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BURS owed P3.3 billion in tax arrears

Botswana Unified Revenue Services (BURS) is owed P3.3 billion from uncollected tax arrears, with interest and penalties accounting for majority of the arrears. According to BURS 2018 annual report, BURS is struggling to manage its debt by effectively and efficiently collecting the arrears to ensure the funds reach government coffers.  

The report is destined to be tabled by the Minister of Finance and Economic Development Dr. Thapelo Matsheka at Parliament. “In spite of efforts to reduce the arrears through recoveries and remissions, the total outstanding arrears as at 31st March 2018 stood at P3, 287, 089, 207,” the report indicated. The current amount is an increase of 21 percent over the total outstanding as at 31st March 2017 which was P2.7 billion.  

The report noted that the collection of arrears as at 1st April 2017 comprised of P1, 4 billion and P1.2 billion being value Added tax (VAT) and Assessed Income Tax respectively. Collections of old arrears for the 2017/18 financial years were P288 million whilst discharges, remissions and waivers amounted to P392 million, the report highlighted adding that the uncollected arrears that accrued in the 2017/18 financial year stood at P1, 3 billion as at 31st March 2018.

“The outstanding balance indicates that the interest and penalties account for 66 percent of the arrears whilst the principal tax outstanding is 34 percent. The bulk of the arrears bare charges for late payment of tax and late filing of returns,” it states. The Annual Report acknowledged that there were still some number of challenges experienced which negatively impacted optimum service delivery.  

“The BURS strategy for e-services uptake still faces a challenge of not getting a good response from taxpayers despite the uptake strategy that was implemented from financial year 2016/17,” it said. It also pointed out that this is shown by the percentage uptake for filing of returns in 2017/18 which was below target for all categories of tax returns except for Large taxpayers ‘VAT returns.

The Annual report said that underperformance of VAT and increasing tax arrears were the two major sources of concern for the Revenue Service and served to reverse the gains that were being made with respect to the revenue mobilisation drive. “Because of these two major challenges the Revenue Service has decided to intensify its inspection on business operations through the Debt Management Unit to follow up tax arrears as well as to ascertain tax compliance statuses of companies,” the report highlights.

It is understood that taxpayer education workshops and publicity campaigns will continue to be carried out under the strategy for e-services uptake in order to address the challenges. Meanwhile, the report also observed that in the same period (during the 2017/18 financial year) 808 seizures were recorded compared to 579 in 2016/17.

“The North region recorded the highest number of seizures which stood at 562. The seized goods were mainly cigarettes, tobacco leaves, vehicles and parts, assorted clothing, medicaments, ornaments, fuel and containers, drums, kitchenware, stationery, substances suspected to be dagga, food items including Agricultural products, electronic appliances, alcohol beverages etc.” The main reason for seizing the goods, according to the report was due to non-declaration or ex-detentions or false declaration or transporting smuggled or illicit goods.  

In another matter, a total of 800 detentions were recorded during the financial year under review compared to 688 in the previous year. “North region recorded the highest number of detentions which stood at 561. The detained goods were mainly vehicles, various food items including Agricultural products, medicaments, clothing, beauty products, electric appliances, fuel, alcohol beverages, etc.,” it points out.  

Furthermore, it stresses that the main reason for detentions were either pending production of proper documents/permits or pending proper clearance or payment of taxes/penalties or re-exportation or investigation/valuation. In line with its mandate, BURS performs tax assessment and collection functions on behalf of the Government and take appropriate measures to counteract tax evasion on the one hand, and to improve taxpayer service to a much higher level on the other.

The Botswana Unified Revenue Service (BURS) was established by an Act of Parliament in 2004, the Botswana Unified Revenue Service Act of 2003 and came into operation in August 2004.

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Fighting vulture poisoning in KAZA region.

3rd February 2023
As a response to avert vulture poisoning currently going on in Botswana and KAZA region, Birdlife Botswana has collaborated with three other partners (BirdWatch Zambia, BirdLife International & Birdlife Zimbabwe) to tackle wildlife poisoning which by extension negatively affect vulture populations.

The Director of Birdlife Botswana, Motshereganyi Virat Kootshositse has revealed in an interview that the project which is funded by European Union’s main goal is to reduce poisoning related vultures’ death and consequently other wildlife species death within the KAZA region.

He highlighted that Chobe district in Botswana has been selected as a pilot site as it has experienced rampant incidents of vulture poisoning for the past few months. In August this year at least 50 endangered white backed vultures were reported dead at Chobe National Park, Botswana after feeding on a buffalo carcass laced with poison.  In November this year again 43 white backed vultures were found dead and two alive after feeding on a zebra suspected to have poisoned.  Other selected pilots’ sites are Kafue in Zambia and Hwange in Zimbabwe.

