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Friday, 19 April 2024

Gov’t swindled of millions of pula by private sector

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Minister of Finance & Economic Development, Dr Thapelo Matsheka has cried foul of the business community saying the private sector is not collaborative when it comes to government‘s efforts geared towards empowering Batswana through procurement.

Delivering the 2020/21 Budget Speech on Monday, Dr Matsheka said Government is concerned that, despite the efforts to empower Batswana through procurement, prices  charged by the private sector for purchase of goods and services by Government are substantially higher than the market prices. “This means that Government does not get value for money. Therefore, the private sector needs to appreciate that by so doing, they are depriving the public of essential services that are expected to be provided by Government,” he said.

Government procurement is worth around P15 billion annually. This is predominantly administered by Public Procurement & Asset Disposal Board (PPADB) as the body that receives bids, evaluates, adjudicates and allocates mega tenders. Amongst other goods and services acquired under the government procurement system is infrastructure development, medical and pharmaceutical services, supplies of goods, services and other works.

In an interview with WeekendPost on the sidelines of the budget speech Public Procurement and Asset Disposal Board (PPADB) Executive Chairperson Elijah Motshedi said his organization is well aware of exorbitant charges that government is subjected to by business owners. “We have noted this trend and it cuts across the entire procurement space whether supplies, works or services, when it comes to government the prices are hiked way beyond market threshold,” he said.

Motshedi explained that according to several studies undertaken by his organization it has emerged that several reasons contributes to this trend. “One of the findings from our assessment is that government payments process takes too long , thus services providers price for that as part of the risk , encompassing the fact that during a  longer payment duration rates may also go up.”

The PPADB Boss added  that  bidders  also price for  longer tendering  period taking into account that some government tendering processes can take longer and stretch to even a year “Bidders will then say by the time the tender closes  rates  may have gone  increased , thus they price for that resulting in exorbitant charges,” he said. Elijah Motshedi reiterated that PPADB has since highlighted these inefficiencies on the part of government to authorities. “We indicated to Government that these impediments in the procurements system have significant contribution to this increasing and worrying trend of above market price charges.

On the part of private sector Motshedi explained that the business community has also been addressed to make them aware of acceptable charges “ we have a price guide in place that we communicate to our service providers  to say let’s not rip off  and take  government for a ride with over 100 % profits charges,” he said.

PPADB has also included in the proposed review of PPAD act a bid to enable the board to negotiate prices “Currently after earmarking a bidder we cannot negotiate prices, this is not helping and we are hoping the proposed amendment once passed and approved into law will assist with making sure government funds are not depleted with these exorbitant charges.

CITIZEN ECONOMIC EMPOWERMENT LAW

Finance Minister however underscored that government is committed to citizen economic empower against all odds. Matsheka revealed that Government is currently formulating a law on citizen economic empowerment to support the existing Citizen Economic Empowerment (CEE) policy. “Over the years, Government has embraced citizen empowerment in its development planning process because of the low citizen participation in economic development in the country.”

 Minister Matsheka noted that among the existing initiatives, include citizen reservation, where only 100 percent citizen owned companies are eligible to participate; price preference where citizen owned companies, joint ventures/associations of citizens and non-citizens and local companies are eligible for preference; and mandatory subcontracting to citizen owned companies.

The other existing citizen economic initiatives include: the Economic Diversification Drive (EDD), where procurement is reserved for local manufacturers and service providers regardless of citizenship; Local Procurement Scheme (LPS), which facilitates economic development in rural areas using public procurement in line with the CEE Policy.

 The objective is to empower women, youth and people living with disability in general, and specifically in the rural areas in line with Section 66(3) of the PPAD Act. The Scheme also introduces preference in tenders within the District Administration Tender Committees (DATC) threshold, whether administered by the DATC or Ministerial Tender Committees (MTC).

The Scheme requires that a 20 percent target quota be reserved for the target groups in all tenders above the micro procurement financial threshold, but within the DATC financial threshold at all districts country wide. Minister Matsheka reiterated that despite the existence of these schemes, effective citizen participation in some sectors of the economy has not been satisfactory, hence the decision to move from policy to a law to ensure effectiveness in application and implementation of the citizen economic empowerment agenda.

