The Minister of Finance and Economic Development Mr. Kenneth Matambo has performed the usual annual ritual of delivering an uninspiring budget speech. Most of the things presented were a recitation of what has been said in previous speeches.
The only significant difference is that this time around the speech was shorter. It was the last but one before President Seretse Khama Ian Khama relocates from the State House to Mosu. As usual the Ministry of Education, Health and Wellness, and Justice Defence and Security got the largest share of the recurrent budget.
The perennial problem in Botswana is not so much the budgetary constraint but misplaced priorities and poor implementation. The other problem that has bled the economy is rampant official corruption. The shortcomings of the budget will become clearer when the Ministerial budgets are presented to parliament in weeks to come.
The Minister confirmed what we long suspected that financial controls of public funds have collapsed under his leadership. Apparently tenders are awarded without “proof of availability of funds”, lease agreements signed outside budget, and funds diverted without following established virement processes that entails approval by the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development. Unfortunately the biggest culprit is the Office of the President (OP). It is doubtful whether Matambo has the back bone to bring the OP to order.
In respect of the development budget the Ministry of Mineral Resources, Green Technology and Energy Security, Ministry of Land Management, Water and Sanitation Services and Ministry of Defence, Justice and Security got the largest budget allocations. Suddenly the Ministry of Education and Ministry of Health and Wellness are downgraded despite serious backlogs; when you expect District Hospitals to be Referral Hospitals, Primary Hospitals to be District Hospitals, Clinics with Maternity to be Hospitals, and Health Posts to become Clinics with Maternity. In Education there is also a backlog of classrooms and houses for teachers.
When it becomes to the Defence budget, the Minister tried and I doubt if he will succeed to convince the Legislators that government has finally listened to the plight of army personnel concerning deplorable housing conditions. It is an open secret that government intends to spend P22 billion on defence during NDB 11 mainly to purchase jet fighters and other sophisticated weapons. This is meant to deal with external threats that are yet to be explained to Batswana. Members of the security forces currently require highly motivated personnel not jet fighters. Housing and improved working conditions will go a long way to address their immediate needs.
In anticipation of resistance against the defence budget from the Legislators, government occasionally resorts to bogeyman’s threats, dirty tactics and acts of intimidation. In the past we witnessed an unusual increased presence of top army personnel attending parliament when the defence budget was being debated. Defence and security analysts suspect that the recent reports that some military weapons of war were uncovered in Kgatleng is not by coincidence.
It is possibly a fluke meant to drive the point that security threats are real to justify the unrealistic defence budget. We are also reminded of a similar incident when a hand grenade was planted around the government enclave. Legislators must not be deceived by the amateurish DISS tactics and see the defence budget for what it is – a move to trigger an arms race in the sub-region. A self-created threat must be rejected with the contempt it deserves.
According to the budget speech, government has abandoned the policy of economic diversification and have adopted the policy of diversification of revenue sources. While progressive governments aim at putting money in the pockets of citizens to spend on basic commodities Botswana government has resorted to pick pocketing. This will negatively impact on household disposable income that is already under severe stress.
One of biggest challenges that the budget was expected to address is unemployment, underemployment and poverty. On this one government has failed dismally. In fact during the Khama era the economy shed off more jobs than it created. Based on the budget speech there is no reason to expect that the situation will change.
Government continues to preach economic growth without equitable distribution of resources. Economic growth is a necessary but not sufficient determinant of job creation. Traditionally Botswana has had a jobless growth. It is a structural problem that continues today. Even when the economy grew by seven (7) to eight (8) per cent very few jobs were produced.
Although government claims to be pursuing a social democratic program the Minister categorically stated that it is not the responsibility of government to create jobs except to ensure a conducive environment “to facilitate the development of the private sector.” We wish to state that this is where we fundamentally differ with the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP). In our view Botswana is a developmental state that requires direct state intervention in the economy. The private sector remains undeveloped to fully play any meaningful role. What we have are mainly parasitic tenderpreneurs.
The construction industry is dominated by state owned Chinese companies. Surprisingly government finds it unacceptable to establish state owned construction companies to compete with foreign entities. If we can do it for diamonds, water, and energy sectors it should be possible to do the same in construction, manufacturing and other strategic sectors. Capitalist pretenders would rather be crowded out by foreign state owned companies than state owned local companies. It is worth noting that Mascom and Orange Mobile Networks were never crowded out by BeMobile.
The problem with an economy that is dominated by foreign investors and a liberal system of repatriating profits will remain stunted with a few stinking rich people and the poor majority. There is an urgent need for a law on indigenous economic empowerment. With respect to foreign direct investment Botswana is doing badly. Part of the reason is that the country has immigration laws that are clearly anti-foreign direct investment. Foreigners in this country are not safe since they are frequently deported without any valid reasons.
In fact the Khama administration has deported more foreigners than all the three previous presidents combined. Deportations have become a norm instead of being an exception. With a well-established and relatively independent judiciary crime suspects must be taken through the justice system and be given a fair trial rather than being deported willy-nilly for reasons that are never disclosed.
