The government is struggling to keep up with annual wage demands of drought relief and Ipelegeng workers and has been unprocedural using the road traffic fine Fund money to make up for the shortfall.
It has surfaced that the poverty eradication initiative by the Office of the President is slowly proving to be an economic challenge because millions of Pula are occasionally transferred from other accounts to cover salaries of thousands of Ipelegeng workers across the country.
Not a very long time ago, over P6 Million Pula was taken from the Fund to pay Police volunteers and special constable wages, the WeekendPost has learnt.
Just recently over P14 Million Pula was borrowed from the same road traffic fund towards the payment of wages for Ipelegeng workers pending availability of funds in the relevant vote. Despite promises that the money would be paid back, the Ministry has not been able to pay back half of the borrowed amount.
“In my view of abundance of funds in the Fund, which has been the subject of my comment, the accounting officer as in the past had made an advance of P14 686 717 towards the payment of wages for Ipelegeng workers, pending availability of funds in the relevant vote of expenditure. In the event only P5 390 689 was reimbursed during the year under review. I do not consider this a proper use of the Fund in terms of its purpose,” complained the Auditor General in his recent accounts of the Botswana government.
Poverty and unemployment remains among the top key problems affecting Botswana.
A recent trend analysis by the Afro-barometer, a non-government research organisation shows that the present living conditions of individual Batswana and future economic conditions of the country are worsening. Using 2003 and 2014 as the reference period, the study showed that the overall proportion of Batswana who have on “many times” or “always” gone without clean water, medicine and cash income is increasing and the government of the day is under political and social pressure to deliver those services to its people and ensure better living conditions, including borrowing from its reserves.
The road traffic fine Fund money is meant to be used for the financing of activities aimed at promoting road safety and curbing roads traffic offences. However because of the blurred line on division of road traffic and general duty Police functions, there is a tendency to not meet the normal recurrent expenditure budget items from the Fund, including purchase of vehicles which would normally be provided for in the recurrent estimates of expenditure.
It has also come to light that the Fund continues to be used for providing advances as short-term bridging finance for expenditure appropriate to recurrent budgets of other departments including purchase of vehicles for the Botswana Defence Force (BDF).
The situation according to the Auditor General could lead to confusion and loss of financial control under these circumstances.
Meanwhile, the Government’s plan of formulating a Botswana Poverty Eradication Strategy, which is expected to be finalized by end of September this year is envisaged to guide all efforts of Government towards poverty eradication across sectors and to ensure consistency of action and results as well as fostering inclusive growth in the country’s economic development agenda and help it stick to its allocated budget.
The Directorate of Public Prosecutions (DPP)’s decision to reject and appeal the High Court’s verdict on a case involving High Court Judge, Dr Zein Kebonang has frustrated the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) and Judge Kebonang’s back to work discussions.
JSC and Kebonang have been in constant discussions over the latter’s return to work following a ruling by a High Court panel of judges clearing him of any wrong doing in the National Petroleum Fund criminal case filed by the DPP. However the finalization of the matter has been hanged on whether the DPP will appeal the matter or not – the prosecution body has since appealed.
Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) top brass has declined a request by Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) to negotiate the legal fees occasioned by 2019 general elections petition in which the latter disputed in court the outcome of the elections.
This publication is made aware that UDC Vice President Dumelang Saleshando was left with an egg on his face after the BDP big wigs, comprising of party Chairman Slumber Tsogwane and Secretary General Mpho Balopi rejected his plea.
“He was told that this is a legal matter and therefore their (UDC) lawyer should engage ours (BDP) for negotiations because it is way far from our jurisdiction,” BDP Head of Communications, Kagelelo Kentse, told this publication.
This spelt doom for the main opposition party and Saleshando who seems not to have confidence and that the UDC lawyers have the dexterity to negotiate these kind of matters. It is not clear whether Saleshando requested UDC lawyer Boingotlo Toteng to sit at the table with Bogopa Manewe, Tobedza and Co, who are representing the BDP to strike a deal as per the BDP top echelons suggested.
“From my understanding, the matter is dealt with politically as the two parties are negotiating how to resolve it, but by far nothing has come to me on the matter. So I believe they are still substantively engaging each other,” Toteng said briefly in an interview on Thursday.
UDC petitioners saddled with costs after mounting an unprecedented legal suit before the court to try and overturn BDP’s October 2019 victory. The participants in the legal matter involves 15 parliamentary candidates’ and nine councillors. The UDC petitioned the court and contested the outcome of the elections citing “irregularities in some of the constituencies”.
In a brief ruling in January 2020, Judge President Ian Kirby on behalf of a five-member panel said: “We have no jurisdiction to entertain these appeals. These appeals must be struck out each with costs including costs of counsel”. This was a second blow to the UDC in about a month after their 2019 appeals were dismissed by the High Court a day before Christmas Day.
This week BDP attorneys decided to attach UDC petitioners’ property in a bid to settle the debts. UDC President Duma Boko is among those that will see their property being attached with 14 of his party members. “We have attached some and we are on course. So far, Dr. Mpho Pheko (who contested Gaborone Central) and that of Dr, Micus Chimbombi (who contested Kgalagadi South) will have their assets being sold on the 5th of February 2021,” BDP attorney Basimane Bogopa said.
Asked whether they met with UDC lawyers to try solve the matter, Bogopa said no and added. “Remember we are trying to raise the client’s funds, so after these two others will follow. Right now we are just prioritising those from Court of Appeal, as soon as the high court is done with taxation we will attach.”
Saleshando, when contacted about the outcomes of the meeting with the BDP, told WeekendPost that: “It would not be proper and procedural for me to tell you about the meeting outcomes before I share with UDC National Executive Committee (NEC), so I will have to brief them first.”
UDC NEC will meet on the 20th of next month to deal with a number of thorny issues including settling the legal fees. Negotiations with other opposition parties- Alliance for Progressives and Botswana Patriotic Front (BPF) are also on the agenda.
Currently, UDC has raised P44 238 of the P565 000 needed to cover bills from the Court of Appeal (CoA). This is the amount in a UDC trust account which is paltry funds equating 7.8 per cent of the overall required money. In the past despite the petitioners maintaining that there was promise to assist them to settle legal fees, UDC Spokesperson, Moeti Mohwasa then said the party has never agreed in no way to help them.
“We have just been put in debt by someone,” one of the petitioners told this publication in the past. “President’s (Duma Boko) message was clear at the beginning that money has been sourced somewhere to help with the whole process but now we are here there is nothing and we are just running around trying to make ends meet and pay,” added the petitioner in an interview UDC NEC has in December last year directed all the 57 constituencies to each raise a minimum of P10, 000. The funds will be used to settle debts that are currently engulfing the petitioners with Sheriffs, who are already hovering around ready to attach their assets.
The petitioners, despite the party intervention, have every right to worry. “This is so because ‘the deadline for this initiative (P10, 000 per constituency) is the end of the first quarter of this year (2021),” a period in which the sheriffs would have long auctioned the properties.
President of the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) Duma Boko’s alliance with former President Lt Gen Ian Khama continues to unsettle some quarters within the opposition collective, who believe the duo, if not managed, will once again result in an unsuccessful bid for government in 2024.
While Khama has denied that he has undeclared preference to have Boko remaining as leader of UDC, many believe that the two have a common programme, while other opposition leaders remain on the side-lines.