Former employees and citizen owned companies stand to benefit immensely as the Debswana unveils its privatization and outsourcing program.
This emerged last week when Debswana Orapa and Letlhakane Mines General Manager Seb Sebetlela, together with his management team, engaged stakeholders and civic and community leaders in a breakfast meeting to update them on the latest developments at the corporation, especially the privatization and outsourcing program.
Services Manager Mbaakanyi David explained that the outsourcing and privatization policy is borne out of a desire to contain costs and improve process performance and efficiencies through a sustainable focus on business imperatives.
“The outsourcing and privatization program aims at focusing the company on its core business and availing opportunities to companies that can undertake these non-core businesses effectively and efficiently,” he said.
Information reaching The Sunday Standard indicates that the program has been widely communicated within the company and consultations have been on-going since the adoption of the North Star strategy in 2006. Significant progress has been made with full participation of all parties in compliance with the collective agreements.
David explained that in deciding to outsource some of their services Debswana was continuously engaged in intensified consultations with their business partners, the affected employees and all other stakeholders, including the Botswana Mine Workers Union, to come up with a comprehensive policy that will embrace all those affected.
By April 2006 management and the BMWU had signed a Privatization and Outsourcing Agreement which charted the way forward for the implementation of the program. This agreement provides guidelines, structures and procedures that regulate the implementation of privatization and outsourcing initiatives. One of these structures is the Privatization Committee made up of equal numbers of Union and Management representatives. The Company and the Union also negotiated a Retrenchment Agreement which provides a process for handling redundancies and retrenchments arising thereto. The Retrenchment Agreement provides for consultation with the Union and affected employees. It also provides a separation package for employees who opt for voluntary separation and those who are retrenched.
Stakeholders were also engaged throughout the rigorous process of identification of potential outsourcing opportunities, preparation of business cases and stakeholder consultation, up until the implementation of the outsourcing in March 2008.
“We appreciate the importance of consultation in such a sensitive undertaking, and I must say that we have consulted extensively with all stakeholders ever since the inception of this program,” said Mbaakanyi David.
Close to four hundred employees of Debswana Orapa and Letlhakane Mines are due to leave the corporation after the completion of the outsourcing project. Services to be outsourced include cleaning services, township maintenance, parks and gardens, management of the shopping centre, bottle store, industrial mess and the company laundry services, printing services, security at the gates and the airports, and the aggregate block plant.
David further explained that all employees who have been affected by the outsourcing and privatization program will be given first preference in the tendering process. If such employees express a desire to go their own way then citizen owned companies will be considered.
He also explained that the employees have been given support and orientation exercises to enable them to manage funds effectively and also venture into business if they so desire. He added that Debswana engaged the services of Citizen Entrepreneurial Development Agency and Peo Venture Capital to introduce affected employees to joint venture partnerships and prepare them to better manage the challenges of business if they desire to reap the benefits of privatization and outsourcing.
“Business fairs were also held to introduce employees to the many financial institutions in Botswana and also expose them to the wide ranging financial institutions available locally. We also engaged Money Matters and Enterprise Botswana to advice our employees on financial matters and also provide entrepreneurial skills development” said Mbaakanyi David.
Civic and political leaders who were present at the stakeholders meeting, among them councilors from the Boteti district and Area MP Lebonang Mokalake applauded Debswana for its sterling initiative in citizen economic empowerment. They however warned that there should be checks and balances to ensure that all the available business is awarded to citizens. Some leaders also complained that after winning tenders from Debswana some unscrupulous business people would then indulge in unfair labor practices like unfair dismissals and payment of low wages. However David reassured them that while Debswana will not directly intervene in the operations of private businesses after awarding tenders, they will always insist on proper corporate governance among their clients and business partners to guard against such occurrences.
It is expected that most of the identified services will have been outsourced by December 2008 with the program expected to be completed by February 2009.