An almost perfect week for Botswana International University of Science and Technology (BIUST) which was punctuated by the opening of the academic year was interrupted by a calculated bomb scare and, later, a delivery of a 36 page so called rebuttal by an organisation representing the former Vice Chancellor of the University, Professor Hillary Inyang to the Assistant Minister, Dr Unity Dow.
As Dr Dow was perusing through the voluminous document, security agents were busy evacuating the school and searching the campus for a potential explosive for the better part of Wednesday. All the while students were bussed to various points for safety and the academic calendar disrupted.
Several hours after the bomb scare reports, the former Distinguished Professor of the University delivered a dossier titled, “Open letter of rebuttal of your claims against former BIUST Vice Chancellor before the eminent Parliament of Botswana on Friday, December 12, 2014 as reported in the widely distributed WeekendPost of Saturday, December 13 – 14, 2014.” While Dow was reportedly unfazed by the rebuttal, there were indications from the context of the prose that Inyang and the Ministry had serious differences on the handling of BIUST affairs.
Weekend Post has established that Prof Inyang had wanted to set up satellite BIUST campuses around the country at such places as Maun, Serowe, Francistown and others, but the Ministry did not support the idea. The Serowe campus was already on the pipeline.
Dr Dow vehemently opposed a budget proposal by Inyang which some qualified in the billions of Pula and was allegedly even more than the Ministry’s annual budget. This publication learns that the figure would have been about P13 billion over a considerable period of time. The Former Vice Chancellor had also wanted to set up a School of Sociology within BIUST, officials at the Ministry praised his idea but advised that it was not suited for a science and technology oriented university like BIUST adding that there were going to be budget constraints to finance its setup. In his proposal to the Ministry Inyang had budgeted for a total intake of 5000 students, an idea which was also shot down because of budget constraints.
Prof Inyang and his team take issue with Dr Dow because: “you as a prominent member of the Botswana legal community, endorsed rumours about operations at BIUST and the former Vice Chancellor-Distinguished Prof. Hilary Inyang, and took the shocking step of reporting them as facts to the Parliament of Botswana without contacting him or any of his associates, or the former Council Chair-Mr. Serwalo Tumelo, or the Chancellor Mr. Festus Mogae for verification.” The Professor’s team say the rebuttal is also necessitated by the need to clear potential reputational damage that Dr Dow’s claims in Parliament against the former Vice Chancellors may occasion.
They wrote: “On behalf of our organization – The Global Union of Experts for International Development (GUEFIND) which is an informal union of internationally acclaimed intellectuals, serving former public servants at ranks that include ex-ministers/cabinet members of several countries, entrepreneurs, and opinion leaders across cultures and nationalities including Batswana, we hereby congratulate you on your recent appointment as Assistant Minister of the Ministry of Education and Skills Development (MOESD) of the Republic of Botswana.”
The reasons that the Assistant Minister had handed to Parliament over the resignation of the Vice Chancellors, particularly Prof. Hilary I. Inyang, are not true. “Prof. Inyang clearly stated reasons for his resignation. These reasons (mostly interference which is herein reported in succeeding sections) were also echoed by both his predecessor and successor.” He disputes reports that he hired foreigners without permits, paid them higher salaries compared to locals, and even created posts for them. He qualifies these as rumours spread by some staff members.
In his resignation letter dated October 7, 2014, Prof. Inyang says he had stated that “If there are any outstanding allegations against me or my BIUST Administration, I would like to know about them so that we can address them before my departure from BIUST,” and “Per my contract, this will allow six months for my help to the Ministry in an interim period during which my successor can be recruited.”
Inyang is of the view that his departure was hurried in late November, 2014, through a letter to him urging him to leave without serving the Interim period that he had proposed which would have helped in concluding academic programming, staffing and accommodation arrangements for students early enough for the opening of the 2014/2015 academic year. The Ministry had duly paid the Distinguished Professor for the six months he demanded and decided not to keep him around. Upon his exit, it is understood that Inyang had made a proposal to the Ministry to the effect that he be engaged as a consultant to help BIUST, but the Ministry had other ideas.
In his rebuttal Prof. Inyang explains why he opposes long-term career-long appointments of staff at BIUST. “In an academic institution, unproductive staff often uses the cushion of permanent appointment to perpetuate mediocrity and unproductivity.” This how the former BIUST Chancellor esteems himself: “GUEFIND notes that BIUST and indeed Botswana had been fortunate to attract Distinguished Professor Hilary Inyang to lead BIUST. Though unassuming and polite, he is an internationally admired and respected scholar who exerts considerable influence on agencies and scholars worldwide. He is a member of the Education Caucus of the United Nations Commission on Sustainable Development, a multiple award winner in several countries and a recent finalist for the position of United Nations Assistant Secretary-General.”
As the security agents continue their search for the potential source of the bomb threat, and Dr Dow scans through Professor Inyang’s rebuttal, BIUST is back to normal. Classes have resumed and there are over 1500 students trying to build a future at the University. The new chairman of the BIUST Council, Bernard Bolele is confident that the University has stabilised and should be in a position to produce high quality graduates soon.
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.