Tuesday, January 31, 2023

BPS freeloading on Department of Tribal Administration as well

It will be another four months before the Minister of Defence and Security, Kagiso Mmusi, comes to Ntlo ya Dikgosi to explain why the Botswana Police Service (BPS) has been freeloading on the Department of Tribal Administration.

This embarrassing detail has been revealed in a question that Kgosi Sibangani Mosojane had intended to ask Mmusi at the just-ended meeting of Ntlo ya Dikgosi – which is the lower house of parliament. Through his question, Mosojane sought to establish whether Mmusi “is aware of a symbiotic relationship between the Department of Tribal Administration and the Botswana Police Service, which has become parasitic in nature where Tribal Administration incurs electricity bills alone; and if so, how he intends to assist the Department of Tribal Administration in cost sharing of electricity across all offices in the North East District.”

At least until the administration of President Ian Khama, the Department of Tribal Administration, which is under the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development, had its own police service – the Botswana Local Police. BLP officers were attached to customary courts across the country. Under Khama, who himself started his working life as a police officer in the Paramilitary Unit of what was then called the Botswana Police Force, BLP was essentially swallowed by BPS in 2009. While they were transferred to BPS, those who previously worked for BLP continued to work at customary courts.

That arrangement brought BPS and Department of Tribal Administration under one roof and meant that they share resources. At least in the case of North East and possibly in many more districts, BPS is freeloading on the Department of Tribal Administration. The irony of this freeloading is that the Ministry of Defence and Security typically gets more money than the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development during annual funding cycles.

Mosojane was not in the house when ministers answered questions. Resultantly, his question was skipped and will be answered in the next meeting of the house – which will be held in February next year.

What Mosojane asserted in his question could confirm what a 2020 audit report suggested – that BPS has a fully-developed tight-fistedness problem whose solution often comes in the form of freeloading on other government departments.

According to the Auditor General’s report on Covid-19, which was published last year, BPS starved its officers who manned Covid-19 roadblocks during the national lockdown and regional ones in the Greater Gaborone zone. The report says that that “despite the long stretch of 12-hour shifts, meals were not provided to Botswana Police Service officers manning the roadblocks.” These officers worked alongside members of the Botswana Defence Force whom, as the auditors noticed, were adequately provisioned with food from nearby barracks.

“BDF Officers ended up sharing their meals with their counterparts on humanitarian grounds,” says the audit report. “This caused an inconvenience and health risk to the officers as they had to work for long hours without sufficient food.”

The auditors also found out that at a time that everybody else was being urged to observe all Covid-19 health protocols (washing hands with soap or sanitising hands), “police officers were also not provided with adequate resources such as tents, water, sanitizers, furniture (stretchers or camping beds), which posed health risks for the officers and the public especially where there were no sanitizers.”

On talking to the officers, the auditors learnt that their superiors were not lending appropriate support.

“For instance, lack of response from high authority despite challenges raised by officers on roadblocks,” the report says.

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