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Thursday, 18 April 2024

Fuel crisis looms as ministries fail to pay CTO bills

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The Ministry of Transport and Communications has notified government ministries and departments that it will shut off fuel supply soon if bills running into millions of Pula are not paid. 

The Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Transport and Communications, Jimmy Opelo, expressed his frustrations in a savingram dated 9th November 2021 addressed to various ministries and government departments. In the savingram titled “urgent request for payment of outstanding fuel bills”, he warned that should ministries and departments fail to settle their outstanding bill totalling P18 million, he would have no option as “CTO will be authorised to deny ministries access to fuel supply across all its fuel points.”

Opelo reminded ministries and departments that CTO is charged with the responsibility of, amongst others, providing fuels and lubricants to the government fleet for ministries/departments.  He added that at the same time, it is also charged with the responsibility to collect revenue for the fuel dispensed to the vehicles and plant. “Fuel bills are prepared and sent to Ministries for payment, but we are experiencing slow payments.

Kindly find attached to this savingram outstanding amounts of fuel bills yet to be honoured by respective ministries and independent departments for a period: April-August 2021,” said Opelo.  According to Opelo, “Altogether, a total amount of P18, 929,975.48 is outstanding for that period alone. The respective Ministries are required to issue letters of Authority (LAs) to the CTO to procure fuel. The LAs should reach CTO within seven days (7) from the date of this savingram, failing which the CTO will be authorised to deny ministries access to fuel supply across all its fuel points.”

Opelo requested ministries and departments “to observe this timeframe and honour their fuel bills to avoid inconveniences to their operations as well as to facilitate CTO to service them.” It is understood that the CTO had written a letter to the parent Ministry (Ministry of Transport and Communications) informing it that other ministries and government departments are unwilling to settle their bills.

According to a revenue collection report that CTO filed with the Ministry, from April to August, Parliament owed P11 933.16. It had not paid any amount as its outstanding amount still stood at P11 933.16. The Ministry of Presidential Affairs, Governance and Public Administration’s bill from April to August was P1 088 416, 89, and it paid P560 359.45 and has an outstanding amount of P528 057.44, Finance and Economic Development, owed 290 910,10 and has since paid P65 835.61, and the deficit is P225 074.49.

The Ministry of National Immigration and Gender Affairs owed P606 647,21 and has paid nothing as the outstanding amount still stands at P606 647,21, while the Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security owed P2 386 926, 06 and has since paid P967 570, 79 and the outstanding balance is P1 414 826,23. Basic Education Ministry owed P2 135 877,50 and has since paid P575 223, 12, and the outstanding amount is P1 560 654,38 and the Ministry of Investment Trade.

and Industry owed P171 8886,91 and has since paid P49 544,53 and now owes P122 342,38 while Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development owed P1 764 512, 07 and has since paid P642 003, 79 and now owes P1 122 508,26.

For its part, the Ministry of Mineral Resources, Green Technology and Energy owed P159, 239, 85 and has paid nothing as the outstanding amount still stands at P259 239,85, Health and Wellness Ministry owed P5 365 426,06 and has since paid P1 785 034, 83 and P3 580 391,23 is an outstanding balance.

The Administration of Justice owes P269 365 50 and has since paid nothing as its outstanding balance has not changed, Attorney General Chambers owed P255 901,88 and still owes the same amount as it has not paid anything, Auditor General owed P23 001,40 and has since paid P7 045,23 and now owes P15 956,17, Ministry of International Affairs and Cooperation owed P6 959,29 and has since paid P206 712,60, and its outstanding balance is P-199 753,31, Independent Electoral Commission owed P91, 027,48 and has since paid P47 604,76 and now owes P43 422,72, Office of the Ombudsman owes P64 166 and still woes the same amount.

The Ministry of Land Management, Water and Sanitation Services owes P553618,05 and still owes the same amount; Environment, Natural Resources Conservation and Tourism Ministry owed P2 145 983, 76 and has since paid P50 524, 41 and the outstanding amount is P2 095 459,35, Industrial Court owed P22 550,80 and has paid P14 601,67 and now owes P7 949,13, Ministry of Youth Empowerment, Sports and Culture Development owed P477 682,65 and has since paid P2 321, 01 and now owes P475 361,50, Infrastructure and Housing P445 083,65 and paid P225 177,57 and now owes P219 906,08.

