Saturday, August 15, 2020

Botswana in Covid-19 budget padding scandal

The Botswana COVID 19 budget estimates have been padded by about P 1 billion, Sunday Standard investigations have revealed.

Documents passed to the Sunday Standard reveal that the Ministry of Health & wellness budget estimate for the containment of Covid-19 pandemic in Botswana was P2, 259, 694, 550.00, comprising of P2, 088, 249, 450.00 for personal protective equipment, drugs and medicines and P171, 445, 100.00 for operational costs. The figure does not include the human resource cost which the ministry estimated at P 387, 038,060.00.

The Sunday Standard investigation team accessed a detailed breakdown of the Ministry’ budget, made a price comparison against market rates and established that the Ministry’s budget has been inflated by about P 1 billion.

The Ministry of Health had initially budgeted P110 million for triple packaging boxes, apparently for specimen transport. The Ministry’s estimate cost the packaging boxes at P5 000. 00 a unit and the ministry wanted to buy 22000 pieces.

The Sunday Standard team was however able to source the triple packaging boxes from a high-end supplier, Alpha laboratories in the United Kingdom for P 1,300 a unit. The Alpha Laboratories price is P3,700 cheaper per unit than the Ministry’s estimate. The Sunday Standard was able to source the boxes even cheaper, P 900 from a supplier in China. This means the Ministry of Health initial estimate was inflated by about P90 million.

The Ministry of Health was subsequently forced by the Ministry of Finance to revise the budget for triple boxes down from 22000 units to 11000, bringing the estimated budget down to P55 million. At the current revised estimate, the cost of the boxes has been inflated by P45 million.

The Ministry had also budgeted P 20 million for 1000 000 head covers at P20 a piece. The Sunday Standard investigating team was however able to source the head covers from Indiamart Rs3,5 apiece, about 50thebe a unit. The actual budget for 1000 head pieces comes to P 5 million against the Ministry’s budget estimate of P20 million. The Ministry of Health was later forced by the Ministry of Finance to reduce the quantity of headcovers from 1000 to 800 000 at a budgeted cost of P16 million against the actual cost of P4 million.

The Ministry has budgeted P10 million for 100 000 disposable aprons at P100 a piece. The Sunday Standard was able to source the aprons for US$1.86/piece about P22 a unit from Wuhan Woohoo Co. Ltd China. This reveals that the Ministry has inflated the cost of disposable aprons by about 500 percent.

The Ministry of Health has requested close to 80 million (79 200 000. 00) from the Ministry of Finance to buy N95 mask/ EFFP2(20 per pack) 800 000 pieces at P99 a unit.

An N95 mask or N95 respirator is a particulate-filtering facepiece respirator that meets the U.S. National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) N95 classification of air filtration, meaning that it filters at least 95% of airborne particles.

The Sunday Standard investigating team was able to source the masks from 3M, a market leader and reputable supplier at P23 a piece against the ministry’s P99 a piece. This means the ministry has inflated the price by more than P60 million.

The Sunday Standard revealed in last week’s edition thatthe COVID-19 Procurement Unit has stopped the Ministry of Health from procuring 400 000 Covid-19 RT-PCR Kits. These are test kits used in COVID-19 real-time reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (rRT-PCR) test for the qualitative detection of nucleic acid from SARS-CoV-2 in upper and lower respiratory specimens.

Documents in the Sunday Standard possession reveal that the Ministry of Health had padded the price of the kits by about P200 million. In a budget estimate made to the Ministry of Finance, the Ministry of Health had indicated that it would spend P240 million to procure the kits at P 600.00 a unit.

It has however emerged that the Ministry of Health had inflated the price by more than 400%. The Covid-19 Procurement Unit was able to procure the same kits for P50 million at USD$12.00 a unit about (P140 a unit).

The Covid-19 task team is also understood to have forced the Ministry of Health to cancel the procurement of flu shots after it emerged that they were to be delivered after the winter flu season and would not be used next year as the flu strain would have mutated.

President Mokgweetsi Masisi has since assumed absolute command in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic, and withdrawn the more than P2 billion Covid-19 budget from the Ministry of Health and placed it under The Office of the President following reports of widespread corruption.

The more than P2 billion will now be administered by the Covid-19 Procurement Unit with is part of the Covid-19 Task team under the Office of the President. Masisi who chairs weekly Covid -19 Task team meeting is now commandeering the fight against the pandemic and the attendant corruption.

Investigations have further revealed that the Covid-19 Procurement Unit under the Office of the President has already started reversing and cancelling some questionable procurements made by the Ministry of Health and Wellness.

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