Sunday, January 24, 2021

Suffer the little children as FCC mismanages funds

Francistown families who were hoping to enroll their children at the Area S Day Care Centre have been left in a bind because the city council has run out of money following reports of financial irregularities.

A recent audit of the Francistown City Council has revealed financial irregularities at the cash strapped local government body.
Francistown City Mayor Buti Billy gave the public a peek into the goings on at the beleaguered city council during his speech at the opening of the full council meeting last week. The mayor revealed that while the FCC managed to garner a score of 78% ministry officials, there is still a need to engage in concerted efforts to improve the council’s financial management.

“I would, however, like to call upon honourable councilors and staff members to work hand in hand in order to improve financial management,” he said.

It also emerged during the mayoral address that Area S Day Care Center, which is the FCC’s only operating community development project, has grounded to a halt because of exhausted funds, with the day care centre only 70% complete. While it is not clear if the project was adequately budgeted for, it has emerged that the FCC has sent numerous SOS calls to Tati Nickel Mining Company, requesting over P200 000 to complete the project. The mining giant has up to now not responded to the request, despite several follow ups from the FCC.

In the past, The Sunday Standard revealed glaring irregularities and flouting of accounting procedures at the FCC, especially after the release of the Auditor General’s report for the 2002/2003 financial year in 2006. The report revealed that, on top of the rampant financial mismanagement, there is a serious backlog in the FCC accounts, a fact which council officials have repeatedly denied.

In the report, the Auditor General made a number of recommendations one of which was that the city council should engage debt collectors to augment their efforts of collecting owed rates and service levy from the public. The mayor’s speech revealed that FCC is presently owed over P10 million in SHHA loan arrears and service levy.

In his speech last week, the mayor continued to encourage councilors to urge members of the community to pay back their loans. While some people have in the past concurred with the auditor general in the issue of engaging debt collectors, the FCC continues to use public education and house to house campaigns to encourage people to pay their rates and service levy, a system that has, in the past, been shot down by some, including Monarch South Councilor, Ignatius Moswaane, as costly and ineffective as it is not legally binding.

In a recent interview with the Botswana Guardian, outgoing FCC Chief Executive Officer, David Modisagape, was quoted as saying that the FCC is probably the most corrupt council in Botswana. The auditor general’s report also urged the city council to keep in touch with the police on the progress of cases involving former council employees who are facing charges of fraud. The report revealed that no recoveries have been made of the more that P 140 000 that was misappropriated from council coffers, while some of the implicated officers are still employed by the city council.

Modisagape was quoted as saying that in the past two years, the FCC had dismissed 45 employees from work and that the council is still grappling with cases of corruption among other employees who are still in the employment of the council.

The FCC has, in the past, grappled with cases of theft and corruption by its employees and some of the accused officers had been acquitted at a cost to the city council and later reinstated and reimbursed.

The council has also, in the past, been accused of flouting set accounting standards in the preparation and distribution of recurrent revenue and expenditure and capital statements.

The Sunday Standard is informed that financial laxity and mismanagement of funds is so rampant that, contrary to financial regulations, some officers are granted new imprests while they owe the council thousands of pulas in outstanding imprests which they have not yet retired. Government accounting procedures stipulate that officers who have been granted imprests when going on trips should retire those imprests two weeks after they return to their duty stations.

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