Monday, June 1, 2020

Sloppy DVS’ exposes Botswana to FMD risk

A delegation of Botswana government led by the Minister of Agricultural Development and Food Security Fidelis Molao, reported back from France last month with a World Animal Health Organization’ (OIE)s  clearing vast parts of the country from Food and Mouth Disease(FMD) listing.

The bad news however is that the Department of Veterinary Services (DVS)   has been found wanting in riding Botswana of the cattle disease. The DVS has been castigated by the Office of the Auditor General for reliance on the broader ministerial strategic plan for own operations. OAG pointed out that the ministerial plan is generic and does not zero in on and therefore unhelpful in measuring departmental performance.

He further revealed that there were no indications in the audit pointing to a clear sense of direction in terms of how the department intended to tackle the FMD.

The Performance Management System (PMS) in the public service requires that ministries and their departments develop strategic plans which articulate what they would deliver to the public during a six year period.

Auditor General, Pulane Letebele, noted, “It was observed that the DVS had not developed a comprehensive long term departmental strategic plan. Such a plan would provide a clear direction for their FMD control efforts, identifying objectives and strategies to accomplish those objectives as well outlining measurable goals.”

Such goals would have to be supported with realistic, quantifiable benchmarks for monitoring and evaluating the department’s overall performance in the long term.

Instead, the department according to Letebele, several strategy documents such as the Fence strategy, Fence Maintenance Strategy, the 2014/2015 Annual performance plan and the 2013 Surveillance  Plan as well as the Annual Disease surveillance Plan 2014-2016.

The state Auditor rubbished all these documents on the basis that they lacked clear and measurable time bound objectives.

She highlighted that while such documents were adequately relevant to FMD control; they were of no effect without being integrated into a comprehensive departmental plan in the form of a strategic plan. Such a plan would serve as a blue print of the DVS commitment to delivering on its mandate.

The Response of DVS Management to the observations was that had overlooked the need for such a comprehensive plan. Apparently, the oversight emanated from the consideration that the Ministry already had a strategic plan in place.

It was on that basis that Letebele contended that the Ministerial plan was to a considerable extent generic and without clear and specific focus on critical aspects relating to the DVS mandate.

A departmental strategic plan could have enabled DVS to efficiently prioritize its resources and could have also served as a baseline from which overall organizational progress could be measured.

On that basis it was found that the coordination link between districts and the broader department was discordant and therefore incompatible with existing budgetary provisions.

This was found to have overbearing effect in financial and resource allocation.

It also emerged that DVS had failed to adequately manage the risk of recurrent FMD outbreaks in FMD high risk areas around the country. To qualify this reference was made to sporadic outbreaks which occurred in the period between financial years 2009/2010 and 2013/2014.

Auditor General, Pulane Letebele lamented in her report, “Consequently, there was real risk that gains so far made in the fight against FMD could be jeopardized translating into dented trust among trade partners as well as otherwise avoidable downstream expenditures.”

In fact, already such neglect  it was observed, resulted in government spending over P129 million just on control of the disease during the period under issue.

Additionally, Letebele pointed out in her latest Performance Audit Report N0.3 of 2018 that the DVS had not adequately planned for implementation of important interventions and resolutions pertaining to FMD control.

Moreover, where provision seems to have been made, the plans are lacking in terms of timelines for deliverables which are crucial for monitoring implementation.

For example, review of the update on strategies for combating FMD revealed that the document only listed the DVS short and long term interventions without specifying when such would be carried out and or completed.

Key attributes of the DVS’ deficiencies in managing the risk of FMD outbreaks included inadequate vaccination cover ages, gaps in implementing surveillance plans and far from satisfactory maintenance of cordon fences as well as blemishes in implementing bio-security measures.

Of equally critical concern it was noted by the Auditor General that despite their importance, no timelines were specified to actualize; expansion of FMD FREE ZONES, COMMODITY BASED TRADE, ESTABLISHMENT OF VACCINE BANK AND OF DISEASE CONTROL FUND AS WELL AS ESTABLISHMENT OF PROTECTION ZONES.

There was also no set timeframe for prioritized Disease Control Infrastructure Maintenance.

Dr Letlhogang Modise, Head of DVS told Sunday Standard, “We are amenable to any feedback on our performance. It is our responsiveness to such that has in fact led us to ultimately securing the desired conditions for OIE clearance.”

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