He explained that the law will address the inequalities of the past by transferring the country’s wealth to disadvantaged Batswana, thereby allowing for more participation of citizens in the economy. Dr Matsheka shared that Government has developed a Consolidated Framework for Empowerment Programmes. A key feature of this Framework is the proposal to separate economic empowerment programmes and social upliftment schemes, which will be critical in promoting entrepreneurship development and enterprise development.

The Framework acknowledges the relevance and importance of social upliftment towards developing sustainable livelihood. “However, this model puts more emphasis on entrepreneurship to address unemployment, economic growth, poverty eradication and economic diversification,”  he said 

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Nigerians, Zimbabweans apply for Chema Chema Fund

16th April 2024

Fronting activities, where locals are used as a front for foreign-owned businesses, have been a long-standing issue in Botswana. These activities not only undermine the government’s efforts to promote local businesses but also deprive Batswana of opportunities for economic empowerment, officials say. The Ministry of Trade and Industry has warned of heavy penalties for those involved in fronting activities especially in relation to the latest popular government initiative dubbed Chema Chema.

According to the Ministry, the Industrial Development Act of 2019 clearly outlines the consequences of engaging in fronting activities. The fines of up to P50,000 for first-time offenders and P20,000 plus a two-year jail term for repeat offenders send a strong message that the government is serious about cracking down on this illegal practice. These penalties are meant to deter individuals from participating in fronting activities and to protect the integrity of local industries.

“It is disheartening to hear reports of collaboration between foreigners and locals to exploit government initiatives such as the Chema Chema Fund. This fund, administered by CEDA and LEA, is meant to support informal traders and low-income earners in Botswana. However, when fronting activities come into play, the intended beneficiaries are sidelined, and the funds are misused for personal gain.” It has been discovered that foreign nationals predominantly of Zimbabwean and Nigerian origin use unsuspecting Batswana to attempt to access the Chema Chema Fund. It is understood that they approach these Batswana under the guise of drafting business plans for them or simply coming up with ‘bankable business ideas that qualify for Chema Chema.’

Observers say the Chema Chema Fund has the potential to uplift the lives of many Batswana who are struggling to make ends meet. They argue that it is crucial that these funds are used for their intended purpose and not siphoned off through illegal activities such as fronting. The Ministry says the warning it issued serves as a reminder to all stakeholders involved in the administration of these funds to ensure transparency and accountability in their disbursement.

One local commentator said it is important to highlight the impact of fronting activities on the local economy and the livelihoods of Batswana. He said by using locals as a front for foreign-owned businesses, opportunities for local entrepreneurs are stifled, and the economic empowerment of Batswana is hindered. The Ministry’s warning of heavy penalties is a call to action for all stakeholders to work together to eliminate fronting activities and promote a level playing field for local businesses.

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Trade and Industry’s warning of heavy penalties for fronting activities is a necessary step to protect the integrity of local industries and promote economic empowerment for Batswana. “It is imperative that all stakeholders comply with regulations and work towards a transparent and accountable business environment. By upholding the law and cracking down on illegal activities, we can ensure a fair and prosperous future for all Batswana.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Merck Foundation and African First Ladies mark World Health Day 2024

15th April 2024

Merck Foundation, the philanthropic arm of Merck KGaA Germany marks “World Health Day” 2024 together with Africa’s First Ladies who are also Ambassadors of MerckFoundation “More Than a Mother” Campaign through their Scholarship and Capacity Building Program. Senator, Dr. Rasha Kelej, CEO of Merck Foundation emphasized, “At Merck Foundation, we mark World Health Day every single day of the year over the past 12 years, by building healthcare capacity and transforming patient care across Africa, Asia and beyond.

I am proud to share that Merck Foundation has provided over 1740 scholarships to aspiring young doctors from 52 countries, in 44 critical and underserved medical specialties such as Oncology, Diabetes, Preventative Cardiovascular Medicine, Endocrinology, Sexual and Reproductive Medicine, Acute Medicine, Respiratory Medicine, Embryology & Fertility specialty, Gastroenterology, Dermatology, Psychiatry, Emergency and Resuscitation Medicine, Critical Care, Pediatric Emergency Medicine, Neonatal Medicine, Advanced Surgical Practice, Pain Management, General Surgery, Clinical Microbiology and infectious diseases, Internal Medicine, Trauma & Orthopedics, Neurosurgery, Neurology, Cardiology, Stroke Medicine, Care of the Older Person, Family Medicine, Pediatrics and Child Health, Obesity & Weight Management, Women’s Health, Biotechnology in ART and many more”.

