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Response to article on Charles-hill to Ncojane road project

KABELO A. EBINENG

I wish to thank you for the cordial and professional discussion we had during our meeting—leading to your commendable conclusion regarding how you would handle the issue going forward; and after receiving the factual information, which we offered to share with you.

By way of summary, I wish to confirm that:-

It is a fact that the approximately P440m Charles-Hill to Ncojane Road Project is behind schedule, and is the subject of on-going discussions to get things back on track towards its 36-month target completion schedule. This contract, as other duties falling under our ministry are the subject of recent and on-going briefs to the relevant parliamentary portfolio committee, among other public –interest stakeholders.

In the above context, it was our submission to you that—I, as Permanent Secretary, in this ministry, had, to date, neither sought nor declined any advice from either or both of the Attorney General (AG) of Botswana and the Public Procurement and Asset Disposal Board (PPADB) regarding the management of the underlying project. We advised that post your article, I had interviewed with the AG, in person.  He confirmed that he had not rendered any advice, as suggested by the newspaper report.

Regarding the status of the on-going consultations between the ministry and those employed in the project: it was not true that I had been scheduled to return and report to the parliamentary committee, this week. We advised that—I had also, since the publication of your article, contacted the Chairman (Honourable Rantuana) of the Committee. When we spoke, he was also unaware of any such arrangement.

Prevailing fact was that it had been agreed that after undertaking an on-going tour of several road projects, the Committee would, then, arrange that we meet, again. In this respect—we shared information to the effect that both I—in my capacity as an Accounting Officer (accompanied by other officials), and the Committee would meet at a later stage, but certainly after site trips, which will take place through the week beginning 25 September.

We advised that the aim of the meeting(s) would be to adduce further appreciation of where projects, generally, are; as well as to evaluate and see what corrective action can be implemented towards improving overall delivery of this and other projects. In this context, I informed you, as I did the Committee, that: an unacceptably high number of our projects, over the years, had not met time-completion and budgetary targets—further that this was something, which we were concerned about and, actively, seeking to turn around, sooner rather than later. In this respect we, as a ministry, appreciated the interaction with the Committee; as well as any stakeholder whose intervention or contribution can aid us towards better performance.

In the context of 5, above we would be engaging with the primary players—being the contractors, the consultants and our staff; as well as communities and enabling entities like the PPADB, the relevant local authorities, etc in order  to optimize efficiencies and delivery. Accordingly, we advised that the thrust of our conversations, and engagement would focus on three (3) key elements: being timely completion of projects, cost-effective (achievement of the desired quality at the lowest possible cost) delivery, and creation of employment (director and indirectly) through such development projects.

We emphasized that ours is to ensure that employment efforts, in particular, are not undermined by any tardiness, which leads to avoidable suspensions of works contracts etc. In conclusion, we agreed that I would summarize our discussion, and then have you consider what corrective action; if any, the Weekend Post can or could take.

I trust that this sufficiently covers the important issues we discussed, and addresses the areas of concern, which I had around the misleading report(s) to the effect that the ministry—as led by myself and the Honourable Minister may be acting improperly, imprudently by, among others, ignoring proper advice. This, as allegedly rendered by properly placed entities like the Attorney General and the PPADB—among other snippets that can, be of concern to our principals, in however form one may wish to define them. Please see points 3 and 4, above.

Kabelo A. Ebineng is Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Works and Transport

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Export Processing Zones: How to Get SEZA to Sizzle

23rd September 2020
Export Processing Zone (EPZ) factory in Kenya

In 2005, the Business & Economic Advisory Council (BEAC) pitched the idea of the establishment of Special Economic Zones (SEZs) to the Mogae Administration.

It took five years before the SEZ policy was formulated, another five years before the relevant law was enacted, and a full three years before the Special Economic Zones Authority (SEZA) became operational.

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Egypt Bagged Again

23rd September 2020
Samson

… courtesy of infiltration stratagem by Jehovah-Enlil’s clan

With the passing of Joshua’s generation, General Atiku, the promised peace and prosperity of a land flowing with milk and honey disappeared, giving way to chaos and confusion.

Maybe Joshua himself was to blame for this shambolic state of affairs. He had failed to mentor a successor in the manner Moses had mentored him. He had left the nation without a central government or a human head of state but as a confederacy of twelve independent tribes without any unifying force except their Anunnaki gods.

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‘RO, ‘RO ‘RO YOUR ‘BOT

23rd September 2020

If I say the word ‘robot’ to you,  I can guess what would immediately spring to mind –  a cute little Android or animal-like creature with human or pet animal characteristics and a ‘heart’, that is to say to say a battery, of gold, the sort we’ve all seen in various movies and  tv shows.  Think R2D2 or 3CPO in Star Wars, Wall-E in the movie of the same name,  Sonny in I Robot, loveable rogue Bender in Futurama,  Johnny 5 in Short Circuit…

Of course there are the evil ones too, the sort that want to rise up and eliminate us  inferior humans – Roy Batty in Blade Runner, Schwarzenegger’s T-800 in The Terminator,  Box in Logan’s Run,  Police robots in Elysium and  Otomo in Robocop.

