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Parliament initiates BNYC probe

BNYC EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR: Benjamin Raletsatsi

This week, Parliament unanimously endorsed Ignatius Moswaane’s motion calling for government to set up a task force to investigate reports of corruption and maladministration at the Botswana National Youth Council (BNYC).


Presenting the motion to parliament, the Member of Parliament for Francistown West had requested that government suspends termination of contracts of some BNYC employees until investigations are completed. Following the ongoing restructuring process, BNYC Executive Director Benjamin Raletsatsi wrote to 33 employees informing them that their contracts will not be renewed.  


The Executive Director had explained to the employees that he had been instructed by the Ministry of Youth, Sports and Culture to lay off staff, something which Moswaane said defeated the whole purpose of government creating and maintaining jobs.


Moswaane made startling revelations about the troubled organisation regarding corruption and maladministration propagated by the current management. In the wake of the revelations, it has surfaced that BNYC had purchased 17 vehicles without a tender in which P4.5 million was obtained from staff gratuity while the better part of the money came from a loan obtained at Wesbank. It is understood that the Ministry of Youth, Sports and Culture (MYSC) was to clear the loan. MYSC has since instructed that the 17 cars which were purchased and delivered throughout the districts be parked and not be used.


Moswaane had also pointed out at maladministration regarding appointments alleging favouritism. “The Finance Manager was appointed without having gone for an interview and was employed on a 5 year contract without probation, compared to other employees’ 3 year contracts,” he said.


It is has also been established that BNYC at one point purchased 10 suits at the total cost of P57 000 for personal use by staff, with half of the amount being paid before delivery. The remaining amount was later paid and the process of procurement was signed by directors and board members within BNYC.


This publication has also learnt that a Toyota double cab vehicle was contracted by BNYC for the Executive Director but upon termination of the contract in which a colossal amount was paid, Raletsatsi was still using the car, raising suspicion that he could have rented a vehicle belonging to him or a friend to the organization. More information reveals that even after termination of the contract Raletsatsi continues to use the car, fuelling it at the expense of BNYC through the fuel voucher kept by the Executive Director.


More money from BNYC has been siphoned through the pretext of contracting consultancy companies, HR issues and restructuring in which over P400 000 was spent without any call for companies to bid for the tender. It has also emerged that some employees were brought in under the pretext of providing consultancy but later were employed by the BNYC.


A company called Profit Masters (Pty) Ltd continues to be a major beneficiary from BNYC under the pretext that it is providing consultancy including for the BNYC-BTC project. Allegations are that the company has since pocketed over a million pula.     


The Executive Director’s businesses have also been implicated in misuse of the organisation’s money. Evidence linking the above inference is verified by an event in which an invoice was sent to BNYC for payment of providing training, upon making a follow-up on the payment enquired, the person who answered the phone was an employee at a Samsung Shop at Rail Park Mall, owned by BNYC Executive Director.


While employees’ contracts were not renewed, some who are said to be the Executive Director’s allies have been given six months extensions. It has also come to this publications’ attention that management positions are dominated by new employees, including those who initially joined the organisation as interns.


This publication is also aware that the Chairperson of the BNYC, Louis Benedice Sibanda will be subject to investigation as a result of his involvement in administration duties which are supposed to be handled by the secretariat. The decision by Sibanda and his team to be hands on, believed to be the basis of maladministration has thrown the organization into turmoil. 

         
Moswaane’s motion could not be debated for two weeks and caused chaos in parliament following the Speaker of National Assembly Gladys Kokorwe and her deputy, Kagiso Molathegi’s decision not to allow it to be debated. In protest, MPs walked out of parliament on two occasions when the motion was deferred causing the quorum to collapse and ultimately, the end of parliament business.


The opposition parties had however voiced their concern with regard to government being mandated with the task of carrying out the investigations. Opposition instead had preferred the establishment of a Special Select Committee to deal with the investigations, an amendment which was moved by MP for Gaborone Bonnington South, Ndaba Gaolathe.

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Botswana gets P2.750 billion loan from World Bank

14th June 2021
Peggy Serame

Botswana’s efforts to accelerate key economic reforms got a boost following the approval of a $250 million loan by the World Bank today. The Programmatic Economic Resilience and Green Recovery Development Policy Loan (DPL) will support the implementation of Botswana’s Economic Recovery and Transformation Plan and is designed to strengthen COVID-19 pandemic relief while bolstering resilience to future shocks.

