He says Batswana are giving birth at an alarming rate
President Lt Gen Ian Khama has revealed that his government has noticed that high birthrate is straining the national budget. The President was speaking at an inhouse meeting with public servants in the Kweneng region.
Khama took swipe at ‘Botswana’s high birth rate, almost blaming it for the strained budget. Botswana has a birth rate of 21.34 births/1,000 population.
“Batswana are giving birth at an alarming rate and our budget can’t keep up with the high birthrate. High birthrate means more clinics and classrooms which means more teachers and nurses and that means money,” the President said.
Government scales down civil service The President also revealed that his government is also scaling down the public service hence retiring and resigning public servants will not be replaced. As a result any hope of the unemployed youth taking over from retiring civil servants have been dashed.
Botswana’s unemployement rate is estimated at around 17 percent, a figure that many say is incompatible with the Botswana’s economic status owing to its small population. The President, revealed in an inhouse meeting with Kweneng public servants that his government desperately wants to cut down the public service.
“We are already doing it and we will not be firing or retrenching anyone but we have instead opted not to replace voluntary exits like those resigning and retiring,” he said at Ntsweletau Primary School on Thursday.
Khama was responding to a question relating to ‘acute shortage of staff hence poor service delivery’ by the public servants. He pointed out: “You see I did not retrench you during the economic meltdown despite your irritable toyi-toying and frequent calls for regime change because I was mindful of your situations and lives,” he added.
Khama said the country’s budget is burdened hence the decision to trim down the public service, a move he ascribed to slow developments in the country. “We have a wage bill of 16/17 million Pula from a 54 billion budget. You are five percent of the population which is hundred and thirty thousand. So we have to balance this because if we irrationally hike your salaries other components will suffer,” he said.
Khama who has been blamed for making overiding statements and remarks in relation to salary negotiations treaded carefully on the matter. “You see we have made our proposal to the Public Service Bargaining Council and we are ready to effect it by the 1st of April. As you may be aware the PSBC is ongoing and as you know them they might refuse the offer but its up to them,” he said to the deafening silence of his audience.
Khama also had words of caution for teachers when he heared them say they have stopped participating in extra curriculum activities as adviced by their unions.
“Thats unkind.You did not suffer the injustices you are subjecting the innocent students in your younger school days but you will agree with me that the conditions that the then teachers worked under during those times were worse than yours today.You are making life difficult for us,” he said.
Khama against teachers’ overtime demands Khama revealed that he told his Vice President, Mokgweetsi Masisi who was tasked with turning the Ministry of Education and Skills Development woes around that the fifteen percent overtime allowance demanded by the teachers is too much and will not be realised. “We have about 26 000 teachers in Botswana and and you can imagine how much we will need if each is to get that overtime allowance, it will increase th wage bill,” he remarked.
Khama continued: “My position is simple, I told the authorities that we should leave the teachers to work for eight hours then hire other coaches who will be responsible for extra curriculum activities.”
He said that apart from from their demands, he feels that teachers are being overworked. “Imagine having to work after a normal school day, then be forced to go to the grounds, weekends and having to travel longer trips, its exhausting hence lets rest them.”
The President was however quick to add that he knows that his decision will rub some the wrong way. “I know that other teachers will not be happy at this because they want to increase income. Some even cook the books and this wories us because the overtime bill then goes up and that is an indirect salary increase that is not budgeted for,” he said.
His remark has rubbed Botswana Federation fo Public Service Union (BOFEPUSU) the wrong way as he predicted. In a brief interview, the Federation’s Secretrary General, Tobokani Rari said the decision does not pass the common sense test as it doesn’t solve anything but rather raises more questions than answers.
“If there is no money to pay the teachers overtime, where will government get the money to pay the said coaches? What we are saying is that let the teachers be remunerated as per the provisions of the Employment Act which stipulates that any work beyond the stipulated 8 hours a day should be compensated,” he said.
Rari added that the decision to engage outside coaches will haunt the government at a later stage as teachers have been trained to work with and nurture kids. He said children will eventually get abused by untrained coaches.
On downsizing of the public service, Rari said the already leaking public service is going down to the drain. “This raises questions of whether the government has been having people it doesn’t need. But at the end of it all, it is the public that will suffer poor service,” he said.
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.