Friday, September 25, 2020

MYESC officials raided the Bot50 piggy bank – millions missing

Millions of public funds allocated for the BOT50 Independence celebrations through the Ministry of Youth Empowerment, Sport and Culture Development (MYESC) remain unaccounted for, giving credence to the wave of corruption accusations levelled against the Ministry in the build up to the 2016 celebrations.

Permanent Secretary Kago Ramokate had a difficult time justifying to the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) various expenditures undertaken by the ministry during the BOT50 preparations.

Commenting at the PAC seating this week Specially Elected Member of Parliament Mephato Reatile described BOT50 as a cash cow milked dry by ministry officials. The Auditor General’s report on the expenditure for BOT50 had revealed countless irregularities in the disbursement of funds for BOT50 celebrations.

The report revealed among other things that while a P350 765 contract had been awarded for branding of the National Stadium, an additional 57 percent of the amount was recorded over the sum.  While the increase was attributed to the contractor having branded with the wrong colours the AG was of the view that the contractor should have been wholly or partly responsible for the additional costs.

An event management company was appointed by Botswana National Sports Commission (BNSC) to organise two festivals in Lobatse and Selebi Phikwe on April and May 14 2016 respectively at the cost of P2, 6 million. However, the company received an additional P312 000  which was said to represent Value Added Tax (VAT), a deviation from the general procurement regulation which stipulates that VAT should be clearly stated in the quotation proposals and if not therein, should be deemed automatically inclusive.

Answering a question from Reatile on why they did not follow procurement procedures Ramokate could not provide any answers suffice it to say they do acknowledge the error. “In hindsight we do wish we had applied the law in its true sense and rejected the claim,” the PS said.

Questions were also raised about a total sum of P3 million advanced to the BNSC to facilitate a contract for the provision of fireworks.  A company was awarded the contract at P2 million and was paid 50 percent in advance as mobilisation fee before receiving the remaining 50 percent balance. While the contract was signed by the BOT50 Coordinator and the supplier in March and April 2016 respectively records show the Ministerial Tender Committee only awarded the tender on direct appointment two months later in June 2016 , with the contract having already been signed and a 50 percent advance payment made.  The remaining P1 million advanced to the BNSC was unaccounted for.

The Ministry again acknowledged the contract agreement signed before June 2016 was improper as performance contracts are signed following award of tender. BNSC also engaged a foreign company for the staging of an electronic music festival for a contract worth P3 million with pre conditions that there be a contract with “clear and defined” deliverables and 30 of the budget dedicated to local artists and service providers as a way to empower local citizens. The AG’s report however observed there were no records to indicate adherence to such.

There were also questions raised about P857 000 from the total P3 million advanced to Vision 2016.

The AG’s report observed that the BOT50 procurement process was characterized by waivers for direct appointments which defeated the principle of competition and transparency aimed at the achievement of value for money. While Public Procurement and Asset Disposal (PPAD) regulations concerning emergency procurement may be permitted only for emergencies the report observed that direct appointments by MYESC were in some circumstances for activities planned up to two years prior and as such their procurement should have been done on time. There were also weaknesses on the evaluation of tender documents, the report found.

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