This DPL is also designed to support reforms to strengthen private sector development and promote green recovery. It is the first-ever World Bank budget support operation for Botswana and the first of two planned operations.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has placed a great burden on the country’s economy, its people, and firms. With this operation, the World Bank will support the government’s reforms to ensure social spending reaches the poorest and assists Batswana who are most affected by the Covid-19,” says World Bank Country Director for Eswatini, Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia and South Africa, Marie Francoise Marie-Nelly.

“This operation will also support reforms to attract private sector investments, contribute to diversification of exports, and increase job opportunities towards a green economy”. The operation provides both financial and technical support for government reforms to implement a Single Social Registry and to improve targeting of social spending on the most vulnerable while strengthening systems for future shocks.

It will also help strengthen the business environment for increased SME-led job creation and economic diversification through improved access to finance for individuals and small and micro enterprises (SMEs). Furthermore, the program will help Botswana to build the foundations for sustainable, “green” growth by supporting reforms to increase production of renewable energy by independent power producers, promoting and regulating rooftop solar energy generation, and embedding climate change considerations in environmental assessments.

DPLs are used by the World Bank to support a country’s policy and institutional reform agenda to help accelerate inclusive growth and poverty reduction. The COVID-19 pandemic led to a real gross domestic product (GDP) contraction of 7.9 percent in Botswana in 2020 – the largest in the country’s history.

This has also led to a depletion of existing fiscal buffers and has constrained revenue collection, reduced Government’s capacity and resources needed to accelerate the implementation of structural reforms and threatened to reverse progress in poverty reduction.

World Bank Group COVID-19 Response Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the World Bank Group has committed over $125 billion to fight the health, economic, and social impacts of the pandemic, the fastest and largest crisis response in its history.

The financing is helping more than 100 countries strengthen pandemic preparedness, protect the poor and jobs, and jump start a climate-friendly recovery. The Bank is also providing $12 billion to help low- and middle-income countries purchase and distribute COVID-19 vaccines, tests, and treatments.

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UB employees protest against Vice Chancellor

11th June 2021
Professor Norris

University of Botswana Vice Chancellor, Professor David Norris, has lost support of the university staff, with four unions joining forces to demand his removal from office.  

When he was appointed Vice Chancellor of the University of Botswana in December 2017, by the then Minister of Tertiary Education, Research, Science and Technology, Dr Alfred Madigele, Professor Norris was hailed as an angel sent from heaven.

Professor Norris succeeded Professor Thabo Fako, after the latter led the University during turbulent times — with the university experiencing financial challenges and dwindling enrolment numbers.

Four years down the line, Professor Norris’ presence at the University nauseates many. Academic staff together with manual workers want Norris shown the door as soon as yesterday.

University of Botswana Academic Senior Support Staff Union, (UBASSSU), University of Botswana Staff Union (UBSU) and University of Botswana Manual Workers Union, in a petition submitted to Minister of Tertiary Education, Research, Science and Technology, Douglas Letsholathebe, called for the dismissal of Norris. The unions said that under the leadership of the Professor, UB staff members suffered immeasurable pain, agony and frustration, and their welfare is entirely overlooked.

The unions petition Professor Norris on a number of issues: blurred roadmap, inflationary adjustments of salaries, security services, corporate governance, teaching and learning resources, deteriorating infrastructure, staff victimization as well as appointment of staff undemocratically.

In their entreaty, staff members say that Vice Chancellor has failed to provide a clear roadmap to guide a wide range of operations within the University. Prior to Norris’ arrival, they say, UB had developed a strategy using its own scholars, led by Prof Thapisa and Prof Moahi respectively.

“They executed the assignment efficiently with intricate insider knowledge of the institution and a global academic outlook. The result of the process was later subjected to external review by consultants, even though the process was later abandoned at huge cost to the University. The Vice Chancellor is three years into this post, but he has done nothing to show, and always blames staff or his predecessors for the problems at UB,” the unions said in their petition.

The petition signed by UBASSSU President, Motsomi Marobela, acting on behalf of Manual Workers Union President, Oneile Mpulubusi and Ghadzani Mhotsha (Staff Union President), argue that Norris relishes grand standing and cheap rhetoric to project a positive image of the University to outsiders while the institution faces monumental challenges.

