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Govt swindled of millions of pula by private sector

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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ENVIRONMENT ISSUES: Masisi asks Virginia for help

24th March 2023

President Mokgweetsi Masisi says the issue of sustainable natural resources management has always been an important part of Botswana’s national development agenda.

Masisi was speaking this week on the occasion of a public lecture at Virginia Polytechnic, under theme, “Merging Conservation, Democracy and Sustainable Development in Botswana.”

Botswana, according to Masisi, holds the view that the environment is fragile and as such, must be managed and given the utmost protection to enable the achievement of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

“It is necessary that we engage one another in the interchange of ideas, perspectives, visualizations of social futures, and considerations of possible strategies and courses of action for sustainable development,” said Masisi.

On the other hand, dialogue, in the form of rigorous democratic discourse among stakeholders presents another basis for reconfiguring how people act on their environments, with a view to conserving its resources that “we require to meet our socio-economic development needs on a sustainable basis,” Masisi told attendees at the public lecture.

He said government has a keen interest in understanding the epidemiology and ecology of diseases of both domestic and wild animals. “It is our national interest to forestall the dire consequences of animal diseases on our communities livelihoods.”

President Masisi hoped that both Botswana and Virginia could help each other in curbing contagious diseases of wildlife.

“We believe that Virginia Tech can reasonably share their experiences, research insights and advances in veterinary sciences and medicines, to help us build capacity for knowledge creation and improve efforts of managing and containing contagious diseases of wildlife. The ground is fertile for entering into such a mutually beneficial partnership.”

When explaining environmental issues further, Masisi said efforts of conservation and sustainable development might at times be hampered by the emergence and recurrence of diseases when pathogens mutate and take host of more than one species.

“Water pollution also kills aquatic life, such as fish, which is one of humanity’s much deserved sources of food. In this regard, One Health Approach imposes ecological responsibility upon all of us to care for the environment and the bio-diversity therein.”

He said the production and use of animal vaccines is an important space and tool for conservation, particularly to deal with trans-border animal diseases.

“In Botswana, our 43-year-old national premier pharmaceutical institution called Botswana Vaccine Institute has played its role well. Through its successful production of highly efficacious Foot and Mouth vaccines, the country is able to contain this disease as well as supply vaccines to other countries in the sub-region.:

He has however declared that there is need for more help, saying “We need more capacitation to deal with and contain other types of microbial that affect both animals and human health.”

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Masisi saddened by deaths of elephant attacks

24th March 2023

President Mokgweetsi Masisi has expressed a strong worry over elephants killing people in Botswana. When speaking in Virginia this week, Masisi said it is unfortunate that Batswana have paid a price with their own blood through being attacked by elephants.

“Communities also suffer unimaginable economic losses yearly when their crops are eaten by the elephants. In spite of such incidents of human-elephant conflict, our people embrace living together with the animals. They fully understand wildlife conservation and its economic benefits in tourism.”

In 2018, Nthobogang Samokwase’s father was attacked by an elephant when travelling from the fields, where he stayed during the cropping season.

It was reported that the man couldn’t run because of his age. He was found trampled by the elephant and was pronounced dead upon arrival at the hospital.

In the same year, in Maun, a 57-year-old British woman was attacked by an elephant at Boro and died upon arrival at the hospital. The woman was with her Motswana partner, and were walking dogs in the evening.

Last month, a Durban woman named Carly Marshall survived an elephant attack while on holiday in the bush in Botswana. She was stabbed by one of the elephant’s tucks through the chest and was left with bruises. Marshall also suffered several fractured ribs from the ordeal.

President Masisi Botswana has the largest population of African elephants in the world, totaling more than 130 000. “This has been possible due to progressive conservation policies, partnerships with the communities, and investment in wildlife management programmes.”

In order to benefit further from wildlife, Masisi indicated that government has re-introduced controlled hunting in 2019 after a four-year pause. “The re-introduction of hunting was done in an open, transparent and democratic way, giving the communities an opportunity to air their views. The funds from the sale of hunting quota goes towards community development and elephant conservation.”

He stressed that for conservation to succeed, the local people must be involved and derive benefits from the natural resources within their localities.

“There must be open and transparent consultations which involve all sectors of the society. It is against this backdrop that as a country, we lead the continent on merging conservation, democracy and sustainable development.”

Masisi stated that Botswana is open to collaborative opportunities, “particularly with identifiable partners such as Virginia Tech, in other essential areas such as conservation, and the study of the interplay among the ecology of diseases of wild animals and plants, and their effects on human health and socio-economic development.”

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Gov’t commit to injecting more funds in fighting HIV

24th March 2023

Minister for State President Kabo Morwaeng says government will continue to make resources available in terms of financial allocations and human capital to ensure that Botswana achieves the ideal of eradicating HIV and AIDS as a public health threat by 2030.

Morwaeng was speaking this morning in Gaborone at the High-Level Advocacy event to accelerate HIV Prevention in Botswana. He said the National AIDS and Health Promotion Agency (NAPHA), in partnership with UNAIDS, UN agencies, the Global Fund and PEPFAR, have started a process of developing transition readiness plan for sustainability of HIV prevention and treatment programmes.

“It is important for us, as a country that has had a fair share of donor support in the response to an epidemic such as HIV and AIDS, to look beyond the period when the level of assistance would have reduced, or ceased, thus calling for domestic financing for all areas which were on donor support.”

Morwaeng said this is important as the such a plan will guarantee that all the gains accrued from the response with donor support will be sustained until the end when “we reach the elimination of HIV and AIDS as a public health threat by 20230,” he said.

“I commit to continue support efforts towards strengthened HIV prevention, accentuating HIV primary prevention and treatment as prevention towards Zero New Infections, Zero Stigma, Discrimination and Zero AIDS related death, to end AIDS in Botswana.”

He reiterated that government commits to tackle legislative, policy and programming challenges that act as barriers to the achievement of the goal of ending AIDS as a public health threat.

In the financial year 2022/2023, a total of 119 Civil Society Organizations, including Faith Based Organizations, were contracted with an amount of P100 million to implement HIV and NCDs prevention activities throughout the country, and the money was drawn from the Consolidated Fund.

Through an upcoming HIV Prevention Symposium, technical stakeholders will use outcomes to develop the Botswana HIV Prevention Acceleration Road Map for 2023-2025.

Morwaeng stated that government will support and ensure that Botswana plays its part achieving the road map. He said there is need to put hands on the deck to ensure that Botswana sustains progress made so far in the fight against HIV and AIDS.

“There are tremendous achievements thus far to, reach and surpass the UNAIDS fast track targets of 95%- 95%- 95% by the year 2025. As reflected by the BAIS preliminary results of 2021, we now stand at 95- 98- 98 against the set targets.”

“These achievements challenge us to now shift our gears and strive to know who are the remaining 5% for those aware of their HIV status, 2% of enrolment on treatment by those aware of their status and 2% of viral suppression by those on treatment.”

Explaining this further, Morwaeng said shift in gears should extend to coming up with robust strategies of determining where these remaining people are as well as how they will be reached with the necessary services.

“These are just some of the many variables that are required to ensure that as a country, we are well positioned to reaching the last mile of our country’s response to the HIV and AIDS pandemic.”

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