Botswana is failing to comply with European Union (EU) regulations that call for it to record the history of all cattle whose beef is meant for export to the EU, and digitally store the information.
The EU is pushing for this as a way of assuring the safety of beef products following the outbreak of Foot and Mouth disease.
In a report released in December, the Office of the Auditor General (OAG) says two EU regulations ÔÇô EC1760/200 and EC1825 ÔÇô require the Department of Veterinary Services (DVS) in the Ministry of Agriculture to develop a Livestock Identification System (LITS). This involves digital capturing of the history of beef cattle and its storage as traceable data.
The Telegraph has learnt that DVS management can be blamed for the LITS project’s failure to ensure Botswana exports up to 90 percent of its beef products to EU countries.
According to Auditor General’s report, the contractor hired to maintain the equipment used for LITS activities such as bolus insertion, cattle movements and change of ownership permits “did not deliver the required quality service to the government”.
The report says the DVS management is at fault for failing to ensure maintenance was performed as requested. For one thing, serviced equipment was not accompanied by a test report, making it difficult to establish if the repaired equipment was fully functional.
“This was contrary to the agreement entered into between the government and the contractor,” the report says. It has emerged that the DVS failed to ensure the contractor honoured the agreement.
“Letters written to the contractor indicating his lack of delivery went as far as recommending termination of contract,” the report adds. “The services offered by the contractor did not live to DVS expectation even though government paid P6m for maintenance services.”
The two million boluses bought at P28 million for use on cattle identification were not properly arranged for their recovery, storage and subsequent use.
According to the report, government value for money is a concern after another P137 million and a P23 million was spent on the development budget and pilot project, respectively.
Further, bungling at DVS resulted in a huge cost overrun, the total budget leaping from P13.3 million to P160 million, exerting mammoth pressure on already strained financial resources.
Interviews done at Botswana Meat Commission by the OAG reveal that as a result of these inefficiencies, 90 percent of cattle movement permits were issued manually, rather than electronically as per EU requirement.
Moreover, it emerged among other things, that Extension Officers who performed bolus insertion were inadequately supervised, resulting in difficulty in establishing if the insertion procedures were appropriately followed.
However, the OAG report states that despite the flaws, the DVS had nevertheless made some impact through the LITS. It called on the DVS management to support the existing service delivery network so that public needs are appropriately addressed and government receives value for money.