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WUC courts Gov’t, World Bank for funds

It will be a long time before the beleaguered Water Utilities Corporation (WUC) puts an end to the water crisis bedeviling the country. The corporation is having a hard time with funds, and the water shortage situation may not improve if envisaged projects are not urgently funded.   


WeekendPost has established that the WUC has an array of projects which are crucial for water security which may not see the light of day due to lack of funds. This publication has gathered that the corporation is currently cajoling government, in particular the principals, Ministry of Minerals, Energy and Water Resources (MMEWR) and Ministry of Finance and Development Planning (MFDP) to engage in possible avenues of sourcing funds.


The corporation last week presented to Minister of MMEWR, Kitso Mokaila, a list of projects that the country needs to curtail the water crisis currently threatening the economy of the country albeit limited funds. “We have been asked to submit to government the needs of water and waste water supply in the country. It’s for the government to determine where funds can come from, either from within the country coffers or lenders,” a highly placed source in the WUC executive stated.


“We don’t have financial capacity to implement the projects but they are very important,” he said. The water situation in Botswana has worsened, especially in the Southern part of the country; and consumers have been subjected to water rationing for the past few months. This notwithstanding, parliament this week rejected a motion by Gaborone North legislator Haskins Nkaigwa calling for an investigation into the water (and power) crises currently bedeviling the country.


According to the WUC decision-making official, the organization budgetary funds fall short of implementing all the projects in the pipeline, and therefore, apart from government they can look to other avenues to source funds like the World Bank.

“I don’t expect government to have all the money. There are many sources of funding that can be explored. But the problem is if you borrow money from sources of funding you must be able to repay the loan. WUC does not have the financial capacity to do so,” he pointed out.


Meanwhile WUC Chief Executive Officer Leonard Nxumalo could not be reached for comment. However, it is understood that the World Bank had a delegation in the country a fortnight ago but due to the continuing discussion between WUC, MMEWR and MFDP, the parties had not taken a decision over on the matter.


According to the immaculate source at WUC, “The World Bank, was here two weeks ago and they are prepared to give us the money, but we can’t just say give us the money, government has to exercise some financial prudence in borrowing. However government needs to prioritize in terms of their capacity to borrow. They should look at the threshold to make sure the country does not end up drowned in debt like Greece.”


Information reaching the Weekend Post also suggests that “so far our country has done well as the credit funding of the country is doing well. So the money funders are ready to give the country money as they see the country as credit worthy.” This publication is in possession of a list of the mammoth projects that are categorised into sections needing funds and those whose funds are readily available.  


PROJECTS THAT NEED FUNDING
According to WUC projects progress updates as at 30 June 2015, which was presented to Minister Mokaila, close to fifty mega projects, priced from millions to billions need funding.  Some of the projects includes Gaborone Waste Water Reclamation Project which is estimated at the tune of 450 million.


In addition the Selibe Phikwe – Serule Water Transmission Pipeline to Interconnection needs 180 million which is not available for the project to commence. Boteti Southern and Central Cluster water supply project also need 200 million to be implemented.


Furthermore, Gantsi Township Meriting Phase II projects and Water Network rehabilitation have no funds, both require 80 million to be kick started. Other projects that still have no funding includes a project involving Upgrading of the Sepopa and Gumare Slow Sand Filtration plant which amounts to 75 million.


The Upgrading of Evaporation Ponds, Rehabilitation of Treatment Plant, upgrading of 160mm uPVC Diameter Transmission mains to 200mm Diameter as well as Letlhakane Waste Water Project will need 50 million.

PROJECTS CURRENTLY BEING IMPLEMENTED
The projects whose funds are readily available and are being implemented include the upgrading of Mmamashia water treatment plant which requires expansion. The Mmamashia to Gaborone WTW transmission pipeline upgrading also has funds. They are both funded under North South carrier 2 and estimated at 300 million. According to the projects progress update, the Project has money readily available and organizations are yet to tender and commence detailed work on it.


The Palapye Water Treatment Plant, also under the North South carrier 2 is among the projects with ready funding. There is also the Masama East which is 100 kilometers from Gaborone, enroute to Francistown. As at end of June, 32 boreholes were already developed at the project area and will inject 30 million litres per day into North South carrier.


An additional 30 million liters per day is also expected in the Masama West project in which boreholes will be cut and necessary works done. A 100km pipeline from Masama to Mmamashia will also be constructed within a year with a bypass from Mmamashia to Gaborone also being built as back up. Funding is available from MMEWR for the project expected to cost 250 million.


Funds are also available for the Mambo Waste Water Treatment Plant Rehabilitation justified for environmental compliance at 40 million. The plant is not functioning well as it disposes waste into the environment. The river feeds directly to Dikgatlhong dam and the water eventually ends up in Gaborone.

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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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