BOCONGO board members, affi liates, friends and donours at organisation Biennial conference last year.
The future of the non-governmental organisations’ umbrella body, the Botswana Council of Non-Governmental Organisation (BOCONGO) looks bleak – the organisation could run out of funds before the end of this year.
As things stand, a number of international donors have pulled out and more are expected to follow suit, WeekendPost can reveal.
A sizable number of BOCONGO staff members lost jobs as a result of lack of funding of projects and programmes within BOCONGO. As a member driven organisation, BOCONGO which was formed in 1995 – to create an enabling environment for NGO’s in Botswana, boasts of more than 100 affiliates.
WeekendPost has established that most funders for the various programmes at BOCONGO have already pulled out. Some of the programmes that are no longer available at the organisation include Local Governance Capacity Development Support Project which was funded by the Institute of Democracy in South Africa (IDASA) – which later expanded throughout Africa.
The programme focused on improving the quality of local governance in Botswana by deepening democratic processes at the local level and as well as improving local government service delivery. IDASA partnered with BOCONGO, Botswana Association of Local Authorities (BALA) and Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development (MLGRD) in implementing the project. The project contract reached its completion in 2012/13 and was not extended.
Another collapsed BOCONGO project which was funded by the Ministry of Health through the proceeds of the notorious Alcohol levy, known as the Alcohol project was also terminated during 2013/14 financial year. The project was aimed at empowering and educating communities on responsible drinking and the dangers of alcohol abuse across the country. It is not clear why the project was removed from BOCONGO as the national Alcohol levy continues to rake in millions of Pula from alcohol consumers.
However there were earlier reports of unsatisfactory annotations by affiliates of the umbrella body who claimed the project could have been implemented elsewhere and not by the mother body. Botswana Substance Abuse Support Network (BOSASNet) and other NGO’s focused on alcohol abuse were said to have been the rightful beneficiaries of the project and vigorously advocated for the project take over.
WeekendPost could not however establish whether the members were subsequently given the project as a result of the development.
Friedrich Ebert Stiftung (FES) has also thrown in the towel after sponsoring BOCONGO since 2006 to implement a National Budget Analysis project which basically brought Civil Society actors together to analyse and comment on the national budget speech as presented before parliament by the minister of Finance and Development Planning.
Through the programme, CSO’s assessed its responsiveness to the needs of the majority of the people of Botswana – especially the marginalized and vulnerable members of the community. It was funded by African Capacity Building Foundation (ACBF) which pulled off midway and later FES followed suit in 2011/12.
In combating HIV/AIDS scourge, BOCONGO was also funded by Southern African AIDS Trust (SAT) which has long ceased their two year partnership. The project was aimed at contributing to efforts of mitigating the impact of HIV/AIDS in the workplace. The project enhanced the ability of NGO’s and staff to anticipate, minimize and cope with the effects of HIV/AIDS. Like others, the project’s funding was never renewed years back when it ended.
This publication has established that the only project currently running at BOCONGO is the Family Health International (FHI) 360 which partnered with the umbrella body under ‘Maatla – Botswana Civil Society Strengthening Program.’ FHI 360 programs help build the capacity of local civil society organizations to respond to HIV and AIDS in Botswana.
It is understood that previous programs have enhanced the quality of voluntary counseling and testing centers, increased services that prevent mother-to-child transmission of HIV and improved knowledge of HIV prevention among youth ages 10–17.
According to sources who spoke to the Weekend Post on condition of anonymity, “FHI 360 partnership with BOCONGO is also expected to come to a close before end of the year”.
All the projects and programmes at BOCONGO had and/or have a battalion of employees including Project Coordinators as well as complementing staff members whom if projects collapse – would lose jobs instantly as well. Many have lost jobs at BOCONGO and others are tipped to be cut later this year as well.
The Alcohol Project, for example had a Project Coordinator, 2 Assistant Project coordinators and close to 100 Peer Educators and Counsellors who all lost their jobs following the closure of the project. With the Local Government’s IDASA project, the Coordinator too suffered a job loss following the ceasing of funds for the project.
Information reaching WeekendPost suggests that going forward, the FHI 360 project could also lay off some few staff members left at the organization including Accounts Assistant, and formerly HIV/AIDS project Coordinator and Administration Assistant.
Only skeletal staff is expected to remain, including Executive Secretary and Office Assistant – whose salaries are funded by government through the Ministry of Labour and Home Affairs (MLHA). By the time of going to print, BOCONGO Executive Secretary, Bagaisi Mabilo had not responded to Weekend Post email inquiries on the matter.
However MLHA funds are said to be diverted from BOCONGO as previously has been the case to newly established NGO Council. There is a growing division between the two bodies especially with relation to NGO funds as some say NGO Council’s role is virtually a duplicate of BOCONGO.
An immaculate source at BOCONGO confirmed that they have not yet received NGO funds and it is not clear whether they will get funding from government as the money now goes to the NGO Council. “It is still difficult here, we are not sure whether MLHA will still fund us this year and the only funder who has been with us, being FHI 360 is pulling out end of September, go thata (It’s a challenging time)!” a source at BOCONGO offices told this publication.
BOCONGO may face the fate encountered by many other NGO’s which had to close down as result of donors pulling out, especially after categorization of Botswana as a middle income country.
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.