Monday, June 1, 2020

Francistown: A city in dire straits

Francistown is a city with many problems. This is notwithstanding the fact that it is the country’s second biggest city.

The city’s problems range from failure to collect sufficient rates for provision of services to implementation of new projects.

The 20011/12 budget is too little to carry the day for the northern city, having been slashed by a hefty 18 percent from the previous financial year and more planned projects to be consequently shelved.

Botswana Movement for Democracy Mayor, Shadreck Nyeku, is battling with figures that do not add up, and certainly would undermine his city’s development efforts. He has pleaded for innovation from the city councilors to augment what the central government has provided.

From an approved P143.5 million recurrent budget in 2010/11, the city’s budget for the coming financial year, which runs from April 2011 to March 2012 has been cut by a whopping 18 percent to P116.8 million.

“This is really a challenge because we have been struggling to implement most of our projects and programmes with the current budget. Some of these projects, which we failed to implement, include, among others, maintenance of abattoir, resealing of roads and many others. Some votes got exhausted as a result of operating with below estimate budget,” Nyeku recently told a full council meeting.
Schools maintenance and furniture votes have been given a limited ceiling of P2.7 million and P950 000 respectively.

“You can really see that we are not even able to attend to buildings that were affected by the November 2010 storm due to budget constraints,” mourned the mayor.

The council is owed P14 million in rates and in the previous financial year only managed to collect only from P17 million from the over P28 million rates owing. At this half collection rate, the council will certainly fail to provide the needed services particularly that the budget continues to be cut due to government’s financial constraints.

It is clear that most of the debtors are not coming forth to pay despite concerted efforts to increase the collections rate.

P57 million was budgeted for ongoing projects in 2010/2011 and due to insufficient funds in the coming financial year, no new projects would be implemented.

The ministries of local government, lands and housing have compounded the financial problems by not disbursing funds compelling the city council to pay contractors for Gerald Estate projects with money intended for other projects and programmes.

FCC spent P16 million on infrastructure upgrading at Gerald while pending certificates of payment amounting to P30.7 million have not been honoured illustrating the burden of the late disbursements by the responsible ministries.

Construction of the hostel for the disabled at Gerald has gone beyond its initial contract some of P10.9 million to P12.1 million due to additional works, including the administration block that was added during the implementation of the project.

“An addendum has been submitted to the Ministry of Local Government requesting for additional funds to finance the over expenditure,” explained the distraught mayor.

According to Nyeku, FCC is struggling to continue providing welfare services as it is faced with an over expenditure of P11 million from the programme due to the fact that out of the P23 million budget allocated, only P10 million has been released to date.

“Our ministry has been followed up and we are still waiting for the response. The painful part is that even though there are no funds, we are still to continue giving the beneficiaries what is due to them,” bemoaned the mayor.

Although the council has been faced with a host of problems, the mayor was pleased to observe that the Ipelegeng programme was well executed during 2010/11 and that was a commendable effort given that many districts had not made that achievement.

“I hope that the Ipelegeng beneficiaries will be motivated as their monthly wages have been increased effective 31st April 2011,” said Nyeku, adding that for the coming financial year the programme has been allocated P12.9 million.

“The focus will now be intensified maintenance of public facilities being school facilities, staff houses and government offices. However, we still continue with culvert and storm water drainage desilting, grass cutting and ensuring environmental cleanliness,” explained the mayor.

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