And that’s to name but a few.  As a general rule of thumb, the closer the robot is to human form, the more dangerous it is and of course the ultimate threat in any Sci-Fi movie is that the robots will turn the tables and become the masters, not the mechanical slaves.  And whilst we are in reality a long way from robotic domination, there are an increasing number of examples of  robotics in the workplace.

ROBOT BLOODHOUNDS Sometimes by the time that one of us smells something the damage has already begun – the smell of burning rubber or even worse, the smell of deadly gas. Thank goodness for a robot capable of quickly detecting and analyzing a smell from our very own footprint.

A*Library Bot The A*Star (Singapore) developed library bot which when books are equipped with RFID location chips, can scan shelves quickly seeking out-of-place titles.  It manoeuvres with ease around corners, enhances the sorting and searching of books, and can self-navigate the library facility during non-open hours.

DRUG-COMPOUNDING ROBOT Automated medicine distribution system, connected to the hospital prescription system. It’s goal? To manipulate a large variety of objects (i.e.: drug vials, syringes, and IV bags) normally used in the manual process of drugs compounding to facilitate stronger standardisation, create higher levels of patient safety, and lower the risk of hospital staff exposed to toxic substances.

AUTOMOTIVE INDUSTRY ROBOTS Applications include screw-driving, assembling, painting, trimming/cutting, pouring hazardous substances, labelling, welding, handling, quality control applications as well as tasks that require extreme precision,

AGRICULTURAL ROBOTS Ecrobotix, a Swiss technology firm has a solar-controlled ‘bot that not only can identify weeds but thereafter can treat them. Naio Technologies based in southwestern France has developed a robot with the ability to weed, hoe, and assist during harvesting. Energid Technologies has developed a citrus picking system that retrieves one piece of fruit every 2-3 seconds and Spain-based Agrobot has taken the treachery out of strawberry picking. Meanwhile, Blue River Technology has developed the LettuceBot2 that attaches itself to a tractor to thin out lettuce fields as well as prevent herbicide-resistant weeds. And that’s only scratching the finely-tilled soil.

INDUSTRIAL FLOOR SCRUBBERS The Global Automatic Floor Scrubber Machine boasts a 1.6HP motor that offers 113″ water lift, 180 RPM and a coverage rate of 17,000 sq. ft. per hour

These examples all come from the aptly-named site www.willrobotstakemyjob.com    because while these functions are labour-saving and ripe for automation, the increasing use of artificial intelligence in the workplace will undoubtedly lead to increasing reliance on machines and a resulting swathe of human redundancies in a broad spectrum of industries and services.

This process has been greatly boosted by the global pandemic due to a combination of a workforce on furlough, whether by decree or by choice, and the obvious advantages of using virus-free machines – I don’t think computer viruses count!  For example, it was suggested recently that their use might have a beneficial effect in care homes for the elderly, solving short staffing issues and cheering up the old folks with the novelty of having their tea, coffee and medicines delivered by glorified model cars.  It’s a theory, at any rate.

Already, customers at the South-Korean  fast-food chain No Brand Burger can avoid any interaction with a human server during the pandemic.  The chain is using robots to take orders, prepare food and bring meals out to diners.  Customers order and pay via touchscreen, then their request is sent to the kitchen where a cooking machine heats up the buns and patties. When it’s ready, a robot ‘waiter’ brings out their takeout bag.   

‘This is the first time I’ve actually seen such robots, so they are really amazing and fun,’ Shin Hyun Soo, an office worker at No Brand in Seoul for the first time, told the AP. 

Human workers add toppings to the burgers and wrap them up in takeout bags before passing them over to yellow-and-black serving robots, which have been compared to Minions. 

Also in Korea, the Italian restaurant chain Mad for Garlic is using serving robots even for sit-down customers. Using 3D space mapping and other technology, the electronic ‘waiter,’ known as Aglio Kim, navigates between tables with up to five orders.  Mad for Garlic manager Lee Young-ho said kids especially like the robots, which can carry up to 66lbs in their trays.

These catering robots look nothing like their human counterparts – in fact they are nothing more than glorified food trolleys so using our thumb rule from the movies, mankind is safe from imminent takeover but clearly  Korean hospitality sector workers’ jobs are not.

And right there is the dichotomy – replacement by stealth.  Remote-controlled robotic waiters and waitresses don’t need to be paid, they don’t go on strike and they don’t spread disease so it’s a sure bet their army is already on the march.

But there may be more redundancies on the way as well.  Have you noticed how AI designers have an inability to use words of more than one syllable?  So ‘robot’ has become ‘bot’ and ‘android’ simply ‘droid?  Well, guys, if you continue to build machines ultimately smarter than yourselves you ‘rons  may find yourself surplus to requirements too – that’s ‘moron’ to us polysyllabic humans”!

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