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Govt acquire Okavango land for Masisi’s visitors

President Masisi & Morwaeng

President Dr Mokgweetsi Masisi and his office (the Office of the President) have literally thrown the Directorate of Intelligence and Services (DIS) under the proverbial bus as they distanced themselves from the decision to apply for detribalization of a prime piece of land in the pristine Okavango Delta and instead implicated the latter.

The Minister responsible for the presidency Kabo Morwaeng, under whose portfolio the DIS falls, revealed this when responding to a question in Parliament on Friday. Initially, via press releases from the government enclave the public had been made to believe that the Office of the President was the one which was behind the detrabilisation of the piece of land in the Okavango Delta and not one of the government departments that falls under it. Under normal circumstances, a department has to take responsibility for all administrative issues and not the parent Ministry as it has to be held accountable for its actions and not its parent ministry.

But Morwaeng told Parliament on Friday that, “the Government has not prioritized participation of the Office of the President in tourism. The recent detribalization of the of a portion of a portion of Moremi Game Reserve (NG/28) and (NG/21) in the Okavango Delta was facilitated by the Directorate of Intelligence Services for state purposes, more particularly, specialized us by VVIPS (Very Very Important Persons).”

Saleshando had asked Morwaeng to among others state all the ventures to be undertaken by the Office of the President that have been under the National Development Plan and state also all the land parcels held by the Office of the President for the development of tourism related projects, why Government has prioritized participation of the Office of the President participation in tourism that compete directly with the private sector an undermine the privatization policy and ahead pf of private citizens who have interest to invest in the sector. .

In fact, the acquisition of the piece of land in question has been controversial. The Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Land Management, Water and Sanitation, Bonolo Khumotaka had to retract her own press release that she had issued on 17th June 2021, citing some fresh amendments.

The release stated that. “The following amendments are made to correct the statement as it relates to the consultations mad with the District Leadership. On the 11th May 2021, there was a meeting held between Tawana Landboard Secretary, and the North West District Council Chairman with the North West District Council Executive.” Khumotaka added that, “A similar meeting was also held with the Batawana Regent, Kgosi Kealetile with some Dikgosi on the 28th May 2021. The Ministry apologizes and the error is regretted,” Khumotaka wrote.

In the 17th savingram, Khumotaka had stated that, “ acquisition of land in the by the State in the Okavangi Delta in terms of Section 32 of the Tribal Land Act, ‘The Tribal Land Act Cap 32 (I) states, “If the President determines that it is is in the public interest that any piece of land the ownership of which was in a Land Board under Section 10 should be acquired by the State, the Minister hall serve notice on the Land Board and District Council and request that such be granted to the state, and the Land Board may then having the views of the District Council on the matter, grant such land to the state…’

Khumotaka further stated that, “therefore it is in in line with the law for the Government to acquire portions of Tribal Land that covers a portion of Moremi Game Reserve (NG/28) and NG/21 in the Okavango Delta, for the benefit of the public.”

In what some observers have described as an “own goal,” at no stage did the government mention DIS in the correspondences or VVIP. Instead, Khumotaka’s initial savingram stated that, “The piece of land in question is being acquired for the establishment of a secure state/government facility for tourism purposes.” He also added that, “In doing so , the acquisition of ensures that the current land use of the area is not conflicted with or adversely affected.” According to Khumotaka, “This is not the first time that Government would not be converting Tribal Land to State or vice versa.

Mining towns are examples of tribal land which has been detribalized for public interest. In addition , some farms have also been detribalized for direct administration and management by Government.”  In a savingram dated 9th April 2021, addressed to the North West District Council Secretary, the Minister responsible for land, arak was founded by Jean Craven and du Plessis in 2008.

The firm launched its flagship Structured Trade Finance Fund with $300,000 in 2009. The fund, which grew to manage in excess of $1 billion by 2018, offers working-capital financing and other loans to African companies. Mzwinila had stated that, “His Excellency the President, exercise of his powers under Section 32 of the Tribal land Act has determined that a portion of Moremi Game Reserve (NG/28 ) and (NG/21 as depicted in the attached diagram. The resultant area gives a total of about 22,0292 Hectares.”

He also added that pursuant to Section 32 of the Tribal Land Act, Cap: 32:02, “I’m required, as I hereby do, to notify North West District Council of His Excellency’s intention to acquire the above-mentioned parcel of land to the State.” Mzwinila also stated that Masisi had determined that the land be acquired in the public interest. It is understood that even before Mzwinila’s ink had dried up, some councillors went for the jugular as they called for the minister to explain what he meant that the land had been acquired, “in the public interest.”


