Assistant Minister in the Office of the President Phillip Makgalemele has said the government considers enlisting with critical players like Non Governmental Organisations (NGO’s) in the Poverty Eradication Programme.
According to the Shoshong Member of Parliament, poverty, given its broadness needs many players to get involved in its eradication, and the NGO family happens to be one those many potential players needed in the drive to eradicate it.
“Yes Poverty is diverse, and because of its diverse nature, challenges are equally huge. Simply put, the Poverty Eradication Programme associated challenges are diverse, complex and huge. And because of this diversity of challenges, we need diversity of responses and different players, hence NGOs kicking in as a partner is a welcome development,” he said in an exclusive interview with Weekend Post this week.
Makgalemele further said that support for NGOs has been immense, and would be improved. “We are currently considering proposals from Botswana Council of Non Governmental Organisations (BOCONGO), the Red Cross and some NGO gurus. And we remain open to working with much more closely. We will also engage the NGO Council,” he revealed.
This publication has established that due to the legislator’s stint in the NGO environment in the past, he understands their work, track record and capabilities in reduction of poverty.
There have been further calls that, instead of centralizing the Poverty Eradication programme at the Office of the President the flagship programme and its implementation should be distributed to some NGO’s who can easily assist in fighting poverty. Makgalemele however believes the programme should remain coordinated at OP, “Again given its broadness and cross cutting nature, it makes a hell lot of sense that it is coordinated from the Office of The President (OP),” he insisted.
The programme is a brain child of President Lt. Gen. Ian Khama and therefore receives special treatment and benefits from a handsome share of the government budget. Many observers have come out to say money pumped into the programme can assist in growing the NGO sector.
The Poverty Eradication Unit is currently coordinated by former South East South Member of Parliament Olebile Gaborone at the Office of the president. The President has also appointed a Ministerial delegation on Poverty Eradication which is chaired by now Vice president Mokgweetsi Masisi.
Another Cabinet Sub-Committee chaired by Minister of Presidential Affairs and Public Administration exists and comprises of Phillip Makgalemele, Assistant Minister of Local Government and Rural Development Botlogile Tshireletso, Trade and Industry assistant minister Sadique Kebonang, Education and Skills Development AM Kgotla Autlwetse and Hon Fidelis Molao.
According to Makgalemele, government has made great strides in reducing poverty. “The position of the current is clear, abject poverty must be eradicated and we remain committed to doing that. To further demonstrate this commitment, poverty eradication is one of the key flagship programmes,” he said.
The Assistant Minister also revealed that the government had in the pipeline a rain water harvesting strategy. “We want ISPAAD to be sensitive to helping the poor move from subsistence level to wealth levels during the 2015/16 ploughing season, we are now promoting cooperative businesses and lobbying the overall government procurement budget and expenditure to reflect poverty eradication,” he revealed.
Makgalemele also highlighted that the private sector could play a vital role in poverty eradication. “We hold a strong view the private sector can play a big role in creating jobs for the poor, as well as help us graduate the poor become rich. In addition, their corporate social responsibility (SCR) policies present huge opportunities for poverty eradication. The private sector has also responded positively to the Presidential Housing Appeal for the poor, and we remain indebted to this invaluable support,” he concluded.
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.