Monday, October 26, 2020

The people of Botswana too deserve full accountability on Covid-19 related procurement

There is a subtle disagreement between the ruling party and opposition over just how much money

Initially Government had devoted P2 billion towards the Covid-19 Relief Fund.

That money was later on substantially increased.

Since then, the lines of how much government has even allocated to Covid-19 and also how much of that has been spent, including on what the expenditure has been on has grown increasingly vague and blurry.

Government early on had said every thebe of the money would be accounted for.

Any reference to that statement now seems to evoke anger among the government officials.

It speaks a lot about our casual approach to issues of governance when it comes to public finance that we are as a nation saying we should wait until after Covid-19 that an audit could be done.

It is not a secret anymore that there is a turf war between the civil service leadership and Covid-19 Task Force appointed by the President.

There is a lot to fight for between these two groups, because their interface was never going to be seamless.

But more worrying is that accountability and good governance dictates do not seem to be an overriding requirement on the Task Force.

A permanent secretary of Health has already been fired on the flimsiest of grounds. And the rest of his contract will be paid by the state, with him cooling his feet at home.

Overpricing for Covid-19 goods and services does not seem to be a big concern for our authorities.

It is something that cannot wait until after corona.

Corona is such a big issue that as we now know has overstretched the capacity of already existing institutions.

The pandemic has also put resources to the test. Botswana would want to continue like its business as usual without putting in place additional institutions even on an adhoc basis to augment existing ones like DCEC.

Distribution of food parcels, the wage relief subsidy and also procurement of PPEs have attracted all kinds of criminality. Those should by now have become part of ongoing investigations.

If there is an admission on the part of those in power

We need not look far to understand that there are things we can learn from other people.

In South Africa it has been a recurring theme of that country’s Head of state, President Cyril Ramaphosa that there would be no theft, no mismanagement and no embellished prices in the procumbent of Covid-19 related procurements.

But allegations and indeed exposés have continued.

This has prompted Ramaphosa and his government to appoint a committee of ministers to deal with all allegations of Covid-19 related corruption.

When appointing the Committee, Ramaphosa said all information on covid-19 related procurement at every facet of government from local government to provincial to national should be passed to the committee.

He said profiteering from death and suffering of other people could not be allowed and go unpunished.

“The people of South Africa require nothing less than full accountability from those who have been elected and appointed to serve them,” said Ramaphosa.

The cabinet committee is just the latest in a string of efforts by South African Government in general and Ramaphosa in particular to fight all kinds of corruption in covid-19 related procurement.

One such early effort was to establish a Special investigating Unit “to investigate ant unlawful or improper conduct in the procurement of any goods, works and services during or related to the national state of disaster in any state institution.”

President Ramaphosa knows what he is talking about. In the whole world, South Africa is the fifth country with the most coronavirus cases. In Africa South has half of the continent’s total figures. Clearly the country has a mammoth task.

Indeed corruption is a scourge that continues to harm the weakest in our societies and with regard to Covid-19, even those who are on their deathbeds.

Botswana needs to do more to fight Covid-19 related crimes.

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