Almost a month after the fact, the Botswana Housing Corporation has still not responded to written questions about a maintenance policy that it harvested off a United States public authority. Last month, Sunday Standard carried a story about the Corporation’s maintenance policy which is to a large extent, a replica of that developed by the Minneapolis Public Housing Authority. The authors of the BHC policy, Cut and Paste, did little more than what their names say. This is not the first cut-and-paste case in Botswana. A decade or so ago it was discovered that the Botswana Telecommunications Corporation had been duped by the consultant who was engaged to design the logo of its new mobile operator subsidiary, BeMobile.
The consultant, an expatriate who was reportedly paid millions of pula for his services, plagiarised the logo of a Russian company. In the BHC case, Sunday Standard wanted to establish whether the policy was developed in-house or outsourced to a consultant. In the case of the latter, we enquired about the amount of money that was paid out. The other questions were: Do you find the Policy to be adequately responsive to your maintenance needs? Is BHC management aware that the Policy was actually plagiarised from the Minneapolis Public Housing Authority? Has the Policy been distributed to all BHC tenants in order that they can familiarise themselves with how the Corporation carries out maintenance work? and The last paragraph under “Responding to Emergencies” on Page 7 says that “For emergencies that occur after regular working hours, the Botswana Housing Corporation will have a twenty-four (24) hour emergency response system in place.” Does BHC actually have a 24-hour emergency response system in place?
Despite the all too obvious convenience that cribbing the Minneapolis policy brought, the difficulty that the authors created for BHC was that they committed the organisation to standards that it cannot meet ÔÇô like rapid-response maintenance teams working round the clock. From promises of “we will look at the questionnaire and respond accordingly” to “still awaiting feedback from the relevant office”, the communications office seems to have exercised the convenient if ultimately unrewarding option of maintaining military silence. BHC’s embarrassment comes on the heels of revelations that the logo that will be used for Botswana’s golden jubilee was itself plagiarised from Jamaica. The situation might be worse than the nation will ever know because those familiar with this aspect of graphic design allege that one too many logos and government policies have been plagiarised. In tragic cases, the designers or authors charged the government millions of pula. However, this plagiarism would have abated from days when the world was less connected than it is now.
When national anthems are play at Commonwealth Games during the medals ceremony, it often is extremely difficult to tell the difference between the songs and there is just one possible explanation. Alongside this plagiarism have been revelations about some high-ranking officials in both the private and public sector having embellished their curriculum vitae. Even as newspapers publish stories of the culprits, more tip-offs continue to come about individuals who have misrepresented their academic pedigree. On that list are lecturers at private colleges. This can only bode ill for a country that plans to become a regional education hub.