How The Poverty Eradication Fund Gets Milked

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  • Tenders awarded to friends and associates
  • Office of the President abused for gain
  • President Khama not aware of what happens right under his nose
  • Gazette enquiry forces officers to make U-turn

SONNY SERITE

Government spokesperson Dr Jeff Ramsay has confirmed that the Office of the President (OP) is investigating allegations that one of its high-ranking officers is involved in collusion and peddling of influence to benefit her acquaintances with the multi-million-pula Poverty Eradication Program tenders.
Between 2012 and 2015, government allocated P160 million of its annual budget towards poverty eradication programmes and in his State of the Nation address last year, 2016, President Ian Khama revealed that since the inception of the Poverty Eradication Program, P99.2 million was disbursed to districts for the purchase of equipment and materials as well as the training of beneficiaries undertaking Alternative Packages.
Investigations by this publication indicate that Chief Public Relations Officer at the Office of the President, Lesego Mabiletsa Kgomanyane has issued lists of preferred companies to District Officers. In some instances, the district officers were allegedly made to believe that Kgomanyane’s list of preferred companies comes from the Office of the President as a directive instructing who must be given the tenders. Established procedure calls for district officers to select companies using their own procurement processes and procedures without the interference of the Office of the President.
The Botswana Gazette is in possession of a list of companies Kgomanyane has sent out to the district offices and most of them are owned by her known associates. Company records reveal that while some of the companies bear different names, they are owned by the same persons.
Botswana Qualifications Authority (BQA) requires that all training done under the banner of government should be conducted by accredited institutions. In spite of this requirement, most of the companies hired to provide training to poverty eradication beneficiaries are not eligible to provide training services as they operate with supplies certificates.
The beneficiaries of the Poverty Eradication program are trained and empowered with basic life skills covering, amongst others mindset change, business planning, financial literacy, product packaging and branding, marketing and sales strategies
This publication is in possession of communication by a company representative which reveals to an associate how it was approached to submit a quotation for a tender it had not bid for and the amount of money agreed to be shared once the training is over and payment is received. She revealed how her company was ‘borrowed’ to execute the training.
When contacted for comment, Kgomanyane initially denied providing any Districts Offices with list of companies; however, when pressed further on the revelations contained in the documents in this publication’s possession, she conceded that indeed she had provided a list of service providers to the districts.  Kgomanyane defended her actions, saying she does so only to help the districts with names of service providers due to her previous work within the programme when she had compiled similar lists during the time when the program was coordinated from Office of the President. She said she does not force the districts to award the tenders to the companies she submits.
The Southern District Supplies Officer has raised questions on Kgomanyane’s narration as the Supplies Officer alleges that her department received a list from Kgomanyane “as a directive”. She said on receipt of the list, they asked Kgomanyane to send them a savingram which instructs them on the exclusive use the companies provided but Kgomanyane never sent the letter despite her promises to fax it. An officer in Letlhakeng (names withheld) also confirmed that they received a list of the companies from Kgomanyane. This publication is in possession of letters of request for quotation from the same companies as they were asked to provide quotations for trainings that were scheduled to start yesterday (Monday) in Gaborone.
When contacted for comment, Gaborone District Commissioner Grace Seitshiro asked that this publication to call her after five minutes but immediately phoned Kgomanyane to inform her about the same enquiry not knowing The Botswana Gazette was in another active line with Kgomanyane and was able to overhear the attempted tip off.
In an interesting twist of events, immediately after The Botswana Gazette probed both Seitshiro and Kgomanyane, Seitshiro’s office is alleged to have called off invitations to the companies provided by Kgomanyane and invited different companies to fulfil the training.
Responding to this publication’s enquiries, Ramsay said he has been made to understand that questions were raised about a company involved in the 2016 training, which is subject to ongoing investigations.
He confirmed that while the unit for poverty eradication remains in the Office of the President, as of this financial year, training was decentralised to the districts where it is overseen by the District Commissioners.
Even though the letter for request for quotation sent out to companies states that ‘‘the trainer must be accredited to BOTA’’ and that the trainer must supply participants with training certificates, Ramsay said because the said training is not academic certificated, it is not necessary for the training companies to have been accredited. On the role played by public relations officers when it comes to selecting companies, Ramsay said, ‘‘our public relations officers do not play any role in training.”
According to a report by The World Bank Botswana’s the number of people living in poverty or on $1.9 or less per day, currently stands at 13% and as at November 2016, government had, according to President Khama, identified 20,636 beneficiaries to be assisted with Alternative Packages across the country. Government pays P1, 500 to train one beneficiary, meaning therefore, for 20,636 beneficiaries government pays over P30.9 million. Poverty Eradication is one of President Khama’s flagship programs. He wants it to be counted as his legacy, the number one priority in his presidential tenure. At the time it was established, and to ensure that the programme was given the prominence it deserved, the project coordination was undertaken by the Office of the President and was headed by then Vice President Ponatshego Kedikilwe who reported to Khama every two months on progress during Special Cabinet Meetings.

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