Foreigners must not be discriminated against. Efforts to create a conducive environment for the private sector to flourish, is negated by hostile immigration laws. For many years government talked about a one-stop shop to process residence and work permits but nothing has happened up to today.
For some strange reasons foreign investors are taken through a vetting process by the DISS. Such a system means that in Botswana foreign investors are treated as crime suspects while other countries treat them with utmost respect and offer them incentives. It is a well-known fact that DISS exists mainly to protect business interest of the Khama brothers.
Hence it is widely suspected that business people who threaten their business interest are barred from investing in Botswana unless they partner with the powers that be. It is a rotten system that the government of Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) must decisively deal with during the first 100 days.
Intelligence and Security Service Act, which is a law that establishes the Directorate of Intelligence and Security Service (DIS), provides for establishment of a Parliamentary Committee. Recently, the President announced nine names of Members of Parliament he had appointed to the Committee.
This announcement was preceded by a meeting the President held with the Speaker and the Leader of Opposition. Following the announcement of Committee MPs by the President, the opposition, through its leader, made it clear that it will not participate in the Committee unless certain conditions that would ensure effective oversight are met. The opposition acted on the non-participation threat through resignation of its three MPs from the Committee.
The Act at Section 38 provides for the establishment of the Committee to examine the expenditure, administration and policy of the Directorate. The law provides that the Parliamentary Committee shall have the same powers and privileges set out under the National Assembly (Powers and Privileges) Act.
On composition, the Committee shall consist of nine members who shall not be members of Cabinet and its quorum shall be five members. The MPs in the Committee elect a chairperson from among their number at their first meeting.
The Members of the Committee are appointed by the President after consultation with the Speaker of the National Assembly and Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly. It is the provision of the law that the Committee, relative to its size, reflect the numerical strengths of the political parties represented in the National Assembly.
The Act provides that that a member of the Committee holds office for the duration of the Parliament in which he or she is appointed. The Committee is mandated to make an annual report on the discharge of their functions to the President and may at any time report to him or her on any matter relating to the discharge of those functions.
The Minister responsible for intelligence and security is obliged to lay before the National Assembly a copy of each annual report made by the Committee together with a statement as to whether any matter has been excluded from that copy in pursuance of the provision of the Act.
If it appears to the Minister, after consultation with the Parliamentary Committee, that the publication of any matter in a report would be prejudicial to the continued discharge of the functions of the Directorate, the Minister may exclude that matter from the copy of the report as laid before the National Assembly.
So, what are the specific demands of the Opposition and why are they not participating in the Committee? What should happen as a way forward? The Opposition demanded that there be a forensic audit of the Directorate. The DIS has never been audited since it was set up in 2008, more than a decade ago.
The institution has been a law unto itself for a longtime, feared by all oversight bodies. The Auditor General, who had no security of tenure, could not audit the DIS. The Directorate’s personnel, especially at a high level, have been implicated in corruption. Some of its operatives are in courts of law defending corruption charges preferred against them. Some of the corruption cases which appeared in the media have not made it to the courts.
The DIS has been accused of non-accountability and unethical practices as well as of being a burden on the fiscus. So, the Opposition demanded, from the President, a forensic audit for the purpose of cleaning up the DIS. They demand a start from a clean slate.
The second demand by the Opposition is that the law be reviewed to ensure greater accountability of the DIS to Parliament. What are some of the issues that the opposition think should be reviewed? The contention is that the executive cannot appoint a Committee of Parliament to scrutinize an executive institution.
Already, it is argued, Parliament is less independent and it is dominated by the executive. It is contended that the Committee should be established by the Standing Orders and be appointed by a Select Committee of Parliament. There is also an argument that the Committee should report to Parliament and not to the President and that the Minister should not have any role in the Committee.
Democratic and Parliamentary oversight of the intelligence is relatively a new phenomenon across the World. Even developed democracies are still grappling with some of these issues. However, there are acceptable standards or what might be called international best practices which have evolved over the past two or so decades.
In the UK for instance, MPs of the Intelligence and Security Committee are appointed by the Houses of Parliament, having been nominated by the Prime Minister in consultation with the Leader of the Opposition. This is a good balancing exercise of involvement of both the executive and the legislature. Consultation is taken for granted in Botswana context in the sense that it has been reduced to just informing the Leader of Opposition without much regard to his or her ideas; they are never taken seriously.
Furthermore, the current Committee in the UK has four Members of the ruling party and five MPs from the opposition. It is a fairly balanced Committee in terms of Parliamentary representation. However, as said above, the President of Botswana appointed six ruling party MPs and three from the opposition.
The imbalance is preposterous and more pronounced with clear intentions of getting the executive way through the ruling party representatives in the Committee. The intention to avoid scrutiny is clear from the numbers of the ruling party MPs in the Committee.
There is also an international standard of removing sensitive parts which may harm national security from the report before it is tabled in the legislature. The previous and current reluctance of the executive arms to open up on Defence and Security matters emanate from this very reason of preserving and protecting national security.
