- Bill is what is purportedly owed to hotels, lodges used to quarantine suspected cases of COVID-19
- Ministry of Finance says it will pay only on the basis of proof
Confict has erupted between the Ministries of Finance and Economic Development and Health and Wellness after hotels and lodges recently slapped government with a P35 million bill following suspected cases of COVID-19 being quarantined at the facilities, The Botswana Gazette has established.
Finance minister Dr Thapelo Matsheka has confirmed that the treasury recently received a bill amounting to P35 million but said the matter was referred back to the Ministry of Health and Wellness. In an indication of tightened control measures, the Permanent Secretary at Finance, Dr. Wilfred Mandlebe, said the treasury would not pay unless it is convinced that the claim is legitimate.
“We only work with facts,” Mandlebe emphasized. “We cannot pay unless we are convinced of the veracity of the claim.
The Minister of Health, Dr Lemogang Kwape, referred this publication to the ministry’s Acting Permanent Secretary, Baile Moagi, who was said to be out of reach at the time of press.
However, information reaching The Botswana Gazette is that the stalemate between the two ministries stems from uncertainty about whether the hotels and lodges that are purportedly in question donated their services or their assistance was a business transaction.
These hotels and lodges were used to quarantine people arriving from high- risk countries and believed to have been exposed to the COVID-19. Over 2000 people have been placed and removed from mandatory quarantine. “Some hotels and lodges had pledged assistance while for some it was strictly business,” said a highly placed source who cannot be identified. “The bill is P35 million when most of these services were donations. There could be looting here.” The matter is said to have also reached the attention of President Mokgweetsi Masisi.
Further information suggests that some Hotels and Lodges pledged to government on conditions that, government, through the Ministry of Health would foot all operational costs such electricity and water bills, laundry services as well as food and catering.
Some Hotel and lodge operators that spoke to this publication said they have been left in the lurch by government over their payments. Others have also warned that should the matter take longer than expected to be resolved, they shall opt for the legal route.