The President’s power to determine conditions of service and salary adjustment for the public service would be reaffirmed by the Court of Appeal in Gaborone later this Month or early February as the Botswana Federation of Public Service Unions (BOFEPUSU) seeks clarity of labour laws.
The federation has hired an advocate attorney from the neighbouring South Africa to help them settle the matter.
“There seems to be confusions as to whether there are two centres of power with respect to issues of adjusting conditions of public service, whether the President has the power on the other hand and the National Bargaining Council given the same powers on the other. It is an issue of law which we want the court to clarify,” confirmed BOFEPUSU Secretary General, Tobokani Rari.
The confusion on the Presidential powers came about after President Ian Khama Seretse Khama and later the Directorate of Public Service Management (DPSM) made pronouncement to the effect that there was going to be a salary increment ahead of last year’s general elections. Although many public service employees welcomed the four percent salary adjustment, BOFEPUSU was not happy because at the time of the announcement the national Bargaining Council was on and the negotiations were not yet finalised.
According to Rari, the case is of great importance to the public service because it would be testing labour laws that have not been tested before.
“If the court finds out that indeed there are two centres of power, then we have to reaffirm our participation in the bargaining council and that would mean a lot in the bargaining process in this country. So we believe it is a big case,” Rari added. The union has already submitted its proposal for salary and condition of service adjustment to the bargaining council ahead of national budget expected next Month.
Another case that will be heard before the appeal’s court on the same date is that of the government withdrawal of the secondment of Secretary Generals of BOFEPUSU member unions from their respective union offices. The Secretary Generals involved include that of the Botswana Sector of Educator’s Union (BOSETU), Botswana Teacher’s Union (BTU) and Botswana Landboards, Local Authorities and Health Workers union (BLLAHWU) who according to DPSM had to be withdrawn from their current offices as they had allegedly violated public service rules and uttered political statements.
The government appealed the matter after the High court ruled in favour of the union last year.
Since the two months historical public service strike of 2011, which caused close to 300 permanent job losses of some of the strikers, BOFEPUSU has been resolving their differences with their employer, DPSM, through the courts instead.
Rari has admitted in this week’s interview that the courts have been more effective as they had reshaped the country’s labour laws and that the union’s management wrongly handled its political involvement in last year’s general elections.
“Civil servants are a homogenous group, bound by a common interest. They acted together in unison when they went on strike and when they voted in the last general elections. It was a lesson that you cannot antagonise employees,” Rari further contended.
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.