Kootshositse further explained they have established a national and regional Wildlife Poisoning Committee. He added that as for the national committee they have engaged various departments such as Crop Productions, Agro Chemicals, Department of Veterinary Services, Department of Wildlife and National Parks and other NGOs such as Raptors Botswana to come together and find a long-lasting solution to address wildlife poisoning in Botswana. ‘Let’s have a strategy or a plan together to tackle wildlife poisoning,’ he stated

He also decried that there is gap in the availability of data about vulture poisoning or wildlife in general. ‘If we have a central point for data, it will help in terms of reporting and advocacy’, he stated

He added that the regional committee comprises of law enforcement officers such as BDF and Botswana police, village leadership such as Village Development Committee and Kgosi. ‘We need to join hand together and protect the wildlife we have as this will increase our profile for conservation and this alone enhances our visitation and boost our local economy,’ he noted

Kootshositse noted that Birdlife together with DWNP also addressed series of meeting in some villages in the Chobe region recently. The purpose of kgotla meetings was to raise awareness on the conservation and protection of vultures in Chobe West communities.

‘After realizing that vulture poisoning in the Chobe areas become frequent, we realise that we need to do something about it.  ‘We did a public awareness by addressing several kgotla meetings in some villages in the Chobe west,’ he stated

He noted that next year they are going to have another round of consultations around the Chobe areas and the approach is to engage the community into planning process. ‘Residents should be part of the plan of actions and we are working with farmers committee in the areas to address vulture poisoning in the area, ‘he added

He added that they have found out that some common reasons for poisoning wildlife are farmers targeting predators such as lions in retaliation to killing of their livestock. Another common incident cross border poaching in the Chobe area as poachers will kills an elephant and poison its carcass targeting vultures because of their aerial circling alerting authorities about poaching activities.

Kootshositse noted that in the last cases it was disheartening the incidents occurred three months apart. He added that for the first time they found that some of the body parts of some vultures were missing. He added harvesting of body parts of vultures is not a common practice in Botswana, although it is used in some parts of Africa. ‘We suspect that someone took advantage of the availability of carcasses and started harvesting their body parts,’

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Giant in the making: Everton Mlalazi

3rd February 2023

The music industry is at a point where artists are jostling for space because there are so many aspirants trying to get their big break, thus creating stiff competition.

In the music business it’s about talent and positioning. You need to be at the right place at the right time with the right people around you to propel you forward.
Against all odds, Everton Mlalazi has managed to takeover the gospel scene effortlessly.
To him, it’s more than just a breakthrough to stardom, but a passion as well as mission directly appointed by the Lord.

Within a short space of 2 years after having decided to persue a solo career, Mlalazi has already made it into international music scene, with his music receiving considerable play on several gospel television and radio stations in Botswana including other regional stations like Trace Africa, One Gospel, Metro FM in South Africa, Hope FM in Kenya and literally all broadcast stations in Zimbabwe.

It doesn’t only stop there, as the musician has already been nominated 2 times and 2 awards which are Bulawayo Arts Awards (BAA) best Male artists 2022, StarFM listerners Choice Award, Best Newcomer 2021 and ZIMA Best Contemporary Gospel 2022, MLA awards Best Male artist & Best Gospel Artist 2022.

Everton’s inspiration stems from his ultimate passion and desire to lead people into Godly ways and it seems it’s only getting started.
The man is a gospel artist to put on your radar.

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African countries call on WHO to increase funding

2nd February 2023

Minister of Health Dr Edwin Dikoloti says Africa member states call on World Health Organization (WHO) to ensure equitable resource allocation for 2024-2025. Dr Dikoloti was speaking this week at the WHO Executive Board Meeting in Geneva, Switzerland.

He said countries agreed that there is need to address the budget and funding imbalances by increasing the programme budget share of countries and regions to 75% for the next year.

“The proposed budget for 2024-2025 marks an important milestone as it is the first in Programme Budget in which country offices will be allocated more than half of the total budget for the biennium. We highly welcome this approach which will enable the organization to deliver on its mandate while fulfilling the expectations for transparency, efficiency and accountability.”

The Botswana Health Minister commended member states on the extension of the General Programme of Work (GPD 13) and the Secretariat work to monitor the progress towards the triple billion targets, and the health-related SDGs.

“We welcome the Director’s general proposed five priorities which have crystalized into the “five Ps” that are aligned with the GPW 13 extension. Impact can only be achieved through close coordination with, and support to national health authorities. As such, the strengthening of country offices is instrumental, with particular focus on strengthening national health systems and on promoting more equitable access to health services.”

According to Dr Dikoloti, the majority of countries with UHC index that is below the global median are in the WHO Africa region. “For that, we call on the WHO to enhance capacity at the regional and national levels in order to accelerate progress. Currently, the regional office needs both technical and financial support in order to effectively address and support country needs.”

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