The Government Accounting and Budgeting System (GABS) has been an integral part of our government’s financial management ecosystem since its implementation in 2004. Over the years, it has been rolled out and adopted by all government ministries and departments, both in urban and rural areas, including foreign missions abroad.
With a user base of approximately 27,000 and a daily peak usage level of 5,000 users, GABS has proven to be a reliable tool for managing government finances. However, like any system, it has faced occasional challenges that have required continuous upgrades and optimizations, Minister of Finance Peggy Serame has said.
Performance and Upgrades:
Since its inception, GABS has undergone several upgrades and optimizations to address sub-optimal performance issues. The Ministry of Finance, in collaboration with the Ministry of Communication, Knowledge, and Technology, has been proactive in identifying and resolving these challenges. Minister Serame said the most recent optimization and stabilization exercise was completed in 2021, following the 2018 system upgrade. Since then, GABS has not encountered any major performance or reliability issues, indicating its improved functionality and stability.
Uptime and Reliability:
“To assess GABS’s performance, records indicate that from January 1, 2022, to July 31, 2023, the system experienced a cumulative downtime of 33 days, resulting in an impressive 94% uptime. These statistics demonstrate that GABS has been consistently functional for extended periods, ensuring the smooth execution of financial transactions,” observed the Minister.
Recent Performance Challenges:
However, from August 11, 2023, onwards, GABS encountered significant performance challenges. Serame said the system became excessively slow, hindering the processing of essential operational requests such as travel requests, purchase order creation, payment voucher processing, and account payable updates. Technical analysis revealed that the system was consuming excessive processing power (CPU), severely impacting user transactions. The Minister shared that these challenges have adversely affected financial transactions, including payments to suppliers and the printing of annual tax certificates.
Efforts to Address Challenges:
Serame said in recognizing the gravity of the situation, the Ministry of Finance, in collaboration with the Ministry of Communication, Knowledge, and Technology, is working tirelessly to normalize the system’s performance and find a permanent solution. In the interim, a controlled access plan has been implemented, establishing a user roster to ensure the continued processing of revenue receipts and supplier payments. Additionally, ministries, departments, and agencies have been advised to maintain manual receipt books as a backup in case of system functionality issues.
Establishment of a Call Center:
To address concerns and queries related to outstanding payments, a call center has been established. This call center allows the general public and businesses to report their issues or seek clarification. Minister Serame said from November 1 to November 7, 2023, the call center received a total of 374 queries or complaints from service providers to government entities across the country.
“These complaints included delayed salary payments, delayed supplier payments, issuance of letters of commitment instead of Government Purchase Orders (GPOs), and other miscellaneous issues. The Ministry of Education and Skills Development accounted for 40% of the calls, primarily from suppliers of Junior Secondary School food rations, followed by the Ministry of Health at 26%, with queries related to delayed payments by District Health Management Teams (DHMTs). It is important to note that the implemented cybersecurity measures have proven effective in safeguarding data.”
Serame said in the long term, the Ministry of Finance plans to review the current government financial management ecosystem and implement a more robust and modern system by December 2024. This new system will be designed to accommodate future growth and changing business needs, ensuring scalability and flexibility.
Despite the recent performance challenges faced by GABS, Serame said the government remains committed to providing a functional and reliable financial management ecosystem. The Ministry of Finance, in collaboration with relevant stakeholders, is actively working to resolve the current issues and ensure the system’s reliability and robustness. “The journey of GABS has been one of success and challenges, and with continuous improvements, it will continue to serve as a cornerstone of our financial governance,” she said.
Botswana financial sector safe despite high unsecured household loans – IMF
Botswana’s financial sector has been deemed safe and resilient by the International Monetary Fund (IMF), despite the presence of high levels of unsecured household loans. The IMF’s 2023 report on the country’s financial sector highlights the robustness of Botswana’s banking system and its ability to withstand various shocks.
According to the report, credit risk is the largest risk in Botswana’s banking system, with a significant portion of total assets comprising loans concentrated in the household sector. Specifically, 70 percent of bank loans to households in Botswana are personal loans, primarily in the form of unsecured consumer credit. However, the IMF notes that a large share of lenders collect repayments through direct salary deduction, resulting in a generally low level of non-performing household loans.