Cabinet approves AFCON dream

24th January 2022

The government of Botswana has reportedly approved the dream of hosting African Cup of Nations in 2027 with Namibia as co-host, following a proposal to cabinet by Minister of Youth Empowerment, Sports and Culture Development, Tumiso Rakgare.

WeekendSport learns that the organizing committee dreaming to host the tournament is preparing to hand their hefty book to Confederation of African Football (CAF) when bidding stage comes into open. Botswana Football Association (BFA) has, to this date, managed to win the confidence of the government, and all thoughts around the African football prestigious tournament are given serious attention with acceleration of construction of 10 mini stadia across the country, sources have said.

Furthermore, reports in Namibia state that the Botswana government has approached them with a proposal to co -host the 2027 edition of African tournament. “I can confirm that the minister of sport in Botswana has written to our minister but these are still early days and no decision has been made yet,” Audrin Mathe, an executive director in the Ministry of Sport was quoted by Namibia Sun this week. Meanwhile, Rakgare has said: “It is still an internal issues but yes, we are interested in hosting with Namibia.”

All the while, BFA president who also sits in CAF national executive committee is expected to embody a more emotive promise about the ability of African Cup in Botswana and how it can benefit the citizenry and by extension, the Southern region. With Zimbabwe having come out clean about their intentions to bid for 2034 World Cup, there has been a growing feeling that Botswana should try her luck, and therefore Botswana delegation will be hopeful to walk a fine line.

Although, the commercial potential of a Botswana AFCON Cup is a compelling factor in their favour, following the relative uncertainty of many African countries ( due to political instability, extent of corona virus ) and state of insecurity, BFA is minded not make that their thrust of the case. Hence the concentration on providing a home from home for all teams among Botswana’s diverse population and the opportunity to use the proceeds to advance legacy projects around Africa. The feeling on the ground is that the move might be bold, and some association influential players believe that it will be a matter of upgrading Maun stadium, Masunga and Serowe stadium.

An idea is also harbored that another stadium will be built in around Gaborone to boost the existing National Stadium with the Lobatse and Francistown stadia also expected to play pivotal role.  All the while, a more than P20 million operational budget is said to be needed to travel the African countries in convincing them that Botswana is more suitable to host with its security and economy very much stable.

Botswana passes the mark when it comes to transportation, accommodation and hotel facilities. The fact that CAF normally want a country that has hosted youth tournaments before enables Botswana to score points in that it has hosted before. The only problem that might mark Botswana down is road infrastructure.  BFA will consider roping in an experienced sport person and the high profile of former players like Diphetogo Selolwane is anticipated to appear for the thoughts building around the bid, and his name will be seen as watershed moment.

The southern region, however, might be dealt a devastating blow following the catastrophe that hit Angola when they hosted the 2010 edition. The Togo team was shot by rebels and panic erupted.  However, the field is open and the ever shifting sands of CAF internal politics make the race hard to call and feed fears of horse trading and backroom deals.

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Major public services shake-up looms

24th January 2022

Public Servants should brace themselves for some changes as the government is in an overdrive mode to overhaul the public sector. The government has also set the tone for the looming changes as it has added the public sector to its looming list of major and sweeping reforms.

This is contained in a savingram from the Permanent Secretary to the President (PSP) Emmah Peloetletse’s office showing how the government intends to “take stock” of all reforms in the public sector through the establishment of an inventory.  Peloetletse’s savingram addressed to various ministries and the Directorate of Public Service Management (DPSM) reveals that the government is working around the clock to implement some changes in the Public Service.

The savingram reminded Permanent Secretaries of various ministries and DPSM that the public sector reforms unit (PSRU) at the Office of the President is mandated with Coordinating Reforms across the Public Service.  “This essentially entails providing the strategic guidance and facilitation in the implementation of reforms across the Public Service. In this endeavour the Unit has in the past with Technical Assistance from European Union developed a template for documenting Reforms in the Public Service and documented ten (10) major reforms across the Public Service,” reads the savingram in part. It added that “The Unit has lately rolled out the Change Management Framework in an effort to facilitate effective and efficient management of change in the Public Service.”

According to the savingram, it has been noted that for a variety of reasons the use of the template for documenting reforms has not been universally used across the Botswana Public Service.  It further states that to facilitate the documentation of the reforms it is essential that an inventory of the various reforms across the Public Service (Central Government, Local Government and State Owned Entities) is established.

“By this correspondent we are seeking your assistance in populating the attached template to provide basic information on the various reforms. The PSRU will, through the various Coordination of focal Persons facilitate the full documentation of the reforms once the inventory is established,” the savingram further stated. The copy of the template among others calls on the focal persons to fill out them form under several headings; they include title of reform, start date, reform objectives, reform components, reform components, progress status.

