Members of Parliament (MPs) for the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP), acting in cahoots with opposing political parties legislators, on Tuesday circumvented the wheels of justice by changing the recently passed law on Declaration of Assets and Liabilities in order to avoid facing imprisonment.
The deadline to have declared was this week on the 20th February 2020 and contravention of the Act attracts a fine of P20 000 or an imprisonment term of two (2) years or both. However, following signal from government top officials, the MPs on Wednesday moved swiftly to amend the law at the 11th hour – two days before deadline as prescribed by the law – to avoid a fine of failure to declare assets. The new amendments have provided a relief not only to MPs but to Judges and other high ranking government officials.
President Mokgweetsi Masisi assented to the law on 22d October 2019 when it commenced into law – a day before the hotly contested 2019 General Elections. The Declaration of Assets and Liabilities Act was brought to parliament in a strange manner and enacted on the 2nd of September 2019. The hurried manner was largely seen as luring voters to elect the ruling BDP by way of rewarding it for having brought the crucial law which has been on the cards since 1999, when it was first tabled in parliament by former Minister of Health, Joy Phumaphi.
When the law finally passed last year, the implementation meant that Ministers, Judges, MP’s and top government officers (at E band and above) are now mandated to declare their assets and failure means defiance of the law. Before amending the law, Section 8 (1) as read with section 7 (5) of the Act, provided that a person subject to the Act shall make a declaration in the prescribed form within 60 days after – a) the coming into operation of this Act; b) his or her appointment or assumption of office or; c) the taking and subscribing before the National Assembly, of an oath of allegiance.
After amending the Act this week, Clause 2 of the Bill was amended by inserting, immediately after section 8 (which provides for when declarations are to be made), a new section; being section 8a) now provides “for an extension of time by the Minister.”The section now provides that “the Minister may, by order, extend the time provided therein (60 days), by any period that he or she considers necessary or expedient, provided that such period of extension shall not exceed twelve months.”
Minister of Presidential Affairs, Governance and Public Administration, Kabo Morwaeng thanked all the MP’s from across the political aisle to having agreed with the amendment and passed the law. “Let me thank you MPs for agreeing with this Bill wholeheartedly. We did this both as the ruling party legislators together with the opposition. We were all in agreement. Let me also point out that we are doing this in the interest of the whole nation and not for the selected few,” he said this from the floor of Parliament.
Meanwhile, when presenting the Bill, Morwaeng said the Declaration of Assets and Liabilities Act of 2019 was intended to complement existing legislation by regulating declaration of assets and liabilities of MPs, Senior government officials, Judiciary and officers employed by public bodies and private enterprises – “to monitor their assets and liabilities for purposes of detecting corruption, money laundering and acquisition of property from proceeds of crime.”
He was at pains in explaining that although the Act came into effect on the 22nd of October 2019, MPs, Ministers and Judges failed to declare not once but on two occasions. “The Act came into effect on the 22nd of October 2019. As a result declarations should have been submitted by 22nd of December 2019. But due to ‘administration challenges’ however, the declaration form was only prescribed on the 20th December 2019,” he stated.
He also attributed the breaking of the law to the late prescription of the form and the declaration which only, at the time of presenting this amendments, had about 2 days before the lapse of the declaration period. “Even assuming that 60 days declaration period should be reckoned from the time that the form was prescribed, only about a day is left before the period expires [20th February],” he added.
Morwaeng justified that though the focus currently is building the necessary administrative capacity to ensure effective implementation of the provisions of the Act, “there exists some level of discomfort among potential declarants that the penalties for the late submission of the declaration could be levied on them”.
BDP and Opposition MP’s show support for the controversial amendments
On his part, UDC legislator for Okavango, Kenny Kapinga told Parliament that he is in full support of the amendments as put forward by the Minister. “Personally, I don’t think we should be delaying with this issue. All that the Minister is asking for is to be authorised to extend the period as he has prescribed in the proposed amendment. I don’t think there is any reasons to oppose such a proposal. So I stand to support the proposed amendment and think we can minimise the debate on this issue by just passing this thing,” he said.
Mmusi Kgafela, Mochudi West BDP legislator also had this to say, “As MPs we make laws for peace building and harmony and enhance the smooth running of the country. If we don’t give the Minister permission to extend the period of declaration, many of us will be criminals, tomorrow. This will extinguish the peace that has been reigning in the country.” In addition Paulson Majaga who is Nata/Gweta BDP MP also agreed with Morwaeng’s amendments.
“We are the law makers and so it is upon us to pass and review all laws as we see fit. So that whatever law we do, for today and the next generation, and for the nation they must be happy. Law must be carefully passed because they take long to be amended. We have always agreed that there is need for such declared law,” he said. According to another BDP law maker, Ignatius Moswaane, the issue is not about MPs changing the law to benefit them per se.