The IMF’s assessment confirms that most banking entities in Botswana have strong capital buffers, which would enable them to survive even in the event of an increase in non-performing loans in the household sector. While a 20 percent transition of performing loans into non-performing loans would result in some banks experiencing a significant capital shortfall, the majority of banks possess robust total capital buffers and would remain unaffected by severe shocks to household loans.
Furthermore, the IMF team conducted Bank Solvency Stress Tests, which demonstrated that Botswana’s banking system remains profitable and resilient to severe macro-financial shocks. The stress tests revealed that the aggregate capital depletion in an adverse scenario is relatively small, amounting to less than 0.02 percent of GDP. Although credit risk increases significantly under the adverse scenario, the impact on the capital ratio from rising non-performing loans is outweighed by the increase in net interest income.
The IMF’s assessment also indicates that Botswana’s financial sector weathered the Covid-19 pandemic well. The authorities have made notable progress in strengthening financial supervisory and regulatory frameworks since 2007. The financial sector is deemed stable, sound, and resilient, with risks primarily related to banks’ high concentration of short-term deposits from retirement funds and insurance companies, volatility in diamond prices, geopolitical developments, and tightening global financial conditions. However, the financial system remains resilient to a wide range of shocks associated with these risks, although some vulnerabilities exist.
The Financial Stability Council (FSC), a statutory body led by the Governor of the Bank of Botswana, also recently affirmed the resilience and safety of the domestic financial system. The FSC’s assessment found that the financial sector in Botswana is robust, safe, and unconstrained in providing a range of financial services to support the economy. This resilience is attributed to strong capital and liquidity buffers, profitability, continuous innovation and adaptability, and a robust regulatory environment. The FSC believes that the macroeconomic environment, characterized by positive economic growth, well-managed government fiscal position, and modest inflation, further supports financial stability. Stress tests conducted on banks validate their strong solvency and resilience.
IMF concludes that Botswana’s financial sector remains safe and resilient, despite the presence of high levels of unsecured household loans. The IMF’s assessment highlights the strong capital buffers of banking entities, their ability to withstand shocks, and the overall stability of the financial system. The country’s financial sector has also demonstrated its resilience during the Covid-19 pandemic. The Financial Stability Council further affirms the safety and effectiveness of the financial system in providing financial services to support the economy.
Botala Energy debuts on the BSE
Botala Energy, an Australian energy company, recently made its debut on the Botswana Stock Exchange (BSE), joining a growing number of energy development companies trading on the exchange. The company, established in 2018, is focused on exploring and developing natural gas and renewable energy opportunities in Botswana, particularly in the Serowe Gas Project and Solar Opportunities.
The listing of Botala Energy on the BSE was welcomed by Mr Tsamatse Mamola, the Head of Listings & Tradings at the exchange. He recognized the company as a pioneering force in the field of gas exploration and development. Mamola also highlighted the company’s commitment to clean energy production, which aligns with the global movement towards sustainable practices. By harnessing the potential of coal bed methane in the Serowe Project and integrating it with solar power generation, Botala Energy is not only innovating in the energy sector but also contributing to a greener and more sustainable future.
Mamola emphasized the significance of Botala Energy’s decision to list all of its issued shares on the BSE. This move demonstrates the company’s confidence in the exchange as a strategic partner in its corporate journey. The listing provides Botala Energy with access to diverse sources of capital, which will be instrumental in advancing its exploration and development projects, fostering technological innovation, and achieving its clean energy production goals. The BSE, as a facilitator of capital raising, plays a crucial role in supporting ambitious initiatives and fostering growth.
The listing of Botala Energy also brings benefits to the broader Botswana economy. It increases investor interest, contributing to the liquidity and vibrancy of the market. Botswana, traditionally reliant on diamonds, recognizes the importance of diversifying its economic base. The inclusion of a dynamic and forward-looking company like Botala Energy on the exchange reflects the evolving economic landscape of the nation.
