Thursday, October 22, 2020

Another ‘evil’ EVM hiccup!

Architects of the plan to introduce Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) during the 2019 elections are watching their grand plan folding as the Ministry of Lands and Housing officials blunder into a land governance mess.

The Ministry of Lands and Housing has botched a multi-million Pula Land Administration Procedures, Capacity and Systems (LAPCAS) project which was expected to provide the necessary infrastructure for electronic voting.

LAPCAS covers broad areas such as land administration processes, computerisation of land records and land registration. As part of its implementation the project aims to capture all surveyed plots into the cadastral database and upgrade the information system to incorporate new plot numbers and location addresses into the database. The location addressing, which includes street naming, housing numbering and postal coding which was to be completed this year well in time for the 2019 general elections is running behind schedule.

The location addressing is to be used during voting after the introduction of the EVMs as they would require numbers to identify voters’ physical address.

Sources close to the projects say electronic voting would not be possible in areas where location addressing has not been completed.

Sources within the Government Enclave this week revealed that the LAPCAS is expected suffer more than P100 million in cost over-runs because of a number of irregular and unlawful surveys carried out under the project.

The project which was started during the 2011/12 financial year involved surveying and mapping of land parcels. Surveyors, however, insist that “the programme was never a success as far as the components of mapping and surveying is concerned; that is why the government is re-doing areas that they had done before”.

Experts revealed that government is forced to re-survey Mogoditshane plots after the ministry surveyed the area five years ago and failed to process its general plan. They explained that land transactions in Mogoditshane were fluid because plots sub-dividing and extensions of parcels of land frequently resulting in a change in geometrics.

“If you surveyed in 2012, for example, the data becomes outdated with time. As a result government is currently experiencing cost over-runs. It’s an unfortunate situation because obviously if you are going to re-do something that you did before it comes with extra costs,” sources said.

They added that: “There is a cost to survey every plot; you would not do it for free even if you are government, which is the reason government spent over P100 million before engaging the private sector and now it means spending more as the private sector comes in.”

When government engaged private surveyors the agreement was that they would survey each and every plot in Botswana at a cost of P630.

It was also agreed that private land surveyors would only look at land not surveyed by government surveyors.

Private surveyors started in Kgatleng, Ngwaketse then Kweneng and are now headed to Ngwato but they are not touching areas where government attempted to do their own surveys which observers claim was a shoddy job which forces a re-survey of such places.

“There is no guarantee that government will get it right this time around; they are just taking chances. The process goes like this; after surveying the results are sent to Department of Surveys and Mapping where they do examination. After approval that’s when it becomes the end product,” said another source.

Sources claim that government does not have the capacity to carry out LAPCAS surveys and that is why they ended up engaging the private sector. Maele, however, defended government saying they do not have enough officers as most have joined the private sector. Maele also defended the surveys that the government was doing it for normal corrections to be done.

LAPCAS project was expected to be handed over as complete by September 2016. At the moment there are no results and government is re-doing the same areas that they did in 2014.

“Mogoditshane is one of those areas. In Mogoditshane only, government spent over P70 million. Government will need another P70 million to re-do Mogoditshane. They are currently re-doing Molepolole which was done in 2014,” sources said.

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