The Ministry of Transport and Communications itself owed P1 837 991,97 and has since paid P525 586,35, and the outstanding amount is P1 312 405,62, Defence Justice and Security Ministry owed P6 594 352,58 and has since paid P2 392 967, 89and now owes P4 201 384,69, Ministry of Labour and Skills Development owed P217 881,99 and has paid P76 000.00 and now owes P5 056,29 and Ministry of Tertiary Education Resources, Science and Technology owed P184 200,63 and paid P96 319,91 and now owes P87 880,72.

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Nigerians, Zimbabweans apply for Chema Chema Fund

16th April 2024

Fronting activities, where locals are used as a front for foreign-owned businesses, have been a long-standing issue in Botswana. These activities not only undermine the government’s efforts to promote local businesses but also deprive Batswana of opportunities for economic empowerment, officials say. The Ministry of Trade and Industry has warned of heavy penalties for those involved in fronting activities especially in relation to the latest popular government initiative dubbed Chema Chema.

According to the Ministry, the Industrial Development Act of 2019 clearly outlines the consequences of engaging in fronting activities. The fines of up to P50,000 for first-time offenders and P20,000 plus a two-year jail term for repeat offenders send a strong message that the government is serious about cracking down on this illegal practice. These penalties are meant to deter individuals from participating in fronting activities and to protect the integrity of local industries.

“It is disheartening to hear reports of collaboration between foreigners and locals to exploit government initiatives such as the Chema Chema Fund. This fund, administered by CEDA and LEA, is meant to support informal traders and low-income earners in Botswana. However, when fronting activities come into play, the intended beneficiaries are sidelined, and the funds are misused for personal gain.” It has been discovered that foreign nationals predominantly of Zimbabwean and Nigerian origin use unsuspecting Batswana to attempt to access the Chema Chema Fund. It is understood that they approach these Batswana under the guise of drafting business plans for them or simply coming up with ‘bankable business ideas that qualify for Chema Chema.’

Observers say the Chema Chema Fund has the potential to uplift the lives of many Batswana who are struggling to make ends meet. They argue that it is crucial that these funds are used for their intended purpose and not siphoned off through illegal activities such as fronting. The Ministry says the warning it issued serves as a reminder to all stakeholders involved in the administration of these funds to ensure transparency and accountability in their disbursement.

One local commentator said it is important to highlight the impact of fronting activities on the local economy and the livelihoods of Batswana. He said by using locals as a front for foreign-owned businesses, opportunities for local entrepreneurs are stifled, and the economic empowerment of Batswana is hindered. The Ministry’s warning of heavy penalties is a call to action for all stakeholders to work together to eliminate fronting activities and promote a level playing field for local businesses.

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Trade and Industry’s warning of heavy penalties for fronting activities is a necessary step to protect the integrity of local industries and promote economic empowerment for Batswana. “It is imperative that all stakeholders comply with regulations and work towards a transparent and accountable business environment. By upholding the law and cracking down on illegal activities, we can ensure a fair and prosperous future for all Batswana.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Merck Foundation and African First Ladies mark World Health Day 2024

15th April 2024

Merck Foundation, the philanthropic arm of Merck KGaA Germany marks “World Health Day” 2024 together with Africa’s First Ladies who are also Ambassadors of MerckFoundation “More Than a Mother” Campaign through their Scholarship and Capacity Building Program. Senator, Dr. Rasha Kelej, CEO of Merck Foundation emphasized, “At Merck Foundation, we mark World Health Day every single day of the year over the past 12 years, by building healthcare capacity and transforming patient care across Africa, Asia and beyond.

I am proud to share that Merck Foundation has provided over 1740 scholarships to aspiring young doctors from 52 countries, in 44 critical and underserved medical specialties such as Oncology, Diabetes, Preventative Cardiovascular Medicine, Endocrinology, Sexual and Reproductive Medicine, Acute Medicine, Respiratory Medicine, Embryology & Fertility specialty, Gastroenterology, Dermatology, Psychiatry, Emergency and Resuscitation Medicine, Critical Care, Pediatric Emergency Medicine, Neonatal Medicine, Advanced Surgical Practice, Pain Management, General Surgery, Clinical Microbiology and infectious diseases, Internal Medicine, Trauma & Orthopedics, Neurosurgery, Neurology, Cardiology, Stroke Medicine, Care of the Older Person, Family Medicine, Pediatrics and Child Health, Obesity & Weight Management, Women’s Health, Biotechnology in ART and many more”.

