Thursday, October 22, 2020

Matambo hauled over coals for ‘misused’ funds

Minister of Finance and Economic Development Kenneth Matambo was pushed against the wall on Wednesday over public spending under Special Funds, with opposition Members of Parliament citing a string of abuses of public money under his watch.

Established under the Public Finance Management Act, a Special Fund can be introduced by any government ministry or department with the approval of the Ministry of Finance to address a particular urgent public need requiring immediate funding.

However, opposition MPs cry foul that funds are open to abuse singling out the Tourism Levy Fund, the Disaster Management Fund and the Alcohol Levy Fund – all introduced under the nose of Matambo whose responsibility is to have a say and knowledge over their introduction, implementation and sanction.

 “Yes, it has come to my attention lately that the Ministry does have some Fund of this nature. The established Fund operates under different conditions under the PFM Act,” noted Matambo in Parliament referring to the Tourism Levy Fund.

He added: “This been the case I am concerned and will find out and take necessary action.”

He was apparently referring to the Minister of Environment, Natural Resources Conservation and Tourism and Tourism Tshekedi Khama who was recently criticised before the Parliamentary Committee on Statutory Bodies and Public Enterprises over the introduction of the Tourism Levy Fund to run contrary to the PFM Act.

Expelled Botswana Tourism Organisation chief executive officer Thato Dithebe indicated to the committee that the tourism Fund financed day to day routine duties including the nearly opened controversial Dubai tourism office.

Earlier Matambo had argued: “Madam Speaker, I am not aware of any deviation or abuse of producers by a ministry or department managing a fund established under the PFM Act.”

He was answering opposition MP Phenyo Butale who was worried that the Tourism Fund was not addressing the focal issues as outlined in the Act – to attend to urgent issues of public need requiring immediate funding under the Ministry.

As for the Alcohol Levy Fund, Matambo said it met all requirements of the law although he was unsure of its auditing process.

“If it has passed the law requirements I so believe the Fund never missed any audit,” he said.

Matambo was agitated when pressed further over the Disaster Management Fund, referring opposition MP Wynter Mmolotsi to “go to the relevant Minister” and ask the question.

Mmolotsi rubbed the Finance Minister the wrong way when he enquired about the Disaster Management Fund whose money was be used to form the “notorious” Directorate of Intelligence Services (DIS) instead of targeting its intended purpose.

“It is our belief the transaction happened in your presence. Was is it procedural for the Disaster Management Fund to be used to create DIS instead of focusing on its intended purposes,” Mmolotsi questioned the Minister only to get a snap answer.

For government ministries to establish a special Fund, procedure entailing the submission of a motivation to the Ministry of Finance must be followed.

“The motivation should include the purpose of the Fund, sources of its funding and designation of a public officer who will be the accounting officer responsible for its administration. Once the submission is approved, an order establishing the Fund is gazetted and laid before the National Assembly,” Matambo had earlier told Parliament.

The Accounting Officer responsible for the administration of any fund is required to prepare its financial accounts and submit them to the Accountant General.

“These accounts are audited and considered in the Government Statement of Accounts. This is made in order to ensure compliance with the purpose for which the fund was established,” he added.

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