Thursday, November 30, 2023

BHC still can’t talk about plagiarised maintenance policy

More invested in the sentimentality of creating a “sense of belonging” than practical need to secure the property of such community, the Botswana Housing Corporation doesn’t struggle to explain why it has not built a perimetre wall around its two blocks of flats in Block 5, Gaborone.

“The said plots exist within established neighbourhoods and were constructed with a provision to allow for easy access within and around the development,” says Gomolemo Zimona, the Corporation’s Head of Marketing and Communications in a written response to Sunday Standard’s questions. “This was done by way of providing access roads and should boundary fences be erected, it would mean that people’s movement will be restricted.  It is also worth noting that when this was done some time back the idea was to create a sense of belonging within that community by creating easy access points to amenities in the neighborhood.”

However, that community is also being infiltrated by thieves and nocturnal motorist merrymakers. What wouldn’t be immediately apparent to the unwitting from what Zimona says is that each townhouse unit in the area in question is fenced. The flats are not. Also worth mentioning is that when first occupied more than 20 years ago, BHC flats in Village were also not fenced but are now. Follow-up questions about whether more practical concerns about the security of tenants should take precedence over the sentiment of building a community and about the discrepancy with Village flats were not responded to. BHC has itself acknowledged that there is theft at the flats.

Another follow-up question related to a maintenance policy that BHC plagiarised from the United States ÔÇô which incidentSunday Standard has reported about in the past. This policy was designed to deal with maintenance situation in property owned by the Minnesota Public Housing Authority – not BHC. The plagiarism itself was so amateurish that it adopted American English and spelling forms for an organisation that uses British English on account of Botswana’s colonial past.

From both a technical and common sense perspective, replacement as an aspect of maintenance is a quality process with quite legitimate expectation by consumers that the replacement should be incrementally qualitative. The Corporation is phasing out asbestos bath tubs with uncomfortable steel ones whose handles wear fast and this being winter, the tubs are extremely cold to the touch. In one block of flats, there is a refuse-receptacle problem that has lasted well over two years. Largely on account of clear lack of supervision, a private company that BHC has engaged to clean the premises not long ago can go for months on end without cleaning stairways when an additional charge (P42 a month) was introduced in 2017. According to Zimona himself, the levy is for the “cleaning of flats, stairways and surrounding.” A follow-up question about who supervises the cleaning was not responded to.

Sunday Standard had also sought to know whether the work in question was happening within the auspices of the plagiarised maintenance policy. To the question of whether BHC is still using this maintenance policy, Zimona responded: “The Corporation is currently using a maintenance policy that has been approved by Board and Management. As far as we are concerned, the policy was developed internally and not copied from anybody.”

When we wrote about this policy in 2016, we sent written questions to BHC to enquire about circumstances in which the Corporation came to acquire it and whether anyone was paid for developing it. The response never came and far from closing those information gaps, Zimona’s response creates more. The response at once implies a process through which the board of directors and executive management approve the Corporation’s maintenance policy and implicates both parties in the adoption of the one that was plagiarised from the US. Follow-up questions to ascertain this issue were not responded to.


Read this week's paper