In the pursuit of economic diversification, the Botswana Stock Exchange serves as a bridge connecting visionary companies with investors who share their commitment to progress. By providing a marketplace for a diverse range of industries, from traditional sectors to emerging technologies, the exchange becomes a catalyst for economic resilience and sustainability.
Peter Grant, the Non-Executive Director of Botala Energy, shared some insights into the company’s operations. Since commencing exploration in Botswana, Botala has made significant progress, drilling exploration wells and pilot production wells. The company expects to become a modest producer of commercial gas within 12 months and increase production rapidly. Botala Energy has independently certified gas reserves and prospective resources within its project area, which have the potential to supply significant amounts of gas for power generation.
Grant also mentioned Botala Energy’s focus on delivering Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) to off-grid communities, providing them with reliable and affordable electricity and gas. The company is exploring the commercial option of establishing an Energy Hub and Industrial Park near Palapye, where it aims to produce energy for Botswana and export it to neighboring South Africa. Additionally, Botala Energy plans to establish a solar/gas hybrid plant in Serowe to feed into the local grid, in collaboration with the Ngwato Development Trust.
Market analysts say the listing of Botala Energy on the Botswana Stock Exchange marks an important milestone for the company and the energy sector in Botswana. It provides the company with access to capital, fosters economic growth and diversification, and contributes to the global movement towards sustainable energy practices. Botala Energy’s innovative approach to gas exploration and development, combined with its commitment to clean energy production, positions it as a key player in shaping a greener and more sustainable future for Botswana.
Beverages dominate Botswana’s food imports
Beverages dominate Botswana’s food imports for August 2023, according to the latest figures released by Statistics Botswana. The country imported beverages, spirits, and vinegar worth approximately P332 million during this month. This is a significant increase from the previous month, where the food import bill slightly rose from P1,063,990,477.2 in July 2023 to P1,233,702,300.4 in August 2023.
The total imports for Botswana in August 2023 were valued at P6,995,115,623.2, compared to P6,897,364,155.2 recorded in July 2023. Food imports accounted for 15.9 percent of this amount, contributing P1,233,702,300.4. Among the food items imported, beverages, spirits, and vinegar accounted for the majority at 26.9 percent. Cereals and sugars followed with 13.4 percent and 8.8 percent, respectively.
Within the category of beverages, spirits, and vinegar, the most imported commodities were mineral waters and aerated waters containing sugar or other sweetening matter or flavored, contributing 47.0 percent. Beer made from malt accounted for 16.7 percent, while fermented beverages and non-alcoholic beverages accounted for 15.9 percent. The import bill for beverages, spirits, and vinegar shows that the country imported mineral waters and aerated waters containing added sugar or other sweetening matter or flavored worth approximately P156 million. Beer made from malt accounted for around P55 million, while fermented beverages and non-alcoholic beverages were valued at around P79.1 million. Wine and liqueurs and cordials were also imported, with values of P12.6 million and P6.4 million, respectively.
In terms of cereals, dried maize excluding seed and other wheat and muslin accounted for 42.3 percent and 27.4 percent, respectively. Rice imports contributed 21.2 percent. The country spent approximately P165 million on cereal imports, with dried maize accounting for around P70 million, wheat around P45 million, and rice around P44.7 million.
Other food imports included preparations of cereals, flour, starch, or milk; pastry cooks’ products, which amounted to around P89 million. Preparations of vegetables, fruit, nuts, or other parts of plants accounted for around P88 million, while sugars and sugar confectionery were valued at around P108 million. Miscellaneous edible preparations, animal or vegetable fats and oils, dairy produce, prepared animal fodder, coffee, tea, and spices, fruits and nuts, meat, vegetables and certain roots and tubers, and products of the milling industry such as malt, starches, and wheat gluten were also imported, with values ranging from P13 million to P74.6 million.
In conclusion, beverages, particularly mineral waters and aerated waters containing sugar or other sweetening matter or flavored, dominate Botswana’s food imports for August 2023. The country also imports a significant amount of cereals, sugars, and other food products. These figures highlight the country’s reliance on imported food items and the need for strategies to promote domestic production and reduce dependence on imports.