But national security should be balanced with public interest and other democratic principles. The decision to expunge certain information which may be prejudicial to national security should not be an arbitrary and exclusive decision of the executive but a collective decision of a well fairly balanced Committee in consultation with the Speaker and the minister responsible.
There is no doubt that the DIS has been a rogue institution. The reluctance by the President to commit to democratic-parliamentary oversight reforms presupposes a lack of commitment to democratization. The President has no interest in seeing a reformed DIS with effective oversight of the agency.
He is insincere. This is because the President loathes the idea losing an iota of power and sharing it with any other democratic institution. He sees the agency as his power lever to sustain his stay in the high office. He thought he could sanitize himself with an ineffective DIS Committee that would dance to his tune.
The non-participation of the opposition MPs renders the Committee dysfunctional; it cannot function as this would be unlawful. Participation of the opposition is a legal requirement. Even if it can meet, it would lack legitimacy; it cannot be taken seriously. The President should therefore act on the oversight demands and reform the DIS if he is to be taken seriously.
For years I have trained people about paradigm shifts – those light-bulb-switch-on moments – where there is a seismic change from the usual way of thinking about something to a newer, better way.
I like to refer to them as ‘aha’ moments because of the sudden understanding of something which was previously incomprehensible. However, the topic of today’s article is the complete antithesis of ‘aha’. Though I’d love to tell you I’d had a ‘eureka ‘, ‘problem solved’ moment, I am faced with the complete opposite – an ‘oh-no’ moment or Lost Leader Syndrome.
No matter how well prepared or capable a leader is. they often find themselves facing perplexing events, confounding information, or puzzling situations. Confused by developments of which they can’t make sense and by challenges that they don’t know how to solve they become confused, sometimes lost and completely clueless about what to do.
I am told by Jentz and Murphy (JM) in ‘What leaders do when they don’t know what to do’ that this is normal, and that rapid change is making confusion a defining feature of management in the 21st century. Now doesn’t that sound like the story of 2020 summed up in a single sentence?
The basic premise of their writing is that “confusion is not a weakness to be ashamed of but a regular and inevitable condition of leadership. By learning to embrace their confusion, managers are able to set in motion a constructive process for addressing baffling issues.
In fact, confusion turns out to be a fruitful environment in which the best managers thrive by using the instability around them to open up better lines of communication, test their old assumptions and values against changing realities, and develop more creative approaches to problem solving.”
The problem with this ideology however is that it doesn’t help my overwhelming feelings of fear and panic which is exacerbated by a tape playing on a loop in my head saying ‘you’re supposed to know what to do, do something’. My angst is compounded by annoying motivational phrases also unhelpfully playing in my head like.
Nothing happens until something moves
The secret of getting ahead is getting started
Act or be acted upon
All these platitudes are urging me to pull something out of the bag, but I know that this is a trap. This need to forge ahead is nothing but a coping mechanism and disguise. Instead of owning the fact that I haven’t got a foggy about what to do, part of me worries that I’ll lose authority if I acknowledge that I can’t provide direction – I’m supposed to know the answers, I’m the MD! This feeling of not being in control is common for managers in ‘oh no’ situations and as a result they often start reflexively and unilaterally attempting to impose quick fixes to restore equilibrium because, lets be honest, sometimes we find it hard to resist hiding our confusion.
To admit that I am lost in an “Oh, No!” moment opens the door not only to the fear of losing authority but also to a plethora of other troubling emotions and thoughts: *Shame and loss of face: “You’ll look like a fool!” * Panic and loss of control: “You’ve let this get out of hand!” * Incompetence and incapacitation: “You don’t know what you’re doing!”
As if by saying “I’m at a loss here” is tantamount to declaring “I am not fit to lead.” Of course the real problem for me and any other leader is if they don’t admit when they are disoriented, it sends a signal to others in the organisation stating it’s not cool to be lost and that, by its very nature encourages them to hide. What’s the saying about ‘a real man never asks for direction. ..so they end up driving around in circles’.
As managers we need to embrace the confusion, show vulnerability (remember that’s not a bad word) and accept that leadership is not about pretending to have all the answers but about having the courage to search with others to discover a solution.
JM point out that “being confused, however, does not mean being incapacitated. Indeed, one of the most liberating truths of leadership is that confusion is not quicksand from which to escape but rather the potter’s clay of leadership – the very stuff with which managers can work.”
2020 has certainly been a year to remember and all indications are that the confusion which has characterised this year will still follow us into the New Year, thereby making confusion a defining characteristic of the new normal and how managers need to manage. Our competence as leaders will then surely be measured not only by ‘what I know’ but increasingly by ‘how I behave when I accept, I don’t know, lose my sense of direction and become confused.
.I guess the message for all organizational cultures going forward is that sticking with the belief that we need all-knowing, omni-competent executives will cost them dearly and send a message to managers that it is better to hide their confusion than to address it openly and constructively.
Take comfort in these wise words ‘Confusion is a word we have invented for an order not yet understood’!