Sunday, September 27, 2020

Perpetually cash-strapped GCC losing income courtesy of controversial decision by Mayor

Officially, the Executive Committee of the Gaborone City Council took a decision to reserve a minimum of 30 percent of its outdoor advertising space to “verified marginalised groups.” Resultantly, three companies – Master Carpentry & Joinery, Jun Bud Holdings and Goleba Out Door ÔÇô were the only ones that benefitted from that special dispensation from the entirety of individual entities within those marginalised groups that also qualified.

The result is that since September 2017, the three companies have been using GCC advertising space free of charge when they could, like other companies, have been paying fees that would otherwise have gone towards the coffers of the perpetually cash-strapped Council. We have been unable to determine the exact amount that the Council is losing because the figures we got from our sources don’t match. While a GCC source puts the sum of lost income at around P3 million, an industry source queries the figure, arguing it would be lower than that.

Between them, Master Carpentry & Joinery, Jun Bud Holdings and Goleba Out Door were given a total of 34 sites but calculating the total sum that the Council is losing is complex because the billboards are of different sizes and some sites are reportedly not being used. That notwithstanding, the beneficiaries are making a substantial amount of money owing to a roster of big-name clients like the Water Utilities Corporation. GCC sources say that the companies have exceeded the quota and so their income is much higher.

The special dispensation has raised heckles in the industry among companies that actually have to pay to use the Council’s outdoor advertising space. Last year, four of these companies (being Brand One, Primedia Outdoor, Legola Outdoor and 50 Miles) wrote to the Town Clerk complaining about this state of affairs. Their September 25 letter describes a far-from-ideal situation: while their applications for sites have not been responded to, illegal operators ÔÇô who don’t pay the Council, are taking up those same sites.

“These companies continue to enjoy unfair advantage as they continue to increase their holding. Companies which have legal allocation pay their dues to the GCC as stipulated by the guidelines, at the same time being subjected to unfair competition, both in the market and at the GCC,” the joint letter from the four companies says.

There is a graver, trickier issue: the authenticity of a September 14, 2017 letter authored by the mayor, Kagiso Thutlwe. The letter refers to a resolution by GCC’s Executive Committee. Conversely, the Marulamantsi councillor and Deputy Chairperson of the Physical Planning Committee, Sergeant Kgosietsile says that the Executive Committee never made any such resolution, that the Mayor merely manufactured it. Kgosietsile (who is more commonly known as “Yellowman” in town) adds that if indeed the Executive Committee had made such resolution, it would have had to be formally presented to the Full Council ÔÇô which never happened.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, a GCC source confirmed what Kgosietsile assertions and used a much stronger legal term to describe what the Mayor did. Whatever the circumstances of its issuance, the resolution to donate 34 sites has come at great cost to the GCC.

The anonymous source also confirmed that the resolution in question was never formally presented to the Full Council when it should have. He explained that while the Executive Committee can exercise discretion on administrative matters, it cannot do the same on policy matters.

“All policy decisions need the blessing of the Full Council in order that the Council can give management the mandate to execute those decisions,” said the source. “Without the Full Council’s blessings, those decisions can’t be executed and the Council can actually block funding for such decisions.”

All effort to get Thutlwe’s side of the story (undertaken by both telephone and email beginning February 27) failed. The Mayor’s office is one of three that are currently being investigated for corruption courtesy of a motion by Specially-elected Councillor, Kagiso Ntime.

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Sunday Standard September 27 – 3 October

Digital copy of Sunday Standard issue of September 27 - 3 October, 2020.