VICTORIOUS: Botswana National Youth Council (BNYC) Executive Director, Benjamin Raletsatsi is seen here with lawyers acting for his organisation after they successfully fought an urgent court application by the suspended BNYC chairman, Louis Sibanda on Wednesday.
The plan by suspended Botswana National Youth Council Chairperson (BNYC) Louis Sibanda to keep receiving financial benefits from the organization while serving his suspension was this week shattered by the High Court in Gaborone – after his urgent application was dismissed with costs.
High Court, Judge Zein Kebonang questioned why the BNYC chairman gets priviledges similar to those of employees.
The main contention to the case was Sibanda’s uneasiness with losing benefits associated with his office. This publication understands that BNYC provides Sibanda with free accommodation as well as sitting allowances by the virtue of him being the organisation’s chairperson.
Investigations by this publication have revealed that the chairperson of the organization benefits from a relatively high cost house worth of P6500 per month of rentals. It is also understood that Sibanda gets an estimated sitting allowance of P700 per sitting.
BNYC Executive Secretary Benjammin Raletsatsi also confirmed briefly outside court to this publication on Wednesday that the chairperson of the organization benefits from a medium-high cost house worth of P6500 per month of rentals.
According to Raletsatsi, “the bearer of the position (chair) also attracts a sitting allowance of around P700 per sitting and normally the Executive Committee sits once or more than that per month”. Other board members are estimated to receive around P500 in every sitting of the organisation’s meetings.
Sibanda was deprived of the priviledges and suspended from office for alleged maladministration. The benefits were scrapped following his suspension by the Executive Committee as he was removed from office to create way for unhindered and un-interfered parallel investigations by both the National Assembly and Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC).
Initially the urgent application by Sibanda had sought to have the decision of BNYC Executive Committee to suspend him be set aside on account of procedural irregularities that occurred in the process of reaching its decision. However more concentration was targeted particularly to benefits deprived of the chairperson during the suspension – at least that was their bone of contention, this publication has observed.
Justice Zein Kebonang has also questioned the logic behind Sibanda’s benefit of free accommodation while he is and was not an employee of BNYC – but just a board member.
When making submissions before court, a lawyer representing Sibanda, Mugoni Molodi of Mugoni Molodi Attorneys said that if court does not set aside the suspension, his client (Sibanda) will lose benefits which she is entitled to, like free rental house and sitting allowances – as he remains the substantive chairperson despite suspension.
He said these priviledges were mandatory to the chairperson until his term of office elapses (after the 3 years which they are allocated in office).
On his part renowned attorney Uyapo Ndadi of Ndadi Lawfirm who represented BNYC said it was befitting that he be denied the benefits because he was not carrying out any duties related to the office due to his suspension. “He has no right to that accommodation as he is not entitled to it – it is a priviledge,” he argued.
“He is not doing any business with BNYC because he is not carrying out that duty. He does not even deserve to have been in the house to start with, in my opinion. Moreover he has not shown that he has that right to accommodation in his argument, he acknowledged it as a privilege – which is self-defeating,” Ndadi pointed out.
Ndadi further asked the court to endow punitive measures to Sibanda as the case is self serving and places individual interest beneath interest of the organization. He said Sibanda wants to protect self serving interests like sitting allowances and accommodation while he was not currently carrying out the organisation’s functions.
“These elements show that this application is self serving as it is just about personal rights. It is an abuse of court process,” he argued.
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.