An opposition leader believes that by disbursing economic stimulus package (ESP) funds and adjudicating tenders under this programme, the Office of the President (OP) may not only have usurped the mandate of two government organisations but may also have acted illegally. “The Office of President is not the ideal place in government to be adjudicating on tenders,” says the leader of the Alliance for Progressives and Gaborone Bonnington South MP, Ndaba Gaolathe.
“The Office of the President is unlikely to have the capacity nor the orientation for conducting such a process professionally.” Traditionally and ordinarily, funds for national development projects have been disbursed by the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development. In like manner, the adjudication and award of tenders has been the statutory responsibility of the Public Procurement and Asset Disposal Board (PPADB). Gaolathe says that there is no reason why line ministries should not be responsible for decisions that are tied to their mandate. He adds that it is possible that the adjudication of ESP tenders at the OP ÔÇô and not at PPADB – and the way that this exercise is being handled, could indeed be “illegal.” ESP has raised both eyebrows and hackles at Business Botswana owing to the manner in which it is being administered. In a report it did on the programme, Business Botswana says that the award of tenders is “dubious” and that all construction projects now fall under the programme.
Minutes of a closed-door, June 15, 2017 meeting between the Botswana Corruption Curbing Task Force and leaders of the country’s construction industry, chaired by Business Botswana President Lekwalo Mosienyane, reveal perceptions inside the Botswana’s construction industry that ESP was designed to essentially institutionalise and legitimise corruption. Indeed, Gaolathe identifies corruption as one of the three sources of deterioration in the public investment programme. “The first source of deterioration is in the area of project prioritization. We don’t have our priorities right. We would rather invest billions in fighter jets than invest in a top-notch materials science engineering facility. With the first, you would be hard-pressed to realize productivity gains because you have new fighter jets. With material science, we might find new ways of developing materials that make the Internet faster and other materials that make our way of doing things efficiently.”
The second source of such deterioration is the manner in which the government manages and monitors its projects: “Our management almost always results in high cost overruns, delays and poor workmanship. Our system also fails to ensure that the best or deserving people or companies are assigned to projects. These circumstances compromise our ability to consistently forge gains in productivity or technical progress.” The third source of deterioration is “simply corrupt practices” whose results “are self-evident.” The MP says that on the basis of the foregoing, the entire public investment programme is unlikely to forge productivity gains in general.
“It is not possible, therefore, to meaningfully grow the economy under the current paradigm by simply pouring money into the economy. We need to do much more than just pour money into the economy. If we were to just pour money into the economy, all it would do is to keep inflation on a higher plane than it would ordinarily be ÔÇô the other effect would simply be to change the structure of income or wealth distribution,” says Gaolathe adding that the country needs “to pursue strategic investments, reconfigure our processes and engender a new culture.”