Tuesday, September 29, 2020

Chaos reigns supreme at BOTEC

The delay by government to act on recommendations captured in the Lisindi Commission, appointed by President Festus Mogae to investigate allegations of corruption at Botec (Botswana Technology Centre), has driven the parastatal into further abyss.

According to the latest information, Botec stands to lose a lot of money to private consultants who have had their work terminated midway through.
Staff has already petitioned the minister to intervene to ensure that public funds are not lost to consultants whose work has been of no benefit to Botec.

According to one of the petitions to the Minister responsible, Minister of Science Communication and Technology Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi, Botec is in disarray and is “effectively running without leadership.”

Not only is staff morale low, many of the engineers have since left.
Senior officers have been in acting capacity for as long as five years.
There is no Board of Directors and no substantive Managing Director.

The picture painted by staff is that of an organization in a state of paralysis.
Allegations of corruption, sexual favouritism, mismanagement and general decay are rife.
At the height of Botec problems, and at the instance of parliament, President Mogae appointed a commission to investigate.

Although the hearings were held in public, government is still to implement the recommendations of the Lisindi Commission.
Because there is no leadership, staff complain that Botec has become a cash cow for private consultants who act in cahoots with those in management to do consultancies, the fruits of which are never enjoyed by the organization.

Staff has already sent Venson-Moitoi two petitions, but they point out the delay by the minister to act is costing the government a lot of money as Botec has now become a white elephant.

The delay by the Minister to act has also led to high staff turnover, especially among the engineers who are in high demand elsewhere.
This year alone five engineers have left.

The two petitions by Botec staff come in the wake of a Presidential Commission of Enquiry which, among other things, heard how certain companies owned by people with influence in government had turned the parastatal into a cash cow through unfair awarding of contracts.

Among other things staff complains that the Centre has gone without a Board of Directors for too long.
The position of substantive Managing Director has also not been filled. “The management is disjointed and, in most cases, some of them do not even turn up for duty. As there is no Board of Directors, things have moved from bad to worse and staff does not know where to forward their grievances,” say the members of staff in one petition to the minister.

Staff further complained that senior officers at Botec have been acting for far too long, some for as long as five years, a situation which makes it difficult for them to make organizational plans or take decisions.

“The result of non-substantive officers is that no proper planning and follow through is done with projects, and any support structure like the implementation of the Quality Management System has been stalled.”

Yet another complaint is that Botec finances are at risk because there are no internal audit structures, with the acting Managing Director at one time openly complaining that he did not have a true picture of the state of Botec, especially the finance side as information is withheld from him by the Finance Director.

“The institution has reached a deadlock and we feel that no significant progress can be maintained under the current circumstances,” reads another letter to the Minister.

“The Board has reached its tenure and has dissolved. The current management is disjointed and is increasingly affecting operational issues of the institution. This effectively means that Botec is operating without leadership.”

“The frustration experienced by Botec staff is building and should the current status be allowed to prevail, the situation will deteriorate to a critical point.”

Staff are also at a loss as to when and how Botec will be merged with another government owned technology company, RIPC, a process that had long been promised but never undertaken.

Although Botec is now said to be on a way down the abyss, information accessed by The Sunday Standard indicates that the situation of a downhill fall started as early as 2001 when the then management, led by David Inger, was accused of “madness and absenteeism.”

Managing Director David Inger circulated a memorandum to all staff, advising them to stop their “provocation” and “hysterics.”

“Management has been working together on a plan for improving the situation at Botec. In the meantime, hysterical and provocative email messages do not help anybody. In fact, they serve to undermine an already sensitive situation. The responsible members of staff are also getting sick and tired of them,” wrote Inger.

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