Friday, December 4, 2020

Costly blunders bleed government – report

It is the one thing any dummy buying automobile spares might be expected to get right: the car model for which they are buying the spares. But it seems that even this simple task is too difficult for government officers who have spent millions of Pula in tax payers money on spares for cars they do not have in their fleet.

According to a catalogue of errors compiled by the Auditor General in his latest report, this is just one of the many blunders and poor judgments by public officers that is costing government millions. The Auditor General revealed that during a recent audit of the accounts and records of the Botswana Defence Force at the Mogoditshane Barracks they found large stocks Land Rover V8 and TD5 engine and gear box spare parts worth over P2 million gathering dust. “In response to audit enquiries on why these items had been non moving since purchase it was explained” that at the time the spares were bought, the BDF no longer had Land Rover V8 and TD5 in its fleets.

“These items of stores had been rendered redundant from the onset and the expenditure on their purchase unproductive and fruitless” noted the report that was released on Thursday. The report further revealed that an office block that was bought in 2005 in Gaborone International Finance Park Plot 181 Kgale Mews to house the Ministry of Trade and Industry and the Independent Electoral Commission has been vacant “ever since” because it has structural defects which the Ministry of Lands and Housing failed to spot because they did not carry out a due diligence study. It emerges in the report that this is not an isolated incident, but part of a pattern of negligence by the Ministry of Lands and Housing which is the procuring entity. “Almost at the same time that the office block at Plot No 181 Kgale Mews was purchased, government had also purchased two other office blocks across the road from the first one which were then occupied by my office and the Department of Wildlife and National Parks, respectively on a lease basis. Shortly after purchase these office blocks started to show signs of defects or deterioration which reflected on the structural integrity of the buildings.

These defects were characterized by progressive structural cracks on the floors and walls in a number of places……trusses on the northern part of the building snapped resulting in the roof tiles caving in causing damage to the ceiling and panic among members of staff. The specialist who was engaged to investigate the incident also pointed to serious construction defects. My concern at this time, with the turn of events, is whether these properties had been a worthwhile investment as a long term solution to the acute shortage of office accommodation in government. This also raises the question of the extent to which due diligence checks had been carried out by the appropriate authorities before the deals involving the acquisition of these long term assets were concluded”, states the report.

The Auditor General also revealed how a number of government programmes have opened the door to fraud and abuse due to poor accounting and record keeping. During a random review of the operation of the Backyard Garden Project in Moshupa, Kanye, Letlhakane, Machaneng and Palapye, which are part of the Poverty Eradication Programme “my main finding indicated that the stores accounting as laid down in Supplies Regulations and Procedures, in all the centres visited was practically non-existent, with possibilities of losses through dishonesty or otherwise without detection or notice.”

“The purchasing of all Backyard Garden materials is done centrally at Ministry Headquarters for deliveries to various centres throughout the country, without so much as advice to the centres of the materials and quantities that they should expect to receive. Our observation from visits to the centres was that there were large stocks of materials, possibly beyond requirement, suggesting most likely over-purchasing.” The report revealed that this problem was not isolated and pointed to a pattern of poor accounting.

For example, the audit of the In-School Alcohol and Drug use and Abuse Prevention Programme “has indicated purchases of a number of items of camping equipment for use in programme related activities… upon inquiry regarding accounting for and storage of these items of stores, it was stated that these were on permanent issue to officers implementing the programme and were kept at their residence because of lack of space. This state of affairs is manifestly as undesirable as it is out of line with the requirements of Supplies Regulations and Procedures. In these circumstances, the possibility of conversion of these items to personal use, inadvertently or otherwise, without realization, cannot be ruled out.” The Auditor General also identified this trend during an audit inspection of the Food Relief Services. “

An audit verification of the ledger balances of stocks on hand of the various items of foodstuffs against physical stocks, carried out in June 2013, revealed significant discrepancies which indicated an unsatisfactory standard of accounting for these stores. This situation is a matter for concern as it carried with it the risk that items of foodstuffs may disappear, through fraud or otherwise, without trace or detection resulting in losses that cannot be accounted for.

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