“Even the so-called new strategy was imposed on the staff, since unions were never consulted. Staff in faculties were threatened and bullied into submission whenever they revealed flaws in the strategy. In short, this strategy lacks the critical ‘buy in’ from those charged with implementation, something which is crucial for any new strategy to succeed.”

Professor Norris, a renowned scholar, has been fingered in being reluctant to advance staff salaries, something which has been done four years ago. Unions claim that despite several shots to alter this status quo, efforts proved vain.

“The Vice Chancellor has dismally failed to bring about any meaningful action to ascertain that staff remunerations are adjusted to mitigate the effects of inflation, despite his attention being drawn to the erosion of the buying power of University staff. UB staff salaries have not been adjusted for a duration of four years, despite numerous attempts by the trade unions (UBASSSU, UBSU and Manual Workers Union) to appeal on behalf of the constituents for his intervention,” reads part of the petition.

University management are said to be relaxed when it comes to the security of the organization, petitioners claim. They stress that this has happened several times in recent years whereby management has allowed private security contracts, which augment the in-house UB security, to lapse before they can float a new tender.

The loan schemes that the University gets into on behalf of employees, is said to be another dare giving staff workers grief, perpetuated by Vice Chancellor Norris.

“It has happened several times that the contract between the financiers and the University lapses before anything is put in place for employees to continue getting financial assistance. Quite recently, it was communicated by a memo from Staff Welfare and Benefits Office that the loan scheme with FNB is coming to an end on the 30th April 2021 and this communication was made on the 29th, just a day before the end of such contract. This again shows lack of proactiveness on the part of management which is led by the VC,” said the petition.

The Vice Chancellor is said to be overreaching in UB administrative structures. Professor Norris, who chairs the Staff Appointment and Promotion Committee (SAPC), hosts illegal Pre-SAPC meetings, which are usually attended by Human Resources and Executive Management, and make decisions on who to appoint, promote or whose contract to renew before the substantive meeting of SAPC.

The Vice Chancellor, disgruntled petitioners say, uses SAPC to rubber stamp the executive decision – this amounts to corruption. “Three years in the institution he has virtually run the university alone. The core and critical Deputy Vice Chancellor posts of Academic Affairs; Finance and Administration; and Student Affairs, have not been filled. Instead he has appointed people on acting positions and he is shuffling them around as he pleases. Those he prefers have been acting for over two years, which is contrary to the Employment Act.”

Professor Norris is a researcher and lecturer, having served in different capacities in Botswana, the United States of America and South Africa.

Prior to joining UB, he was Deputy Vice Chancellor for Research and Innovation at the Botswana International University of Science and Technology (BUIST), a position he held since 2016. He is the sixth Vice Chancellor of UB.

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Gov’t slashes P16 million from YDF budget

11th June 2021
YDF

Ministry of Youth Empowerment, Sport and Culture Development has announced the return of the Youth Development Fund (YDF), after it was put on suspension by Government last year.

The fund however, has been slashed from P120 million to P104 million with the total number of projects expected to shrink. The YDF programme was temporarily suspended last year due to shortage of funds.

The programme introduced in 2009 by government, was a way of improving the lives of the youth as well as helping to fight unemployment.

When addressing the media, Minister of Youth Empowerment, Sport and Culture Development, Tumiso Rakgare said the ministry has resolved to start receiving applications for 2021/2022 Youth Development Fund from 09 June 2021 to 10 August 2021.

Rakgare said government was worried about the high numbers of unemployment hence the resolve to restart the YDF programme even in the midst of the pandemic.

He however revealed that due to budget challenges and the continued restrictive environment imposed by the Covid-19 pandemic, there would be some modifications to the implementation of YDF.

“Due to budget challenges the allocation for the fund in the current financial year has been reduced from P120 million to P104 million. Constituencies will thus be allocated less than the usual P2 million, which means that the number of funded projects will be significantly reduced,” he said.

He further said priority for funding shall be for businesses with the potential to create a higher number of jobs and those that address key government priorities.

The sectors to be prioritized include; Manufacturing, Agriculture, Tourism, Technology, Digitization and Innovation. Moreover, the threshold for YDF financing remains at P100 000.00 for individuals and P450 000.00 for youth industries or co-operatives.

In addition to funding youth projects, the Minister said P14, 393,066.77 will be reserved for completion and implementation of Special Projects such as development of Land-banks, mentorship partnerships and trainings.

All changes to the YDF programme are to apply only for this year while a comprehensive review is undertaken. The target is to have the revised programme implemented in the next financial year.

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