Auditor General Pulane Letebele has come short of labelling the Botswana Innovation Hub (BIH) as a failed organization. In her report on the audits of the accounts of the Government for the financial year ended 31st March 2016, Pulane notes in the Statement of Special Funds that BIH has been sitting on an inactive P12 000 000 Innovation Fund since inception in 2010.
The Auditor General reported that BIH had, in two consecutive Public Accounts Committee meetings, assured they would take the matter up with the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning with proposals to amend the Fund Order to facilitate the appointment of the Board of Trustees or otherwise regularise the status of the Fund: ‘‘At the time of writing this report, I am not aware of any progress made with the consultations with the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning, nor of the reason for the delay in finalising this matter,’’ Letebele writes in the report.
In their response to enquiries by The Botswana Gazette, BIH Corporate Communications Manager Tigele Mokobi confirmed that the Innovation Fund was not yet implemented, seven years after its inception. He said the delay was as a result of suggested changes to the statutory instrument to accommodate the status of BIH as a Company (registered under the Companies Act) which has necessitated the amendment of Statutory Instrument. ‘‘The process to determine and agree on the best fund structure also delayed operationalization of the fund. This in turn has had a ripple effect on the MOA and Appointment of an independent Fund Adjudication Committee,’’ Mokobi said.
He also confirmed that government had not pulled back the funding availed for the Fund and that all funds that were allocated were still lying idle waiting to be utilized once the Fund is operational. He said BIH continues to address all challenges and requirements to ensure the operation of the fund as soon as possible.
Regarding concerns that the Fund Coordinator continues to receive a hefty salary from BIH despite his dormant portfolio, Mokobi said the Fund Coordinator is actively engaged in ensuring that Fund instruments which will assist in the operationalization of the Fund are finalized.
The Botswana Innovation Hub was incorporated to develop and operate a science and technology park to aid in diversifying the economy and help transform Botswana into a knowledge based economy; promoting research, development, education and innovation; supporting start-ups and existing companies. BIH focus sectors include ICT, Mining Technology, Bio Technology, Energy and Environment.
Despite government committing lots of funds on BIH, the organisation is yet to reach its full potential and fulfil its mandate.