The Auditor General, Pulane Letebele is questioning a payout of close to a Million Pula which was paid out to the surviving widow of the late Minister of Local Government and Rural Development, Maxwell Motowane by the Ministry following his death in late 2012.
In what smacks of irregularity, the Accounting Officer in the Ministry is said to have agreed with the Office of the President and someone at the National Assembly that the widow has to be paid the huge sum of money even though there was no justification for it.
Motowane’s wife was paid a compensation in the amount of P993 408 under the terms set out under Ministers, the Speaker, Assistant Ministers, Deputy Speaker and Leader of Opposition, functions, Pay and Privileges.
However, according to Letebele, the relevant section relating to the payment of compensation under those conditions provides that death or injury should have resulted from causes related to the duty or position of the members of the individual concerned. In other words, he explained that it is not sufficient to show that death of the member or individual occurred while he or she was still in the position, but there must be duty connection.
“In this particular case, despite persistent inquiries with senior officers of the Ministry, I have not been able to obtain a clear explanation of the circumstances of death of the Assistant Minister which justified the payment of compensation, save a statement that clarification had been sought from the Office of the President and the National Assembly and that they had both agreed,” Letebele revealed in his latest report on the Accounts of the Botswana Government for the last financial year.
The Accounting Officer of the Ministry is therefore expected to clarify the matter before the next Public Accounts Committee, which would commence at the end of the Parliament budget session because the Auditor general has not been able to understand why three people who are responsible to guard public funds have agreed to the transaction.
“Presumably the agreement was to his own recommendation or suggestions as the Accounting Officer who would ultimately assume full responsibility for all aspects of the payment, including justifications, authorisations and final accountability,” Letebele further pointed out and added that he was, “therefore unable to appreciate his apparent reluctance to own up responsibility for this payment which was made from Ministry funds. In the circumstances of absence of clear explanation of the cause of death as aforesaid, I am not able to certify that the payment of compensation was a proper charge to public funds.”
Motowane passed on at Bokamoso private hospital in late December, 2012 following a short illness. Prior to his demise, it was alleged that he was flown by the army helicopter to Gaborone from a poverty eradication occasion for the purpose of emergency medical attention.
The wife was then paid gratuity in the amount of P278 005 accrued up to the date of death, in line with the provisions of the Ministers and National Assembly Gratuities and Pensions Act which Letebele has no qualms with.
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.