Monday, April 22, 2024

Botswana gives the wealthy more protection than the poor

An audit of the Government’s accounts for the financial year ended 31, March, 2021, corroborates the findings of World Bank that illustrates the costly absurdity of Botswana’s social protection system.

Auditor General, Pulane Letebele states in her report that the Covid-19 Relief Fund whose purpose was to respond to the economic and social impact of the pandemic and after effects had: “no standard way to test the eligibility of beneficiaries as individuals/families in similar circumstances were assessed differently.”

The Auditor General adds that a quick glance at assessment forms revealed that a person’s eligibility for a benefit depended completely on the assessor.

“Perusal of the assessment forms revealed that the outcome depended on the discretion of the assessor. Furthermore, in Mogoditshane 65 289 beneficiaries had qualified for assistance whereas 64 884 had been assessed, thereby bringing doubt on the accuracy of the database as the numbers assisted exceeded those that were assessed,” states the Auditor General’s report.

These discrepancies were also highlighted by the World Bank in their 2022 report titled “Adaptive Social Protection in Southern Africa,” which claimed that Botswana’s social protection programs, which cover roughly over 55 percent of all households, are facing growing operational difficulties and falling short of their intended objectives. The World Bank report cast aspersions over the lack of a centralised administrative management information system. “The multiple methods of benefits delivery make it difficult to keep track of individual transfers and overall program costs,” states the World Bank report, adding that this has resulted in “updated figures for beneficiaries of all the programmes” not being easily accessible.

The World Bank assessment which takes stock of adaptive social protection (ASP) in South Africa, Botswana, Lesotho and Eswatini questions the prevalence of feeding programs in Botswana. “Particularly the Vulnerable Group Feeding Program, which provides take-home rations to vulnerable children aged six months to five years, pregnant and lactating women, and some others….Despite this program’s being in place since 1988, malnutrition rates in Botswana remain stubbornly high,” says the World Bank.

In her latest report, the Auditor General also says “in some instances, double dipping had occurred where individuals or families had benefited under both the Instant Food Relief Programme and the Destitute Programme baskets between 29 April 2020 and 18 May 2020.” 

This was also highlighted by the World Bank which indicated that some of the social protection programmes in Botswana are not “means tested”. The end result is that children who come from the poorest households, who are supposed to be the real beneficiaries, are sometimes left out.

The Auditor General states that social protection programmes gobbled up P1 330 781 513 for the financial year ended 31 March 2021.

Adaptive social protection simply means the preparation of social protection systems to improve response to shocks and to build the resilience of poor and vulnerable households. Botswana’s approximately thirteen social protection programmes include vulnerable feeding programme, destitute persons food basket, destitute cash allowance, tertiary grants and scholarships, primary and secondary school feeding programme, among others. The benefits of some of the programmes include sponsorships, food, cash, scholarships, social care, day care/nursery, among others.

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