Botswana Vaccine Institute Staff Union (BVISU) has accused the Assistant Minister of Agriculture Kgotla Autlwetse of misleading when answering a question asked by the MP for Nata/Gweta Paulson Majaga. Autlwetse had said the Botswana Vaccine Institute (BVI) has sent 16 of its employees for short-term training for competence on vaccine production and that one employee is reading for a Master’s of Science degree (Msc) while another one is planned to this year in June.
In response the union’s Secretary General Thusang Butale said that from 2006 to 2013 BVI has not sent any employee to study for qualifications such as Master’s degree not even diploma.
“The institute has always maintained, in letters given to staff members, that its financial position did not allow it to send employees for further studies and employees who furthered their studies during the period had to sponsor themselves or find sponsorships elsewhere,” said Butale. He added that there has never been any employee sent on a course for the duration of more than two weeks during the stipulated seven years. BVI was recently hit with resignations and BVISU said that this was due to the institute’s inability to adequately train and develop staff. Majaga wanted to know the number of employees that the research institute and vaccine producer has sent for further education to read for qualification such as Master’s degree programme.
The MP also wanted to know if the minister was aware that BVI employees were not receiving scare skills allowance. In his answer the Assistant Minister Autlwetse said the BVI Board of Directors decided to incorporate all staff allowances into basic salaries in 2008. He said the decision was implemented in 2009. In their response BVISU said that scarce skill allowance by government resulted in BVI salaries being less competitive when compared to government and the market in general. “This and other reasons prompted the Institute to evaluate its pay structure and while the pay structure was being reviewed a retention allowance was given to staff members who were deserving of scarce skills allowance as per the regulations,” said Butale, adding that the retention allowance was 25% instead of 40% that was given to their counterparts at government.
The retention allowance was terminated on June 30, 2009 according to Butale, who insisted that the scarce skills allowance was not incorporated into the salaries but the institute decided to adopt the new pay structure rates and terminated the allowance completely. “All employees, whose profession should receive scarce skills, hired after 2009 have never been paid scarce skill allowance,” said Butale.