He explained: “the main reason is, in which I support you Minister, is that this is not intended to benefit only MPs but also others like Judiciary, Ministers and top government officials which they are supposed to declare. But we are looking at the loopholes of the law which is unsettling – to avoid jailing the whole nation. One of them include that some assets include having valued them which may be a challenge for some because of lack of sufficient money. So others must not be jailed because of this even if they have good intentions.”
Moswaane further said that this law was not made for elections as some want to posit. “It was necessary as the nation has been waiting for it for years. It is what Batswana wanted,” he stressed. Meanwhile Leader of Opposition (LOO) and UDC Vice President Dumelang Saleshando also was in agreement with the amendments; “I support the request by the Minister.” He however pointed out his reservations pertaining to the law: ‘‘but I want to just state a few reservations,’’ he said.
“I am not a fan of Bills that come here on urgency. You were appointed Minister early November. You should have anticipated some of these things. Clearly within the Ministry someone slept on the job and now we have to mop up what is essentially a mess not of our doing,” he highlighted. The Maun West MP explained that the law making process in Botswana has a number of safe guards to make sure that MPs do not find themselves in the situation they found themselves in on Tuesday, indicating that, “one of those is that after a Bill has been passed by the house, the President is allowed some time to reflect and consult further before he assents to it.”
He added: “but you know this particular one was one of those laws that were rushed in the race to the General Elections. And it doesn’t surprise us that it was actually only assented to on the 22nd October, a day before elections. There was a rush for the law to assist with campaigns. Now we are here in a mess.” Saleshando said he hopes that in future, they do not take pride in saying that Parliament passed a whole number of Acts in one night and claim that it is good for productivity because if they do that, they will end up in such scenario.
He continued: “One gets the impression that the only difficulty with the law is the looming deadline. I think you [Minister Morwaeng] need to be more open to the public and the nation and let the nation know that there are essentially clauses in the law that require of us to look them again. Nothing to do with the deadline. But because it’s simply not implementable.” The Leader of Opposition further highlighted that if Morwaeng does not state that when he comes back to Parliament, even if its six months later with a set of new proposals to amend, he is going to raise suspicions about the real motive.
“Was it just the deadline? If it was the deadline we got the extension, where is the desire to amend now coming from? So I think it will be better in your response Minister, that you disclose to the nation that it’s much more than the deadline because also that you plan to amend because some of the clauses make it almost impossible for the law to become operational,” he said.
“I want to state it upfront that when it gets to that point where the law or where you will be presenting the amendments, we, from our side we suggest that the Bill to amend be committed to a Special Select Committee that will engage with the larger public about what should go into the law or [what] should not be part of it.”
For Saleshando, it is critical because to be honest they are an interested party and essentially they are conflicted. “If you do not want to be seen by the public, which is highly suspicious of politicians about the assets they have and their willingness to disclose, it will be very critical that the amendments be subjected to a Special Select Committee which will consult more broadly on the law,” Saleshando emphasised.
Stanbic Bank Botswana Quarterly Economic Review indicates that Botswana will fail to meet some of its Vision 2036 targets, particularly unemployment reduction and reaching high-income status.
The report says this is mainly due to the slow economic growth that the country is currently experiencing. This Quarterly Economic Review focuses on the 2020 Budget Speech.
The first paper reviews the entire budget with its key observations being that this budget is prepared as prescribed by the Public Finance Management Act; the priorities it seeks to address are drawn from Vision 2036 and the eleventh
The 2020 budget Speech, which was the maiden speech by the Minister of Finance and Economic Development, Dr. Thapelo Matsheka, and the first after the 2019 general elections, was delivered to Parliament on the 4th of February 2020.
It has been well received by the labour unions, business community, and the public at large as well as international organisations such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
It mainly derived its support from key facets including, emphasis on changing the business-as-usual approach to development; outlining the transformation agenda; fiscal reform that minimizes the negative impact on economic development and human welfare, competiveness and the decision to implement the 2019 negotiated and agreed public sector.
The budget’s progress review shows that economic growth was consistent with the NDP 11 projections, with growth of around 4 percent. At this growth rate, the country would neither ascend to a high-income status nor reduce unemployment towards the Vision 2036 target of a single digit.
Simple calculations of this review confirm that the economy will need to grow the Vision 2036’s target of 6 percent over the next 16 years for per capita income to increase from around USD 8,000.00 to above USD 12,000.00 in current prices.
Further, the population is anticipated to grow by only 2 percent per annum.
For this reason, the focal areas for the forthcoming FY’s budget include measures to increase economic growth towards an average of 6 percent per annum.
Economic diversification is reportedly progressing fairly well. The report says, the share of the non-mining private sector in value added has risen to 66 percent in 2018 from to 63 percent in 2015.
