April 11 2010: Presidential affairs and Public administration minister Lesego motsuimi last week told parliament that President Seretse Khama Ian Khama authorized the building of lavish mansions for cabinet ministers. Motsumi was facing a barrage of criticism over government’s spendthrift tendencies, after it emerged that government has splashed P80 million for the construction of 16 ministerial houses.
The Minister of Lands and Housing, Nonofo Molefhi last week told parliament that the construction of a single ministerial house costs P5 million, which drew a lot of criticism from legislators, who accused government of not being financially prudent in the face of harsh financial woes for Botswana.
On Friday Shoshong MP Phillip Makgalemele questioned the rationale behind building ministers such lavish houses instead of giving them a housing allowance.
But Motsumi insisted that it is a long standing tradition that cabinet ministers are provided with official accommodation.
“In 2007 government realized that the stock of ministerial houses, some of which were built in the 1970’s are too old and inhabitable, and that it would be too expensive to refurbish them” she said.
As a result, she said, government took a decision, through a Presidential directive CAB 22 (b), to build new official residence for the honorable ministers.
Kgatleng East MP Isaac Mabiletsa also supported Makgalemele, saying that the provision of housing allowances to cabinet ministers will also improve their welfare, as some of them have suffered indignity after leaving office.
“The provision of housing allowances will enable ministers to build houses for themselves before retirement, instead of occupying houses that they will later hand over to government on leaving office” he said.
But Motsumi remained adamant that government is on the right, saying that ministers must have official residences that they can hand over to government when they leave office.
“When a minister leaves office, the house will immediately be available for occupation by the next minister. The building of ministerial houses is considered a sustainable option given that the cost of construction is a once off expenditure, and the house is an asset that has an appreciating value over a period of time. This is important because it enhances the overall value of government assets” said Motsumi.
She added that while paying allowances may seem an attractive option, it brings uncertainty in the long run, as allowances will have to be reevaluated frequently to match rentals which appreciate over time.
“Given the above scenario, I consider building ministerial houses a worthwhile long term investment which is more sustainable than awarding housing allowances to incumbent ministers,” Motsumi concluded.