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CBD rentals added P142 million on Gov’t bill

An additional rental amount of over P142 Million has been piled on the government bill after two Ministries, Youth,  Sports and Culture and that of Trade and Industry moved to the Gaborone Central Business District (CBD) and signed lease agreements with landlords without the authority of the Procurement and Asset Disposal Board (PPADB), the Auditor General, Pulane Letebele has discovered.


In June 2013, the Ministry of Youth, Sports and Culture signed a rental contract amounting to P81 228 890 for a period of five years, while the Trade Ministry signed its contract of P60 784 200 which runs for the same period in December 2012. Both contracts are far beyond the authority level of the MTC of P25 000 000 and according to the AG, the matters should have been referred to PPADB.


“This is yet another instance where Public officers flagrantly disregard clearly laid down rules, resulting in Public Funds being spent without proper authorities even where large sums of money, calling for extreme care and diligence are involved. This state of affairs continues to be a matter for concern by the PAC,” The AG expressed his concern.


In his latest report on the government accounts, the AG penned down his frustrations and that of the Public Accounts committee at officers who continue wasting the tax payers’ money unnecessarily.


In the instance of the Youth Ministry, a lease mentioned earlier was agreed following negotiations and the AG does not understand how the amount was reached when originally the Landlord tendered a lesser amount of P77 523 264.


“The enhanced rental payment from negotiations comparative to the bid amount is a clear indication of the laxity with which public officers handle their financial duties which in this case has resulted in loss of considerable sums of money. Unless and until officers advert themselves diligently, the public revenue will suffer losses through wasteful expenditure and this is a matter for concern of this office and of the Public Accounts Committee,” the AG further noted.


As a result of what appeared to have been improper lease of the office block occupied by the Ministry of Youth, Sports and Culture in the CBD , the PPADB instituted a tender audit to establish the circumstances of that tender, in terms of section 52 (2) of the PPADB Act.


The audit according to Letebele, established that having reached the decision to house all its five departments under one roof to achieve a smooth coordination of its functions, the Ministry had in August 2012, proceeded to issue an invitation to tender for the lease of an office block for a period of five years. The response to that invitation was only one bidder who had offered three rental options, ranging from P1 579 177 per Month at the top which included the cost of partitioning to P1 076 712 at the lowest for an open plan flooring all inclusive of value added tax (VAT).


Upon evaluation the Ministerial team had recommended the first option of P1 578 177 to the MTC. The committee had, however varied this recommendation in favour of the second option of P1 292 054 on the basis that the cost of partitioning was a one-off event which should not be spread over the entire lease period. Thus the approval of the tender by the committee was in the amount of P1 292 054 per month, translating to P77 523 264 over the entire lease period.


Subsequent to the tender approval by the MTC, the Ministry requested the Ministry of Lands and Housing to engage the landlord in price negotiations and finalisation of the lease agreement. Resulting from that, the lease was finally signed at a Monthly rental of P1 208 763, translating to P81 228 890.


MINISTRY OF TRADE AND INDUSTRY
Meanwhile another study of documentation relating to the lease of an office block by the Ministry of Trade and Industry in the CBD indicated that such lease was not with the approval of the PPADB in terms of the predetermined expenditure authority level.


As far back as 2011, the Ministry had determined that it was essential for the Ministry Headquarters and all its five departments to be housed in one office block to reduce administrative costs, enhance operational efficiency and service delivery to customers.

The Ministry officers then set on a search for suitable accommodation and identified an office block in the CBD which was recommended to the Ministry of lands and Housing on the advice of the Ministerial Tender Committee for rental and lease negotiations in March 2011. However in August of the same year, before the response of the Lands Ministry, the Ministry withdrew its earlier recommendations in favour of another office block, still in the CBD on the basis that the rental of the first block was too high.


The lease was finally procured with the developers of the second block office and lease agreement signed in December 2012 for a five year period ending November 2017 at a monthly rental of P 1 013 070, on the authority of approval of the MTC. However the total rental for the 5 year period amounted to P60 784 200, was far beyond the expenditure threshold of P25 000 000 appropriate to the committee.


