection of the defects. Audit inspections during visits to Selibe Phikwe, Maun, Shakawe, Ghanzi and Francistown depots had raised a number of observations on points of detail related to the maintenance of records, reconciliations of stocks and related matters, which I drew to the attention of the Accounting Officer for comments,” Letebele said in her report.
In the Southern region, a scrutiny of the records for the control of stocks of food items in the Southern Region had indicated intermittent shortages of the various items, principally Tsabana, Malutu, Sunflower Oil and Milk which was mainly due to absence of subsisting contracts for the supply of these items.
“The contract for the supply of Tsabana to all depots expired in September 2018 and was not replaced by a substantive contract. The supplier contracts for these stocks should be so managed that the expiry of one contract is immediately followed by the commencement of the next.”
Suppliers who had been contracted to supply foodstuffs had failed to do so and no timely action had been taken to redress the situation to ensure continuity of supply of the food items, the report noted.
In one case, the report highlighted that the supplier was to manufacture and supply 1 136 metric tonnes of Malutu for a 4-months period from March 2019 to June 2019, but had been unable to honour the obligation. The situation was relieved by inter-depot transfers, at additional cost in transportation and subsistence expenses.
In another case, the contract was for the supply of Sunflower Oil to Mabutsane, where the supplier had also failed to deliver. Examination of the Molepolole depot Food Issues Register had indicated a number of instances where food items consigned to the various feeding centres had been returned for a variety of reasons, including food item available; no storage space; and in other cases the whole consignments were returned, and reasons not stated.
This is an indication of lack of proper management and monitoring of the affairs of the depot, which could result in losses from frequent movements of the food items concerned.The maintenance of accounting records in the region, typically in Letlhakeng, Tsabong, and Mabutsane was less than satisfactory, according to Auditor General’s report.
In these depots a number of instances had been noted where receipts and issues had not been recorded over long periods, resulting in incorrect balances reflected in the accounting records. This is a serious weakness which could lead to or result in losses without trace or detection, and is a contravention of Supplies Regulations and Procedures, Letebele said.
Similarly, consignments of a total of 892 bags of Malutu and 3 bags of beans from Tsabong depot to different feeding centres had not been received in those centres, and are considered lost. These are also not reflected in the Statement of Losses in the Annual Statements of Accounts for the same periods.