The son to the late former President Sir Seretse Khama and one of the younger twin brothers to former President Ian Khama, Tshekedi Khama has this week attracted the wrath of a scathing response from the Minister of Finance and Development Planning Dr Thapelo Matsheka.
This comes after Tshekedi drew first blood when responding to Matsheka’s Budget Speech, saying the new Finance Minister has embarrassed the President in his presentation. However, Matsheka responded this week saying Tshekedi’s concern is more of a fight for control of the country and its natural resources than anything else. “In some instances, the fight for the control of the country and party is at the core of wild accusations. These people are fighting for the control of the nation’s resources,” Matsheka said of Tshekedi in Parliament.
Tshekedi blames Masisi’s administration on poaching
Matsheka said the nation should, however, dispel the myth that only a few people care or know about rhinos more than others. Tshekedi Khama was of the view that there has been an increase in poaching ever since the current government came into power but the views raised by Khama relating to poaching are misleading, he said. “It is not true that poaching specifically increased under the new government, as poaching has always been a challenge even under your leadership as the Minister of Environment, Wildlife and Natural Resources,” Matsheka observed.
However the Finance Minister admitted that recently, there has been an increase in rhino poaching and this has been the case even in neighbouring countries, such as Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe. This cannot be placed at the door of the current government, he lashed out. Matsheka said this after Tshekedi teared down his remarks on poaching, blaming President Mokgweetsi Masisi’s administration for poor policies towards rhino safeguarding.
“The poaching of rhinos, an endangered species is but only one example where the removal of the weapons from department of Wildlife and National Parks (DWNP) was a huge mistake, the responsibility of protecting our wildlife was given to the Botswana Defence Force (BDF), which has demonstrated that they cannot protect our wildlife, in the same way as the DWNP anti-poaching unit did, also in this house last week Hon Kapinga read the Act that gives the Wildlife Department the right to carry arms – therefore the story that the DWNP were doing so illegally has to be considered as incorrect and misleading,” Tshekedi stated.
He had also added that it is apparent that there is little or no coordination in dealing with wildlife poaching. He continued: “stop telling the world your failings, as of today the country has lost more than 40 rhinos, let alone elephants as well as illegal bush meat trade which are no longer reported, as it is now common place, how tragic, do government have a plan to address these poaching, (dehorning and its announcement is the reason for the spike in Rhino poaching).” Tshekedi took the opportunity to offer his assistance to Masisi and the Ministry in combating poaching. In 2015, he added, whilst doing the northern Botswana elephant count not one elephant carcass was observed over an area of 110,000sq km, but today that is not the case at all.
Matsheka: missing P100 billion at Bank of Botswana under investigation
The Serowe West Member of Parliament, Tshekedi raised worry that Matsheka as the Minister of Finance remained silent on the P100 billion supposedly hived of from Bank of Botswana. “But we are all aware that Bank of Botswana has said no such amount is missing interesting that in the state of the nation address by President Masisi, he said that foreign exchange reserves stood at P71.4 billion,” Tshekedi highlighted.
He also said that this debacle will create suspicion as well as uncertainty amongst the world banking sector as well as investors. “What will they think of Botswana, this will damage our country’s reputation, and by extension effect the livelihood of Batswana, if it hasn’t already,” Tshekedi said. When responding to the Botswana Patriotic Front (BPF) MP, Matsheka posited: “the issue of the alleged P100 billion is still before the courts of law and the due process should be allowed to take its course, without fear or favour. We will all have our day in court; we know what we did in government”, which was later to be incorrect when Leader of Opposition Dumelang Saleshando interjected. Matsheka then rephrased to say the matter is still “under investigation”.
On Air assets; “we cannot afford these toys” – Tshekedi Khama
According to Tshekedi, BDF was spending recklessly on air assets and misplacing its priorities. “On BDF budget, air assets, it is astounding that this budget, would put so much of the budget towards air assets which would include helicopter gunships, Mirage 2000, fighter jets, amongst others, we simply cannot afford these expensive toys,” Tshekedi lashed out. He asked rhetorically: ‘‘does the Minister of Defence, Justice and Security or the Commander of BDF not live in Botswana? Have they not seen the diabolical state of schools, hospitals, roads, government buildings police stations, etc?’’
In response Matsheka said he does not concur with the members that the BDF sector has been allocated a substantial amount of the budget. However, he added that “we need to understand that the security of this country and its assets/infrastructure built over time has to be protected. Needless to say that the allocation Members are alluding to are not only for air assets but for the entire defence and security of this country.”
Further, he reiterated the clarification provided by the Minister of Defence, Justice and Security Kagiso Mmusi that indeed, during the financial year 2020/21, the BDF will not procure any military or other aircraft from development budget allocated for air assets. “As the Minister has explained, the term air assets is broad. Out of P1.94 billion development budget allocated to the entire Ministry, an amount of P80 336, 890.00 (eighty million three hundred and thirty six thousand, eight hundred and ninety Pula), will be used for air assets, which in this case include radar operation system upgrades, integrated landing systems, etc.”
He went on to highlight that he does not need to go on to the issue of military expenditure in the current budget. “I will admit that Tshekedi Khama knows more about procurement at the BDF than I do but I assure him that we are dealing with the legacy of the past and that we shall resolve it,” he said.
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.