President Mokgweetsi Masisi has put the country under 28-days lockdown as a premeditated move towards curbing the spread of the deadly Corona virus. It’s only few days left before the lockdown winds down, but it’s still dusky if he will extend this lockdown, considering the fact that cases are snowballing.
The lockdown is making life increasingly difficult for the country’s poor. Many people, including children wake up to empty pans, lost in thought how they are going to subsist these extreme social distancing hard-hitting days.
Some are trying to sustain their livelihood by begging, many are powerless to do anything and at the same time struggling to survive the national lockdown due to a flailing and delayed food hampers distribution.
However, there are few good Samaritans sent to offer comfort during this menace. Just out of good deeds, these people source food items from various establishments to donate to these less-privileged families to beat starvation.
In an interview with Weekend Life, Founder of Thapelong Empowerment Trust Charity Hiscox said they found it fit to offer a helping hand in the middle of the COVID-19 misery, answering a call from President Masisi and Minister Eric Molale who entreated citizens to help government in this catastrophe.
‘’Corona virus is amongst us and we all feeling the nip. Not so long ago, Minister Molale said it will be a misfortune to have any Motswana die of deprivation in trying times like this so we took that to our hearts and tautened our laces in sourcing donations from stakeholders we toil with. We asked for backing from Flotek Company as well as Motovac to succor in that regard. We succeeded and managed to have food that was donated to over 200 families in Bokaa village.’’
Hiscox also reached for Woolworth stores which also gave out food hampers encompassing of fruits and taters as well as water. ‘’These companies have been supportive not only during this crisis, but from the set go. I run an empowerment center that deals with upskilling young people, the disabled as well as women just to they are able to sustain their lives. Lot of abuse blow up in ménages because of lack of independency so we believe with conveying these skills, somehow these defies can be cracked.’’
In her own words, Hiscox accentuated that all citizens should play a part in supporting indigents where they possible, saying this COVID-19 virus can be prevented. ‘’If all citizens can contribute towards helping others, I strongly believe we can fight this pandemic. It is all about being there for those who need support the most, offering the little liberation that can help them survive each day. It’s also critical we continue with hand hygiene as directed by health practitioners,’’ she 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.