When the matter came to the notice of the PPADB, the board instituted an audit to determine the circumstances of this award. The board audit found that in adjudicating over this tender, the MTC had failed in its duty to adhere to its expenditure limits and to advise the Ministry as the procuring entity to refer the matter to PPADB as the appropriate level of approval for the expenditure involved.

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Veteran journalist Karima Brown succumbs to COVID-19

4th March 2021
Karima-Brown

South Africa’s veteran journalist and broadcaster, Karima Brown has died on Thursday morning from COVID-19 related complications.

Media reports from the neighbouring country say Brown had been hospitalized and on a ventilator.

Brown anchored eNCA’s The Fix and was a regular political analyst on the eNCA channel.

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Botswana imports in numbers

1st March 2021
Botswana-imports

For so many years, Botswana has been trying to be a self-sufficient country that is able to provide its citizens with locally produced food products. Through appropriate collaborations with parastatals such as CEDA, ISPAAD and LEA, government introduced initiatives such as the Horticulture Impact Accelerator Subsidy-IAS and other funding facilities to facilitate horticultural farmers to increase production levels.

Now that COVID-19 took over and disrupted the food value chain across all economies, Botswana government introduced these initiatives to reduce the import bill by enhancing local market and relieve horticultural farmers from loses or impacts associated with the pandemic.

In more concerted efforts to curb these food crises in the country, government extended the ploughing period for the Southern part of Botswana. The extension was due to the late start of rains in the Southern part of the country.

Last week the Ministry of Agriculture extended the ploughing period for the Northern part of the country, mainly because of rains recently experienced in the country. With these decisions taken urgently, government optimizes food security and reliance on local food production.

When pigs fly, Botswana will be able to produce food to feed its people. This is evident by the numbers released by Statistics Botswana on imports recorded in November 2020, on their International Merchandise Trade Statistics for the month under review.

The numbers say Botswana continues to import most of its food from neighbouring South Africa. Not only that, Batswana relies on South Africa to have something to smoke, to drink and even use as machinery.

According to data from Statistics Botswana, the country’s total imports amounted to P6.881 Million. Diamonds contributed to the total imports at 33%, which is equivalent to P2.3 Million. This was followed by food, beverages and tobacco, machinery and electrical equipment which stood at P912 Million and P790 Million respectively.

Most of these commodities were imported from The Southern African Customs Union (SACU). The Union supplied Botswana with imports valued at over P4.8 Million of Botswana’s imports for the month under review (November 2020). The top most imported commodity group from SACU region was food, beverages and tobacco, with a contribution of P864 Million, which is likely to be around 18.1% of the total imports from the region.

Diamonds and fuel, according to these statistics, contributed 16.0%, or P766 Million and 13.5% or P645 Million respectively. Botswana also showed a strong and desperate reliance on neighbouring South Africa for important commodities. Even though the borders between the two countries in order to curb the spread of the COVID-19 virus, government took a decision to open border gates for essential services which included the transportation of commodities such as food.

Imports from South Africa recorded in November 2020 stood at P4.615 Million, which accounted for 67.1% of total imports during the month under review. Still from that country, Botswana bought food, beverages and tobacco worth P844 Million (18.3%), diamonds, machinery and fuel worth P758 Million, P601 Million and P562 Million respectively.

Botswana also imported chemicals and rubber products that made a contribution of 11.7% (P542.2 Million) to total imports from South Africa during the month under review, (November 2020).

The European Union also came to Botswana’s rescue in the previous year. Botswana received imports worth P698.3 Million from the EU, accounting for 10.1% of the total imports during the same month. The major group commodity imported from the EU was diamonds, accounting for 86.9% (P606.6 Million), of imports from the Union. Belgium was the major source of imports from the EU, at 8.9% (P609.1 Million) of total imports during the period under review.

Meanwhile, Minister of Finance and Economic Development Thapelo Matsheka says an improvement in exports and commodity prices will drive growth in Sub-Saharan Africa. Growth in the region is anticipated to recover modestly to 3.2% in 2021. Matsheka said this when delivering the Annual Budget Speech virtually in Gaborone on the 1st of February 2021.

He said implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Area Agreement (AfCFTA), which became operational in January 2021, could reduce the region’s vulnerability to global disruptions, as well as deepen trade and economic integration.