The sectoral pattern of growth showed that the performance of services sector (particularly transport & communications, trade, hotels & restaurants, and finance & business services) has been the silver lining and that of mining sector was subdued whilst the utility sector disappointed.
The drive towards the service sector of the economy, especially to low-productivity activities (tourism, public administration, wholesaling and retailing) does not bode well for the country’s development aspirations.
In the previous versions of this Quarterly Review, it was noted that there is need for the rethinking of economic diversification. Since the country’s domestic market is small, it is inevitable that economic diversification not only focus on broadening the product mix, but also the composition of exports and markets.
This understanding of economic diversification has not been embraced by this year’s budget. Consequently, Botswana’s exports are still overwhelmingly diamonds, which means that the rest of economic sectors are still highly dependent on foreign-exchange earnings from diamonds. Thus, “the transformation programme requires a review of the country’s entire ecosystem”.
The budget review of the economic context also depicts that an economy with positive medium-term prospects, with growth expected to recover to 4.4 percent in 2020 from the expected growth of 36 percent in 2019 largely due to faster growth of services sectors and, thereafter, to slow-down to 4 percent in 2021.
These projected growth rates are comparable to those of the IMF staff’s baseline scenario of 4.2 percent in 2020 and 4 percent in 2021. Thus, the business-as-usual scenario produces growth rates that are still too low to achieve Botswana’s development objectives and create enough jobs to absorb the new entrants into the labour market.
Trade tensions between the two major markets for diamond exports, viz., the United States of America and China, is one of the factors that are cited as contributing to, indeed, undermining not only the domestic growth, but also the fiscal position.
Another notable downside risk to both global and domestic growth is outbreak of the coronavirus in China around January 2020. This has been declared as a global health emergency. In an attempt to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus pneumonia, the Chinese authorities have ordered city lockdowns and extended holidays, of course, at the expense of near- term economic growth, according to the new Stanbic Bank Botswana report.
According to Nomura Holdings Inc., fewer migrant workers returned for work than in previous years and business activities have been slow to pick up. The havoc wreaked by the virus on the world’s second largest economy is likely to spill over to the global economy. In fact, it has resulted in a glut in crude oil and, thereby placed oil markets into a contango, i.e., a market structure where near-term prices trade at a discount to future contracts.
It also presents significant risks one of Botswana’s main drivers of economic growth, diversification and foreign exchange earnings. According to the Financial Times (February 13, 2020), Chinese tourists spent $130 billion overseas in 2018. Regardless of whether the growth materializes, the projected domestic growth rate would not transform the economy to a high-income one.
Progress towards reduction of unemployment, to a target of single digit, and poverty and achieving inclusive growth has also been relatively slow, the Stanbic Bank Botswana Review says.
Ministry of Presidential Affairs, Governance and Public Administration (MOPAGPA) has through the Office of the President (OP) proposed to avail Orapa House for use by private training institutions as well as research institutions involved in the area of technology development.
For a very long time the monumental building located in the heart of the city has been a white elephant, despite government purchasing it for nearly P80 million from De Beers in 2012.
However, government has now identified a productive use for the iconic building. “The overall vision is for the building to be transformed into a hub for digital technology research and development to be carried-out by institutions, such as; Limkokwing University, BIUST, BITRI and other relevant stakeholders.”
The decision was taken as government traverse a new path of transforming the economy from a mineral led economy to a knowledge based economy through the promotion of research and innovation. However, the facility will need major maintenance to be carried-out in order to meet the requirements of the proposed change in use.
“The work will include provision of laboratories, work stations, production areas and seminar rooms; audio visual centre, high speed internet connectivity, exhibition areas and offices,” reads the proposal note for the development.
These developments will be done through the refurbishment and maintenance of the main building, workshop, and ablution block, gate house, parking area, grounds, and access control and security service.
“There will be minimal modifications to the structure as it stands. The project is estimated to cost approximately P50, 000, 000,” says the report. In this regard, it is said, the initial scope of the OP facility will be modified to accommodate the envisaged digital technology research and development hub.
With funds needed to improve the building, OP has requested that; “the 2020/21 annual budget provision for Orapa House will need to be increased by P37,500,000 from P2,500,000 to P40,000,000 to kick start the maintenance works.” Funds will be sourced from the projects that have been delayed due to Covid-19 protocols during the 2020/21 financial year.
The building has been a thorny issue for government for years. Initially, OP was expected to move there but the move never materialised. At one point it was a question of whether the Office of the President and the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development were planning to override a decision by Parliament which rejected the proposal to buy Orapa House under the belief that government may be buying its own property. The building was to be bought at a negotiated cost of P79 million.
Again in 2012, Government had wanted to buy Orapa House for a negotiated P79m but the Finance and Estimates Committee of Parliament had rejected the request because of the inconsistencies realised in the supporting documents of the proposed procurement. The valuation of the building was put at P74 million.