The savingram echoes President Mokgweetsi Masisi’s announcement last year during his state of the nation address that as a nation Botswana has set itself a lofty goal of becoming a high income country by 2036 and has come up with a list of reforms among them digitisation of government infrastructure. He said the path to achieving this goal dictates that, Botswana takes deliberate steps that will transform its institutions; the way Batswana think and the way they act.

“It is with this in mind, that I presented a Reset Agenda in May 2021, with the following priorities: Save Botswana‘s population from COVID-19, by implementing a series of life saving measures that include a successful and timely vaccination programme, Adherence to COVID-19 health protocols remains key and align Botswana Government’s machinery to the Presidential Agenda, to ensure that the national transformation agenda will be embodied in the public service of the day,” said Masisi. He added that, “this will come with significant Government reforms in all public institutions. We need greater agility and responsiveness like never before in the delivery of public services.”

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Covid-19 Task Force meddled in tenders-report

24th January 2022
Dr. Kereng Masupu

The Presidential COVID-19 Task Force reportedly meddled in the awarding of tenders for COVID-19, a new Public Accounts Committee (PAC) report has revealed.

The Committee expressed concern that it has noted that there are two centres for covid procurement being the Ministry of Health and the Covid Task team in the Office of the President. The report says the Committee questioned the Accounting Officer on why the COVID 19 task team is usurping the powers of the Ministry of Health by engaging in covid procurement when the Ministry of Health is the one which has the experience and mandate of dealing with the pandemic. The report says clarification was also sought on why direct appointment is the preferred method for covid procurement.

“In her response the Accounting Officer stated that the task team was mainly engaged in the procuring of quarantine facilities and was assisting the Ministry of Health due to the heavy workload brought about by the COVID 19 pandemic,” the report says. The report says the Accounting Officer further stated that direct procurement was used because COVID 19 was treated as an emergency and that procurement was mainly from companies that have been traditionally used by the Ministry of Health.

“This however, is not the case as there has been report of new companies being awarded COVID -19 contracts. The use of direct procurement method should only be used in exceptional cases as it’s a non-competitive method which increases the risk of inflated pricing and close relations with particular suppliers to the detriment of others,” the report says.

It says since most covid procurement fell under emergency, there is need for openness and transparency regarding the procurement.  The PAC recommended that in order to ensure transparency and accountability all COVID 19 related procurement should be periodically published in the PPADB website giving full details of the companies receiving procurement contracts and the beneficial owners of the companies.

It says with the passage of time the impact of covid is no longer unexpected so direct awards should gradually be abandoned as the medium and long-term needs of the pandemic can now be predicted. “Judgement should be used even during direct awards to ensure that prices are not higher than the market prices,” the report says.

In a related matter, the report says the Central Medical Stores (CMS) was unable to cater for the required quantities of medical supplies with order fulfilments of about 35% resulting in shortages and insufficient drugs to Athlone Hospital and the surrounding clinics.
“In his submission the Accounting Officer had indicated that CMS was unable to supply the exact quantities required by the hospital and surrounding clinics due to the fact that supplies from CMS have to be rationed in order to cover other facilities around the country,” says the report.

The committee expressed concern about the inadequate supply of drugs to government facilities which puts the lives of patients at risk due to non- availability of essential supplies. It recommended that the Ministry identifies and prioritise measures that need to be taken to ensure that there is adequate supply of essential medicines which are needed in the public health system.

Meanwhile the report says the Ministry of Health and Wellness coordinates the operations and functions of some institutions which receive government subventions and secondment of staff from the government. These institutions include 10 NGO’s, two mission Hospitals, three mission clinics and two schools of Nursing.

It says in its endeavour to enhance efficiency and effectiveness of government support to NGOs the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development developed some Policy Guidelines for Financial Support to Non- Governmental Organisations.  According to the PAC report, the guidelines were meant to ensure that there is consistency, accountability and transparency in administering public funding to NGOs. However, the Ministry of Health did not comply with the very important guidelines.

“The main areas of non-compliance were the following: (i) There was no Evaluation Committee to vet proposals from NGOs, in some instances NGOs had formed part of the evaluation forum when their requests were being considered,” the report says.  It says there was continued funding of NGOs even when they failed to submit narrative and financial progress reports; and (iv) Continued funding of NGOs that failed to submit audited financial statements and management letters as required. The Committee expressed concern at the lapses in the administration of grants by the Ministry despite the large sums of public money awarded to these NGOs.

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