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P1 billion is unaccounted for at MoESD

MINISTER OF EDUCATION: VP Masisi

Financial affairs of the Ministry of Education and Skills Development (MoESD) are giving auditors a headache and an audit attempt by the Auditor General to validate the balances of the accounts controlling the payment of allowances to government sponsored students in tertiary institutes in Botswana had proven futile.


In the process it had become evident that these payments which were made through the agency of a local commercial bank were not monitored by periodic and regular reconciliations of the accounts to ensure that the monthly cash disbursements to the bank for this purpose were properly and comprehensively accounted for. As a result the status of the year-ending balances appearing in the Annual statements of Accounts could not be explained or clarified.


Due to the weaknesses and shortcomings in the MoESD management of these affairs, the Auditor General (AG) have not been able to satisfy himself regarding the debits totalling over P1 billion, that is, P1 077 543 072 in the advance account used for the disbursement to the commercial bank. In his latest report on the government Accounts, the AG could not even tell whether or not it truly represented the amounts payable to students in the year under review and that it had all been accounted for accordingly.


“In view of the foregoing, I am concerned that despite the matter having been raised in the previous reports and at the level of PAC, the large sums of money at the disposal of the Ministry for the payment of students allowances are still not given the attention that the situation demands. As suggested last year, urgent steps need to be taken to bring matters under proper control,” the AG explained.


Still under the students allowances account, the AG could not make out whether the year-end balance totalling over P74 Million in the same advance account represented the current undisbursed amounts due to students and yet to be accounted for or is just a cumulative balance which could not be attributed to identifiable beneficiaries.


The auditors also failed to understand the credit balance of P44 588 470 under the deposit suspense account controlling the disbursement to students as it was not clear that it was consistent with the true status of the transactions.


The MoESD further demonstrated management failure in terms of salary payment of its teachers. An audit examination in a test check basis of salary and allowances paid to teachers during the last financial year, revealed instances in almost all cases sampled of rampant overpayments of these benefits totalling over P4 Million, the AG has also revealed.


From sample selected, according to the AG, the overpayments were calculated to a total of P4 177 065, “implying that the actual figure is substantially much more than this. Ideally one would have liked to have given a definite figure on the overpayments but this was not possible because of time constraint and the enormity of numbers of teachers involved.


Teachers who were mostly overpaid were on long-term training. Instead of getting a half salary after a year of training, they were given full salaries, some continued to be paid training allowances after completion or termination of training and those who were not resident on campus were paid both off campus and living allowances.


The AG has therefore called on the Ministry to strengthen its administrative procedures to ensure that its financial affairs are in order.

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DPP halts JSC, Judge’s back to work plan

25th January 2021
Kebonang

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.

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BDP rejects Saleshando payment proposal

25th January 2021
MP saleshando

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.

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Boko-Khama axis viewed with suspicion

25th January 2021
boko-and-khama

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.

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