Friday, March 31, 2023

New MPs pampered with expensive hotel accommodation

The Government will spend millions of Pula in hotel accommodation for 33 newly elected Members of Parliament who retained their constituencies and are now staying in rented houses in Gaborone.

The delay in refurbishing Parliamentary flats by one of the contractors hired by the National Assembly is contributing to this.

The National Assembly is reportedly frustrated with this delay as it is likely to cost government millions of Pula in house rentals and hotel accommodations.

Efforts to verify the actual cost of the hotel accommodations and house rentals with government officials yielded a terse response from Clerk of the National Assembly, Barbara Dithapo.

“I can’t divulge information relating to figures on that issue,” she said. When pressed further Dithapo said, “I don’t have the figures at the tip of my fingers.”

The Telegraph has established that the standard accommodation price for one of the plush hotels is P2060 per day.

Dithapo explained that they had hired two companies for the parliamentary flats which are currently undergoing what she called a major refurbishment.

She said that one of the contractors had requested for the extension of the scheduled completion of the work but failed to meet the deadline.

Dithapo also added that they have also procured furniture in preparation for the furnished flats but they had to find a storage facility which she said was also going to cost them since the flats are still undergoing refurbishment.

While Dithapo said there was nothing unusual about accommodating new MPs at hotels, some MPs were worried that they are likely to stay at the two plush hotels until the end of the current sitting of Parliament.

“It always happens that after the General elections, MPs are accommodated at hotels before they could be allocated accommodation at the parliamentary flats,” she said.

The Telegraph has learnt that the National Assembly does not have a time frame for when the new MPs are likely to stay at the hotels. This view was initially shared by Dithapo but she said they intend to relocate the new MPs from the hotels to houses that they rented for MPs who lost during the elections.

“We had given MPs who lost elections until end of October to have vacated the houses that had been rented for them. They have promised us that they are winding up and hopefully next week the new MPs will move in,” she said.

In an interview, Okavango Member of Parliament, Bagalatia Arone stated that staying in plush hotels will bleed government coffers.

“It’s very costly because some of them are staying with families and each member of the family has been allocated a room. The government also pays for the children of these MPs’ when they are transported to schools,” he said.

Arone said before Parliament was dissolved ahead of the General Elections they were informed that they should move into the flats but they refused.

“We refused on the basis that we did not know who was going to win or lose elections and it was going to be costly for those who had lost,” he said.

Arone shared the sentiments of some observers that the new MPs are likely to stay at the hotels until the end of the current sitting of Parliament.

“I wonder why they had informed us that we should move in last time and now they are telling us that refurbishment is still ongoing,” he said adding that he and other MPs who retained their constituencies are still staying in rented houses in Gaborone.

However, Dithapo denied that they had informed MPs that they should move into the flats before parliament was dissolved ahead of the General Elections.

She was not in a position to state when the contractor would complete the refurbishment of the flats and how much they had budgeted for private houses that they have rented for MPs.

Early this year, government came under criticism after it emerged that Cabinet Ministers who had vacated ministerial houses to provide room for High Court and Industrial Court judges were getting P13 500 housing allowance per month which is P1 500 short of the P15 000 basic salaries of the MPs.

Responding to a question in Parliament at the time, former Minister of Presidential Affairs and Public Administration, Mokgweetsi Masisi said 11 ministers had moved out of the ministerial houses.
“They are paid housing allowances at 75% of the market rental value for the current Ministerial houses which is approximately P13 500 per month. The decision was based on the current Green Book,” said Masisi in his response. MPs were querying what they saw as an extravagant amount spent on civil servants.


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