THE ALCOHOL LEVY FUND DRAINED

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746

How P1 BILLION was spent

  • Last audit was in 2009
  • P900 million spent on Ministries & NGOs
  • Olopeng’s ministry benefits 50% of P800 Million

GAZETTE REPORTER

Documents from Parliament detail how close to P1 billion was drawn from the controversial Alcohol Levy on Beverages Fund to finance various government organisations, non-governmental organisations and performing arts groups.
The Assistant Minister of Health and Wellness Biggie Butale told parliament last week that Thapelo Olopeng’s Ministry of Youth, Sports and Culture benefitted P458 436 644.93 from the fund which is the biggest chunk from the total expenditure.
Butale said that the total expenditure from the fund is P986 496 686.38 from the P1 billion which his ministry received from the Fund Order.
Of the P1 billion, the Health Ministry spent P139 676 862.36 on office administration while P42 628 732.46 was spread across various NGOs.
Responding to Gaborone North MP, Haskins Nkaigwa who wanted to know the update on the fund and how it was being managed and the projects the fund was being spent on, Butale said that by December 2017 the alcohol levy fund had collected approximately P2.84 billion since its inception in 2008. Former President Ian Khama introduced the levy on alcohol immediately upon assuming office. In November 2008 the levy stood at 30% and he later raised it to 55% by the time he stepped down from the presidency.
The Botswana Unified Revenue Services (BURS) charges 6% to the fund as collection fees and the management of the Alcohol Levy Fund is guided by the Levy on Alcoholic Beverages Fund (Amendment) Order of 2010, Butale said.
The order established the fund, guides the purpose of the fund, administration of the fund, appointment of the Alcohol Levy implementation Committee, Receipts into the Fund, Payment out of the Fund, Surplus of the Fund, Annual budget and Investment plan of the Fund, procedure for payment out fund for projects and Accounts of the Fund.
NO AUDIT DESPITE USE OF FUNDS
Section 12 of the Fund Order requires for an annual audit of the fund and against this, Butale says only two internal audits were carried out. The Assistant Minister confirmed to parliament that the Fund was last audited in 2009, a year after its establishment and has only been subjected to two internal audits in 2013/14 and 2014/15. Gabane- Mankgodi MP Major General Pius Mokgware who had also asked the Health Ministry why the funds have been used for other purposes other than the ones stipulated in the fund order told this publication that he was not satisfied with the response given in parliament.
The assistant minister had responded that, “My ministry only receives 10% of the alcohol levy funds for the alcohol campaign, 10% goes to the Ministry of Nationality, Immigration and Gender and the surplus remaining in the fund is paid into the Government Consolidate Funds as stipulated in Fund Order.”
“The Minister avoided answering my questions and my complaint is that he was being generic,” Gen. Mokgware further said, “The payments do not conform to the Fund Order and it is not specific on what funds have exactly been spent on.”
General Mokgware alleged that of the P5 million that was disbursed to the Office of the President, some of it was used to procure blankets that were being donated by the Office over the years, against the Order.
The fund order was amended to facilitate the Minister to remit a portion of the alcohol fund where he or she considers necessary to address emerging public health interests including emergencies.
Makgalemele has told parliament that no individuals and companies have been refunded from the levy and stressed that while organisations can be considered for remittance of such funds, individuals cannot request refunds form the Order as per the new amendment, an issue which Mokgware did not take lightly arguing that if companies can be refunded from the levy fund, individuals should as well be refunded.
“This is designed to payback friends of the ruling party. The refund to brewing companies should trickle down to the consumers and the small players in the industry as well because we are the most affected at the bottom as we buy at the most exorbitant prices.” He argued.
WHO GOT THE LIQUOR MONEY
So far over 33 entities have benefited from the Alcohol Levy Fund through the Ministry of Health. MP Mokgware criticized the dispensations stating that Butale in his response failed to indicate whether the beneficiaries of these Funds had applied through Requests for Proposals that have been made public. Recently this publication brought to light that Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) spokesperson Thapelo Fish Pabalinga and his advertising company Leapfrog were given close to half a million from public levy funds unprocedurally.
In one letter dated 28 April 2017 and signed by then Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Health Shenaaz El- Halabi, Pabalinga is informed that his ‘‘request for sponsorship of P300,00-00 for the Theatre and Choral Shows has been approved’’. El- Halabi went further to ask Pabalinga to send his banking details in order to facilitate transfer of the funds to his account. This publication can reveal that the sponsorship money was drawn from the controversial Alcohol Levy fund which has been raking in billions from Batswana due to escalated alcohol prices. Pabalinga argued that he followed procedure in his request for the funds.
Butale says one such music company that was paid from the Alcohol Levy Fund is Colastraw Records and Shadow Arts production, Mokgware says the assistant minister avoided explaining the procedures followed and the purposes of funding the various entities.
Ministry of Health says that it is now in the process of calling for proposals from different entities to be funded from the Alcohol Levy Fund and the preparations are underway through the Auditor General to undertake an external audit of the fund from 2010 to date.

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