The unions lobby MPs to vote against amendment bill
The Botswana Federation of Public Sectors Union (BOFEPUSU) and the Botswana Federation of Trade Union (BFTU) have put aside their differences, and intend to focus their energies on stopping government from passing the Trade Disputes Amendment bill, which is currently before parliament.
The two unions’ animosity has spanned over years, since the formation of BOFEPUSU, established by public sector unions for the purpose of the bargaining council. However, the formation of BOFEPUSU saw some unions de-affiliating from BFTU in favour of the former.
While BOFEPUSU has enjoyed a massive membership compared to BFTU, the latter enjoyed the eminence of being recognised by the International Labour Organization (ILO) as a federation representing unions in Botswana. BOFEPUSU had in the past accused BFTU of misrepresenting workers at the ILO by not reporting ill-treatment subjected to workers by the government of Botswana.
This week, in a rare occasion the two unions were able to share the table to discuss the matter affecting the workers in Botswana. Although the two unions were cagey on revealing if any agreement was reached to end the ‘cold war’ on each other, the officials’ posture signalled that the two former arch-rivals could be on a rekindled relationship.
The Secretary General of BFTU, Gadzani Mhotsha firmly expressed that it was in the interest of workers for all unions in Botswana to unite or find a common ground to work together. “Going forward government could no longer divide the workers,” he stated.
Tobokani Rari, the BOFEPUSU Secretary General also said the decision to address a joint press conference by the two unions was collaboration and shows the beginning of good things, “Everything has where it starts, and it’s not the first time we work together on an issue of common ground,” Rari stated.
The issue of BOFEPUSU and BFTU animosity has not been helped by the fact that the Botswana Public Employees Union (BOPEU), an affiliate of BOFEPUSU has since last year had a troublesome relationship with the Federation. There were efforts by BOPEU leadership to consider ditching BOFEPUSU for BFTU, but the proposal was rejected by delegates at the 2014 Palapye Convention.
BOPEU President, Andrew Motsamai has also publicly stated that his union will start engaging BFTU for collaboration and condemned BOFEPUSU for sidelining BFTU. Motsamai said at a press conference earlier this year that the animosity playing on between BOFEPUSU and BFTU was not helping workers but disadvantaging them.
This week’s impromptu press conference was called on after the two unions learnt about the Trade Dispute Amendment bill which has been put before MPs to be debated and adopted by the current session of parliament. The two unions are opposed to Section 46 and 47 of the Act, which will make scores of government employees’ essential services providers, therefore preventing them from engaging on strikes.
Rari said they are not entirely opposed to the contents of the bill and noted that there are good things which the bill will bring but was uncompromising on the issue of workers being denied their right to withdraw their labour in an event that the employer and unions could not reach an agreement on issues of their welfare. “Workers cannot be denied their fundamental right to strike even if it means that there are allowances that comes with workers being essential services,” said Rari.
Rari said if efforts to lobby MPs failed to produce results, the two unions will report the BDP to ILO to call for its intervention. BOFEPUSU and BFTU have written a letter to the Whips of the political parties represented in parliament including the BDP requesting to address the caucus and inform them about the implication of this amendment bill if passed.
The two unions also submitted a letter to the office of the Speaker of the National Assembly, requesting that they be given opportunity to present at the General Assembly to MPs about the proposed amendment.
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.