It has come to the attention of Members of Parliament that, to save face, cabinet ministers have the penchant to doctor information and thus mislead the House and the entire nation with the Ministry of Education being the most recent to be caught in the net.
Answering a follow-up question in parliament from the Gaborone South MP, Akanyang Magama, the Minister of Education, Jacob Nkate, was at pains to explain the reason his ministry falsified the remuneration packages between the expatriate former Vice Chancellor of the University of Botswana and the incumbent citizen while it was a matter of public record that the expatriate received astounding and alarming packages during her tenure.
“Mr Speaker, I am not aware that the response to a question from Member of Parliament for Tswapong South was incorrect and had misleading information,” Nkate attempted to exonerate himself and the entire ministry.
He added, “Mr Speaker, I reiterate that I have not misled parliament in this matter. I would never knowingly mislead parliament in any matter even if it were not in the public domain.”
Nkate promised parliament that he would investigate the matter further to settle the issue.
The saga all started with the deposed Assistant Minister of Education, Maggie Mbaakanyi who, on answering a question from Tswapong South’s Oreeditse Molebatsi in 2006 told parliament: “The former Vice Chancellor was recruited from the United States of America and was appointed in 1998 on a salary of P342, 205 per annum.”
She added that the salary of the current Vice Chancellor was P364, 308 per annum.
However, it recently came to the attention of Magama that the ministry relayed misleading information as it was known that the former expatriate’s remuneration far exceeded the advertised amount and he asked a follow-up question.
Assigned to probe allegations of corruption and misappropriation of funds at the highest institution of learning, the Lesetedi Commission of Enquiry revealed that the former expatriate Vice Chancellor was appointed at a stipulated salary of P134 676 per annum for a period of three years but negotiated her way to obtain an immense salary.
“The post of Vice Chancellor of the University of Botswana fell vacant following the end of term of contract of the former Vice Chancellor, Professor Thomas Tlou. An advertisement was placed in the local and international media for a Vice Chancellor’s post at a stipulated salary of P134 676 per annum for a period of three years. The Vice Chancellor accepted the offer, but strangely enough, she then negotiated the period of the contract to two years as well as increased earnings to a US Dollar denominated salary of US $90 000. Currently, this amount translates to about P600 000 per annum,” reads part of a document from the Commission.
Because this information is known by the public, Magama was stunned and worried that the ministry had the audacity to offer parliament and the nation such misleading information.
The practice of misleading parliament seems to be gaining root at an alarming rate and the Ministry of Labour and Home Affairs is no exception.
Before he was transferred to the Ministry of Health, former assistant Minister of Labour and Home Affairs, Gaotlhaetse Matlhabaphiri, was caught in a similar situation, compelling him to make a u-turn and concede to misinforming and misleading parliament and the nation over issues pertaining to citizens holding management positions at Bank of Baroda.
Confronted with claims that there was more than met the eye at the Bank of Baroda, especially on matters of localization of managerial positions, Matlhabaphiri responded to parliament that “of the seven Batswana at the bank, two were holding management positions”.
However, it came to light the two were “mere supervisors” who were already up in arms for holding management positions.
And contrary to his earlier suggestions, the issue of differences between the benefits for citizens and non-citizens was under amicable discussions between the bank management and the Botswana Bank Employees Union. The former assistant Minister of Labour finally came out into the open to reveal that the issue of benefits was referred to BOBEU after several failed attempts to settle the matter internally.
With the question time restricted to last strictly 30 minutes and the supplementary questions hardly allowed because of time, most MPs found themselves at the mercy of the ministers who are economical with the truth as they try to save face by withholding important and crucial testimony.