Permanent Secretary to the President (PSP) Elias Magosi has this week misled Public Accounts Committee (PAC) of Parliament on the contentious appointment of the Auditor General Pulane Letebele on contract basis thereby flouting the constitution.
The PAC was concerned that the terms of employment of the Auditor General was a departure on the spirit of the constitution of Botswana in particular section 114 which secures the tenure of the office bearer until 60 years. The section (114 (1) of the constitution) states: “subject to the provisions of this section, a person holding the office of Auditor-General shall vacate his office when he attains the age of 60 years or such other age as may be prescribed by Parliament.”
On part (2) of the same section it specifically states that “a person holding the office of Auditor-General may be removed from office only for inability to perform the functions of his office (whether arising from infirmity of body or mind or any other cause) or for misbehaviour and shall not be so removed except in accordance with the provisions of this section.”
According to the parliamentary committee, the appointment on contract basis is partly blamed for lack of total independence that hinders on the execution of the government auditing mandate. The move has seen the office (Auditor General) failing to audit the notorious Directorate of Intelligence and Security (DIS) for 10 years since the establishment of the organ.
Appearing first was PSP who was adamant to the committee that Letebele opted a contract every five years as opposed to being on permanent and pensionable. “She is on a fixed five-year contract terms. It remains a choice of an individual. She was offered the contract. Again this is a contract of employment that the incumbent Auditor General preferred. She said yes she wants the five-year term and before it elapses then she can apply for renewal. She opted for it,” Magosi pointed out to the Committee.
He then added: “I still don’t know how this affects her independence if she was offered two options and she chose this particular contract based one.” However according to the letter of appointment of the Auditor General signed by PSP Magosi, he stated against the surprise of the committee members that: “the government may terminate this contract in accordance with section 26(2) of the Public Service Act by giving you 3 calendar months’ notice or paying you 3 months’ salary in advance.”
The PSP however admitted later that what is written in the letter is a blunder on their (or the government’s part). “It’s a mistake. It’s a standard letter of employment in the Public Service. It should not apply to the Auditor General as they are employed by specifically the constitution.”
Few minutes later after the departure of Magosi, PAC members were shocked to hear the Auditor General rubbishing the submissions made by the PSP, falling short of calling them lies, when appearing before the oversight parliamentary committee on the same day. On whether she was given an option to choose between contract and, permanent and pensionable, Letebele insisted the contract based offer was imposed.
“I was offered a contract. When I got the contract I didn’t feel I had a choice. So, the answer is no, I was not asked. I was never given an option or offered to be employed on contract basis rather than permanent and pensionable until 60 years as the law stipulates,” she stressed.
She also highlighted that therefore she feels the appointment letter is not lawful as it is not according to the constitution. “I knew what the letter was saying and what the constitution stipulates, they are in contrast.” She continued: “there is no how one can be happy with the contract written in the manner that it can be terminated,” while conceding that the 3 months threat of termination, indeed “can affect my independence.”
She said this in cognizant of the fact that the Office of the Auditor General is the external auditor of the Government of Botswana. It is mandated by the Constitution of Botswana under Section 124, Public Audit Act and the Local Authorities and Township Act to audit public accounts of ministries, local authorities and selected parastatals. Section 124 (5) states that “in the exercise of his functions the Auditor-General shall not be subject to the direction or control of any other person or authority.”
The appointment of the Auditor General, as is presumed to be totally independent from government, was a contentious issue that saw the PAC subpoena PSP Magosi to appear before the committee although it was not on schedule. The Office of the President and Directorate of Public Service Management (DPSM) appeared at different times for different issues.
The Public Accounts Committee is one of 16 Committees of Parliament charged with overseeing the activities of the Executive. PAC is specifically responsible for overseeing government expenditure through calling ministries and parastatals to appear and account in accordance with Section 95(3) of the Standing Orders of the National Assembly of Botswana.
Minister of Presidential Affairs, Governance and Public Administration, Kabo Morwaeng together with Permanent Secretary to the President (PSP) Elias Magosi, this week refused to name and shame the worst performing Ministries and to disclose the best performing Ministries since beginning of 12th parliament including the main reasons for underperformance.
Of late there have been a litany of complaints from both ends of the aisle with cabinet members accused of providing parliament with unsatisfactory responses to the questions posed. In fact for some Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) backbenchers a meeting with the ministers and party leadership is overdue to address their complaints. Jwaneng-Mabutsane MP, Mephato Reatile is also not happy with ministers’ performance.
Bokamoso Private Hospital is battling a P10 million legal suit for a botched fibroids operation which resulted in a woman losing an entire womb and her prospects of bearing children left at zero.
The same suit has also befallen the Attorney General of Botswana who is representing the Ministry of Health and Wellness for their contributory negligence of having the unlawful removal of a patient, Goitsemang Magetse’s womb.
According to the court papers, Magetse says that sometimes in November 2019, she was diagnosed with fibroids at Marina Hospital where upon she was referred to Bokamoso Private Hospital to schedule an appointment for an operation to remove the fibroids, which she did.
Magetse continues that at the instance of one Dr Li Wang, the surgeon who performed the operation, and unknown to her, an operation to remove her whole womb was conducted instead. According to Magetse, it was only through a Marina Hospital regular check-up that she got to learn that her whole womb has been removed.
“At the while she was under the belief that only her fibroids have been removed. By doing so, the hospital has subjected itself to some serious delictual liability in that it performed a serious and life changing operation on patient who was under the belief that she was doing a completely different operation altogether. It thus came as a shock when our client learnt that her womb had been removed, without her consent,” said Magetse’s legal representatives, Kanjabanga and Associates in their summons.
The letter further says, “this is an infringement of our client‘s rights and this infringement has dire consequences on her to the extent that she can never bear children again”. ‘It is our instruction therefore, to claim as we hereby do, damages in the sum of BWP 10,000,000 (ten million Pula) for unlawful removal of client’s womb,” reads Kanjabanga Attorneys’ papers. The defendants are yet to respond to the plaintiff’s papers.
What are fibroids?
Fibroids are tumors made of smooth muscle cells and fibrous connective tissue. They develop in the uterus. It is estimated that 70 to 80 percent of women will develop fibroids in their lifetime — however, not everyone will develop symptoms or require treatment.
The most important characteristic of fibroids is that they’re almost always benign, or noncancerous. That said, some fibroids begin as cancer — but benign fibroids can’t become cancer. Cancerous fibroids are very rare. Because of this fact, it’s reasonable for women without symptoms to opt for observation rather than treatment.
Studies show that fibroids grow at different rates, even when a woman has more than one. They can range from the size of a pea to (occasionally) the size of a watermelon. Even if fibroids grow that large, we offer timely and effective treatment to provide relief.
The Alliance for Progressives (AP) President Ndaba Gaolathe has said that despite major accolades that Botswana continues to receive internationally with regard to the state of economy, the prospects for the future are imperilled.
Delivering his party Annual Policy Statement on Thursday, Gaolathe indicated that Botswana is in a state of do or die, and that the country’s economy is on a sick bed. With a major concern for poverty, Gaolathe pointed out that almost half of Botswana’s people are ravaged by or are about to sink into poverty. “Our young people have lost the fire to dream about what they could become,” he said.