“This could also help boost competition and productivity. Successful implementation of AfCFTA will, of necessity, require Member States to eliminate both tariffs and non-tariff barriers, and generally make it easier to do business and invest across borders.”

Matsheka, who is also a Member of Parliament for Lobatse, an ailing town which houses the struggling biggest meat processing company in the country- Botswana Meat Commission, (BMC), said the Southern African Customs Union (SACU) recognizes the need to prioritize the key processes required for the implementation of the AfCFTA.

“The revised SACU Tariff Offer, which comprises 5,988 product lines with agreed Rules of Origin, representing 77% of the SACU Tariff Book, was submitted to the African Union Commission (AUC) in November 2020. The government is in the process of evaluating the tariff offers of other AfCFTA members prior to ratification, following which Botswana’s participation in AfCFTA will come to effect.”

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Sheila Tlou: On why women don’t get votes

1st March 2021
Sheila Tlou

BARAPEDI KEDIKILWE

Women continue to shadow men in politics – stereotypes such as ‘behind every successful man there is a woman’ cast the notion that women cannot lead. The 2019 general election recorded one of Botswana’s worst performances when it comes to women participation in parliamentary democracy with only three women elected to parliament.

Botswana’s former Minister of Health, Professor Sheila Tlou who is currently the Co-Chair, Global HIV Prevention Coalition & Nursing Now and an HIV, Gender & Human Rights Activist is not amused by the status quo. Tlou attributes this dilemma facing women to a number of factors, which she is convinced influence the voting patterns of Batswana when it comes to women politicians.

Professor Tlou plugs the party level voting systems as the first hindrance that blocks women from ascending to power. According to the former Minister of Health, there is inadequate amount of professionalism due to corrupt internal party structures affecting the voters roll and ultimately leading to voter apathy for those who end up struck off the voters rolls under dubious circumstances.

Tlou also stated that women’s campaigns are often clean; whilst men put to play the ‘politics is dirty metaphor using financial muscle to buy voters into voting for them without taking into consideration their abilities and credibility. The biggest hurdle according to Tlou is the fallacy that ‘Women cannot lead’, which is also perpetuated by other women who discourage people from voting for women.

There are numerous factors put on the table when scrutinizing a woman, she can be either too old, or too young, or her marital status can be used against her. An unmarried woman is labelled as a failure and questioned on how she intends on being a leader when she failed to have a home. The list is endless including slut shaming women who have either been through a divorce or on to their second marriages, Tlou observed.

The only way that voters can be emancipated from this mentality according to Tlou is through a robust voter education campaign tailor made to run continuously and not be left to the eve of elections as it is usually done. She further stated that the current crop of women in parliament must show case their abilities and magnify them – this will help make it clear that they too are worthy of votes.

And to women intending to run for office, Tlou encouraged them not to wait for the eleventh hour to show their interest and rather start in community mobilisation projects as early as possible so that the constituents can get to know them and their abilities prior to the election date.

Youthful Botswana National Front (BNF) leader and feminist, Resego Kgosidintsi blames women’s mentality towards one another which emanates from the fact that women have been socialised from a tender age that they cannot be leaders hence they find it difficult to vote for each other.

Kgosidintsi further states that, “Women do not have enough economic resources to stage effective campaigns. They are deemed as the natural care givers and would rather divert their funds towards raising children and building homes over buying campaign materials.”

Meanwhile, Vice President of the Alliance for Progressives (AP), Wynter Mmolotsi agrees that women’s participation in politics in Botswana remains a challenge. To address this Mmolotsi suggested that there should be constituencies reserved for women candidates only so that the outcome regardless of the party should deliver a woman Member of Parliament.

Mmolotsi further suggested that Botswana should ditch the First Past the Post system of election and opt for the proportional representation where contesting parties will dutifully list able women as their representatives in parliament.

On why women do not get elected, Mmolotsi explained that he had heard first hand from voters that they are reluctant to vote for women since they have limited access to them once they have won; unlike their male counterparts who have proven to be available night or day.

The pre-historic awarding of gender roles relegating women to be pregnant and barefoot at home and the man to be out there fending for the family has disadvantaged women in political and other professional careers.

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