Botswana’s economy continues to suffer due to imprudent policies, fiscal and revenue crimes which have resulted with government losing billions of public funds, this is according to some members of Parliamentary Public Accounts Committee (PAC) who raised these concerns last week.
During the appearance of Finance and Economic Development Planning Ministry Accounting Officer, committee member, Dithapelo Keorapetse, indicated that it appeared that bureaucrats in charge of the economy in terms of managing and giving policy were being forced to accept and implement imprudent spending policies.
“The policies might be legal but they are imprudent. For example, the decision to buy gripen jets for soldiers while there are issues such as lack of housing for the soldiers. The decision will bleed the treasury billions of pula,” said Keorapetse. He indicated that another example of imprudent policy was the recent Economic Stimulus Package (ESP) policy which was initiated to stimulate the economy and reduce unemployment. “There is a perception that money is gone but few have benefited. Reduction in unemployment could not be achieved, the economy could not be stimulated and there are few who have pocked millions from ESP tenders,” he said.
The legislator also pointed out concerns from Afro-barometer reports showing that the key challenges faced by Botswana’s economy are corruption, fiscal and revenue crimes; concerns he also said were raised by local investigative journalists.
Keorapetse further noted that there are concerns that the economy is in the hands of foreigners and naturalized Batswana as the Public Procurement and Asset Disposal Board (PPADB) statistics show that foreigners and naturalized Batswana continue to get a chunk of money from treasury through government tenders.
Responding to the concerns the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development Planning, Solomon Sekwakwa said his ministry deals with macro-economy where it gives out money and could not address issues raised by the legislator. He could not state if he was pressured not to give advice on government’s imprudent spending policies and also did not disclose the advice he gave regarding the purchase of gripen jets. “As the PS I advise, whether my advise will be liked or not is not my problem. If I don’t advise that’s when I will be tainted, so I do advise where the policy is not correct. I have been to BDF camps and the situation there is pathetic. We have to address housing and personal conditions at the camp,” said Sekwakwa.
When asked to comment on what government was doing to stop fiscal and revenue crimes which are growing and continue to negatively affect economic growth, the PS said “We are trying to come up with law that capacitate Botswana Unified Revenue Services (BURS) to deal with issues of transfer pricing and money laundering.”