As per the available data, Africa has only 34.6% of the required doctors, nurses, and midwives. It is projected that by 2030, Africa would need additional 6.1 million doctors, nurses, and midwives*. “For Example, before the start of the Merck Foundation programs in 2012; there was not a single Oncologist, Fertility or Reproductive care specialists, Diabetologist, Respiratory or ICU specialist in many countries such as The Gambia, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Central African Republic, Guinea, Burundi, Niger, Chad, Ethiopia, Namibia among others. We are certainly creating historic legacy in Africa, and also beyond. Together with our partners like Africa’s First Ladies, Ministries of Health, Gender, Education and Communication, we are impacting the lives of people in the most disadvantaged communities in Africa and beyond.”, added Senator Dr. Kelej. Merck Foundation works closely with their Ambassadors, the African First Ladies and local partners such as; Ministries of Health, Education, Information & Communication, Gender, Academia, Research Institutions, Media and Art in building healthcare capacity and addressing health, social & economic challenges in developing countries and under-served communities. “I strongly believe that training healthcare providers and building professional healthcare capacity is the right strategy to improve access to equitable and quality at health care in Africa.

Therefore, I am happy to announce the Call for Applications for 2024 Scholarships for young doctors with special focus on female doctors for our online one-year diploma and two year master degree in 44 critical and underserved medical specialties, which includes both Online Diploma programs and On-Site Fellowship and clinical training programs. The applications are invited through the Office of our Ambassadors and long-term partners, The First Ladies of Africa and Ministry of Health of each country.” shared Dr . Kelej. “Our aim is to improve the overall health and wellbeing of people by building healthcare capacity across Africa, Asia and other developing countries. We are strongly committed to transforming patientcare landscape through our scholarships program”, concluded Senator Kelej.

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Interpol fugitive escapes from Botswana

15th April 2024

John Isaak Ndovi, a Tanzanian national embroiled in controversy and pursued under a red notice by the International Criminal Police Organization (Interpol), has mysteriously vanished, bypassing a scheduled bail hearing at the Extension 2 Magistrate Court in Gaborone. Previously apprehended by Botswana law enforcement at the Tlokweng border post several months earlier, his escape has ignited serious concerns.

Accused of pilfering assets worth in excess of P1 million, an amount translating to roughly 30,000 Omani Riyals, Ndovi has become a figure of paramount interest, especially to the authorities in the Sultanate of Oman, nestled in the far reaches of Asia.

The unsettling news of his disappearance surfaced following his failure to present himself at the Extension 2 Magistrate Court the preceding week. Speculation abounds that Ndovi may have sought refuge in South Africa in a bid to elude capture, prompting a widespread mobilization of law enforcement agencies to ascertain his current location.

In an official communiqué, Detective Senior Assistant Police Commissioner Selebatso Mokgosi of Interpol Gaborone disclosed Ndovi’s apprehension last September at the Tlokweng border, a capture made possible through the vigilant issuance of the Interpol red notice.

At 36, Ndovi is implicated in a case of alleged home invasion in Oman. Despite the non-existence of an extradition treaty between Botswana and Oman, Nomsa Moatswi, the Director of the Directorate of Public Prosecution (DPP), emphasized that the lack of formal extradition agreements does not hinder her office’s ability to entertain extradition requests. She highlighted the adoption of international cooperation norms, advocating for collaboration through the lenses of international comity and reciprocity.

Moatswi disclosed the intensified effort by law enforcement to locate Ndovi following his no-show in court, and pointed to Botswana’s track record of extraditing two international fugitives from France and Zimbabwe in the previous year as evidence of the country’s relentless pursuit of legal integrity.

When probed about the potential implications of Ndovi’s case on Botswana’s forthcoming evaluation by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), Moatswi reserved her speculations. She acknowledged the criticality of steering clear of blacklisting, suggesting that this singular case is unlikely to feature prominently in the FATF’s assessment criteria.

 

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