The Ministry of Lands and Housing had initially offered De Beers P73, 000,000 as the purchase price. However, De Beers countered with P85, 000,000. On negotiation and converging of the minds, the selling price was finally agreed at P79, 000,000.
Auditor General, Pulane Letebele, has expressed discontentment at the worrying and deteriorating state of brigades in the country.
In an audit inspection which was carried out at Tshwaragano Brigade in Gabane, a number of observations showed weaknesses and shortcomings in the conduct of the financial affairs of the institution.
According to Letebele’s report, former students of the brigade had been engaged to carry out maintenance works on the school premises, comprising of painting, tiling, plumbing and electrical works, which covered the period from July 2017 to June 2018.
Although the agreed maintenance period had elapsed, the works had not been completed because of unavailability of funds and this situation had persisted up till the time of inspection in November 2019.
Auditor General says arrangements should have been made in time for funds to be available to complete these relatively minor works even before the works commenced.
Various contractors had been engaged for clearing the bush and for the supply of concrete stones, pit and river sand and hiring equipment for digging the trench towards the construction of an auto mechanics workshop, the report said.
It stated that the cost of services and supplies provided totalled P117 949.80. However, despite the services and the supplies having been paid for, the construction works had not commenced for a long period afterwards, resulting in the trench filling back in.
The audit inquiries had not elicited satisfactory responses as both the institution and the Ministry had not accepted the responsibility for the project, although orders for the provision for the supplies had been made. For their part, the Ministry had stated that they had sub warranted funds for the purchase of porta cabins.
Letebele indicated that it is therefore confusing that a project which is critical to the functioning of an institution such as this one would commence without a well-defined plan.
Furthermore, the accounting and maintenance of records for the supplies items were not of the standard prescribed by the Supplies Regulations and Procedures in that the supplies ledger cards, the main accounting records for Government assets, were not properly maintained for the recording of receipts and issues.
This had resulted in significant discrepancies between physical and ledger balances, while in other instances the supplies items had not been recorded at all.
The report says 24 of the 91 new computers found in the computer laboratory at Kumakwane ABC campus were not recorded anywhere, as were the other computers in the storeroom which could not be counted due to the disorderly storage conditions.
The institution had entered into a contract agreement with a security company for the provision of security services at Tshwaragano Brigade, ABC and Horticulture campuses at Kumakwane for a 2-year period which ended in June 2018, WeekendPost learnt.
After the contract expired in June 2018, an extension was granted till the 30th September 2018. Since then, there has been no security service coverage for the institution to-date. According to Auditor General, in the face of prevailing crimes, it is of paramount importance that government properties be protected by provision of security services at all times.
At Tlokweng Brigade, it was noted that the kitchen staff were working under difficult conditions as the kitchen facilities and equipment, such as the cold room, tilting pot, food warmers and solar power for hot water were dysfunctional. The kitchen roof was leaking and men’s restrooms was not working. All these need to be brought to a reasonable and functional state of repair.
The kitchen staff should use a purpose-designed Rations Ledger for the recording of receipts and issues of foodstuffs to reflect the usage of those items. As far back as 2014 the Department of Buildings and Engineering Services had found that the house occupied by the bursar was uninhabitable on account of structural defects, the report said.
A site visit during the audit had established that the house was indeed unfit for occupation as there were cracks on the walls, power switches were not working and the roof was leaking. On a sadder note, there were a number of finished items of clothing, such as dresses, shirts, and jackets from students’ practical exercises from the Fashion Design Textiles Workshop.
Auditor General shared her take on this, saying: “I have not been able to ascertain the policy on the disposal of products from these practicals. A trace of 103 green acid-proof overalls which had been purchased in August 2018 had indicated that there was no record of these items having been recorded or issued, nor were they available in stock. I was not able to obtain any explanation for this situation.”
Kgatleng brigade was also audited and inspected by Auditor General who observed that the brigade has 26 institutional houses at Bokaa, both old campus and new campus. Some of these houses are very old and dilapidated, with two declared uninhabitable. The condition of the houses is a clear indication of lack of care and maintenance of these properties.
At the time of the audit, there was no contractor engaged for the provision of security guard services at the new campus, after expiry of the previous one in July 2019. It is hoped that steps would be taken to safeguard the security of the premises and government properties against any acts of hooliganism.
In August 2019, there was a break-in at the electrical and at the plumbing maintenance workshops and a number of high value items, such as drilling machines, bolt cutters, spanners and cables, were stolen. The break-in and theft were reported to the police.
“However, at the time of writing this report I was not aware of the outcome of the police investigation, nor of any loss report submitted in terms of the Supplies Regulations and Procedures,” Letebele said.