As per the available data, Africa has only 34.6% of the required doctors, nurses, and midwives. It is projected that by 2030, Africa would need additional 6.1 million doctors, nurses, and midwives*. “For Example, before the start of the Merck Foundation programs in 2012; there was not a single Oncologist, Fertility or Reproductive care specialists, Diabetologist, Respiratory or ICU specialist in many countries such as The Gambia, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Central African Republic, Guinea, Burundi, Niger, Chad, Ethiopia, Namibia among others. We are certainly creating historic legacy in Africa, and also beyond. Together with our partners like Africa’s First Ladies, Ministries of Health, Gender, Education and Communication, we are impacting the lives of people in the most disadvantaged communities in Africa and beyond.”, added Senator Dr. Kelej. Merck Foundation works closely with their Ambassadors, the African First Ladies and local partners such as; Ministries of Health, Education, Information & Communication, Gender, Academia, Research Institutions, Media and Art in building healthcare capacity and addressing health, social & economic challenges in developing countries and under-served communities. “I strongly believe that training healthcare providers and building professional healthcare capacity is the right strategy to improve access to equitable and quality at health care in Africa.

Therefore, I am happy to announce the Call for Applications for 2024 Scholarships for young doctors with special focus on female doctors for our online one-year diploma and two year master degree in 44 critical and underserved medical specialties, which includes both Online Diploma programs and On-Site Fellowship and clinical training programs. The applications are invited through the Office of our Ambassadors and long-term partners, The First Ladies of Africa and Ministry of Health of each country.” shared Dr . Kelej. “Our aim is to improve the overall health and wellbeing of people by building healthcare capacity across Africa, Asia and other developing countries. We are strongly committed to transforming patientcare landscape through our scholarships program”, concluded Senator Kelej.

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Interpol fugitive escapes from Botswana

15th April 2024

John Isaak Ndovi, a Tanzanian national embroiled in controversy and pursued under a red notice by the International Criminal Police Organization (Interpol), has mysteriously vanished, bypassing a scheduled bail hearing at the Extension 2 Magistrate Court in Gaborone. Previously apprehended by Botswana law enforcement at the Tlokweng border post several months earlier, his escape has ignited serious concerns.

Accused of pilfering assets worth in excess of P1 million, an amount translating to roughly 30,000 Omani Riyals, Ndovi has become a figure of paramount interest, especially to the authorities in the Sultanate of Oman, nestled in the far reaches of Asia.

The unsettling news of his disappearance surfaced following his failure to present himself at the Extension 2 Magistrate Court the preceding week. Speculation abounds that Ndovi may have sought refuge in South Africa in a bid to elude capture, prompting a widespread mobilization of law enforcement agencies to ascertain his current location.

In an official communiqué, Detective Senior Assistant Police Commissioner Selebatso Mokgosi of Interpol Gaborone disclosed Ndovi’s apprehension last September at the Tlokweng border, a capture made possible through the vigilant issuance of the Interpol red notice.

At 36, Ndovi is implicated in a case of alleged home invasion in Oman. Despite the non-existence of an extradition treaty between Botswana and Oman, Nomsa Moatswi, the Director of the Directorate of Public Prosecution (DPP), emphasized that the lack of formal extradition agreements does not hinder her office’s ability to entertain extradition requests. She highlighted the adoption of international cooperation norms, advocating for collaboration through the lenses of international comity and reciprocity.

Moatswi disclosed the intensified effort by law enforcement to locate Ndovi following his no-show in court, and pointed to Botswana’s track record of extraditing two international fugitives from France and Zimbabwe in the previous year as evidence of the country’s relentless pursuit of legal integrity.

When probed about the potential implications of Ndovi’s case on Botswana’s forthcoming evaluation by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), Moatswi reserved her speculations. She acknowledged the criticality of steering clear of blacklisting, suggesting that this singular case is unlikely to feature prominently in the FATF’s assessment criteria.

 

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