De Beers Group this week announced a $200,000 donation across its four producer partner countries of Botswana, Canada, Namibia and South Africa to assist women’s shelters and support organisations to respond to an increase in gender-based violence resulting from the COVID-19 situation.
The donation will be split equally across Botswana, Canada, Namibia and South Africa. It adds to the contributions De Beers Group has already announced in its host countries to support the COVID-19 response, which exceeds $5 million across monetary and in-kind support, spanning the procurement of medical supplies, logistical support, vulnerability assessment support plans, food security for vulnerable households, water supply to communities, COVID-19 awareness and education, and local clinical support.
As lockdown and social distancing measures introduced around the world exacerbate the risk of gender-based violence, there has been a global increase in cases reported, including in the countries in which De Beers Group operates.
With some gender-based violence support services currently closed, and those that remain open under increasing demand, De Beers Group’s funding will support the capacity of women’s shelters and organisations in host communities to meet the increase in immediate needs, as well as beyond lockdown periods. De Beers Group is working with local stakeholders in each country, including its long-term partner, UN Women, to tailor an approach that is appropriate to local contexts.
Bruce Cleaver, CEO, De Beers Group and UN Women HeForShe Thematic Champion, said: “As the world faces unprecedented health and economic challenges caused by the COVID-19 virus, many women and children are also being exposed to a significantly increased risk of gender-based violence, while having limited ability to access support services and finding those services are under extreme pressure.
“De Beers Group has a longstanding commitment to support women and girls in the communities where we operate, and right now many need this support more than ever. The funding we are providing will assist women’s support organisations to continue delivering critical services to survivors of gender-based violence during the current situation, and help protect against it in the future.”
In addition to the contributions De Beers Group is making as a business to support its host countries and communities, Mr Cleaver will donate 30 per cent of his salary over the next three months to charitable organisations supporting vulnerable people in southern Africa.
Anne Shongwe, UN Women Representative, South Africa Multi-Country Office, said: “As economic and social pressures and fear have grown over recent weeks, we have seen a significant and deeply concerning surge in domestic violence throughout the world, what UN Women has termed the ‘Shadow Pandemic’, that is already being felt in Southern Africa with calls of distress from women more than doubling. Current restrictions on movement – locking women in with their violent intimate partners – is exacerbating the situation, so we must ensure women can continue to access essential support services safely as we work to beat COVID-19.”
In southern Africa, De Beers Group and UN Women are identifying key funding priority areas through a holistic emergency pathway approach that ensures support is safely accessible to those who need it from escaping abuse through to recovery. Support may be in the form of transportation, accommodation, basic supplies, counselling or a combination thereof. In Canada, the funding will support four shelters in the communities surrounding De Beers Group’s Gahcho Kué and Victor operations.
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.