Ministers fear initiative projects poor party policy image; Scheme was endorsed by Ministry before 2014 elections
The controversial Graduate Volunteer Scheme (GVS) has received mixed reactions from members of the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP), including cabinet members over its purpose and rationality. Ministry of Youth Sports and Culture principals Okayed the scheme in October 2014.
The WeekendPost has been informed that some cabinet members are displeased with the latest scheme as they perceive the initiative as more or less a replica of the existing National Internship Program. Government introduced the GVS a week ago and announced that it targeted unemployed graduate youth who are not in the internship programme.
The objective of the Internship Programme is to provide short-term work experience at minimal cost to the employer so that young people emerging from tertiary institutions gain practical experience of a working environment.
The programme, although criticized has managed to attract a large number of graduates and with levels of unemployment skyrocketing, others were not absorbed by the program in both the both in the public and private sectors. The programme targets government sponsored Bachelor Degree holders, while Diploma graduates are not eligible to participate in the programme.
The Ministry of Sports, Youth and Culture (MSYC) has stated that the new programme is intended to; facilitate skills development and transfer them to graduates, promote the spirit of volunteerism, contribute to community development, improve resilience of graduates as well as to reduce their idle time. After it was approved by Ministry principals in 2014, it was agreed that it had to wait for the next financial year.
With criticism piling up over duplication of government initiatives, discontent from influential cabinet ministers may finally pressure the MSYC to repeal the initiative before implementation.
The statement from the ministry had said that participants would be enrolled in areas where they had accommodation, and that emphasis would be in rural districts where there is need for service.
The bone of contention was not only the objectives of the initiative but the P600 allowance which participants would be paid on monthly basis. Scores of the political activist have suggested that the government’s new initiative will serve as exploitation conduit because of its off-putting monthly take home.
This publication has established that the initiative was never discussed at cabinet level by the current cabinet, although the idea was conceived before last year’s general elections. WeekendPost has also learnt that former Minister of Youth, Sports and Culture Shaw Kgathi has indicated his discontent with the new initiative.
Member of Parliament for Tati West Guma Moyo and MP for Francistown West Ignatius Moswaane are also not happy with the programme. In the heat of debate before the closure of the just ended parliament session, Moswaane expressed his desire to see President Lt Gen Ian Khama appearing before parliament to answer questions from legislators and account for the government policies.
The initiative has also rubbed the party’s Youth Wing the wrong way, with the Chairperson Andy Boatile having requested to meet with the current Minister of Youth, Sport and Culture. The GVS issue has become a hot issue since government announcement and has raised more questions on the ruling party’s structures especially the BDP Youth Wing in contributing towards policy formulation.
The government had previously introduced Tirelo Sechaba, and Youth Empowerment Scheme (YES) which also proved unpopular with the unemployed youth population.
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.