Millions disappear at Statistics Botswana

SHARE   |   Sunday, 01 February 2015   |   By Ditiro Motlhabane
Statistician General Majelantle Statistician General Majelantle PIC: Ricardo Kanono

• Rot exposed at statistics agency

Management and staff at Statistics Botswana (SB) are set on a collision cause over numerous grievances spanning from controversial recruitment, appointments and dismissals, unfair labour practices, and allegations of misappropriation of funds. Lawyers representing members of staff were expected to file a lawsuit against Statistician General (SG) Annah Majelantle, and SB seeking redress over grievances that management has failed to address satisfactorily. Majelantle has ignored all correspondences from employees over grievances relating to overtime allowance, acting allowance and refused to avail minutes of general staff meetings and a report by a task force set up to investigate salary grievances at SB. Sources told The Patriot on Sunday last week that some of` the issues have been reported to the Directorate on corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC).


Mysterious transactions
Minutes of a Corporate Services Management meeting of 24 February 2014, seen by The Patriot on Sunday, show that the Financial Accountant presented a crisis the previous week particularly around salaries, indicating that there was a certain amount of money which was assumed to be gone (sic) somewhere only to find out that it was not accounted for. Sources allege that the funds, in excess of P3 million, have mysteriously disappeared. As an example they point to a curious entry in the SB bank statement for October 2013, which shows an auto transfer of P1, 145, 330.60 on 31 October 2013. The statement shows that the funds were cashed by a cheque indicating CONTRA PAYMENT under customer reference on the same day. 
Issues in recruitment process
In one incident two employees (names withheld) were interviewed for the position of Principal Statistician (Environment and Agriculture) and the position given to the one who was not suitable for appointment on the instruction of the SG. The SG is accused of forcing the recruitment of the employee despite a recommendation by the Human Resource department to the contrary because she did not qualify for the post.
At one point three Director positions - Economic Statistics, Social Statistics, Standards, Methods and Information Systems - were advertised. All candidates for the position of Director Standards, Methods and Information Systems failed causing the position to be re-advertised. It is alleged that another round of interviews were never conducted for the position but instead the SG insisted that one of the candidates (name withheld) be appointed despite that she failed two interviews for Principal Statistician (Environment and Agriculture) and Director. Secondly, her supervisor had recommended that her probation be extended for six months due to unsatisfactory performance but the SG ignored it and instead recommended to SB Human Resource committee to approve her confirmation to the position.
The position of Principal Statistician (Education and Health) was advertised with requirements for a degree in Statistics with Health Information Management/Epidemiology/Educational Planning and Management or any other equivalent/relevant qualification acceptable to SB. Although there were qualifying candidates they were never invited for interview for the post but instead the post was re-advertised with a different qualifications' requirement. There was now a requirement for a post graduate degree in Health Information Management/ Epidemiology/Educational Planning and Management with Statistics. It is alleged that this was done because the officer who had been acting in the position for over six months was not the preferred candidate although she holds a degree in Health Information Management and Epidemiology. A different person, who holds a Masters’ degree in Educational Planning and Management, was appointed without being interviewed, sources said.
The rampant disregard for transparent recruitment process is said to have also occurred during the advertisement and appointment of candidates for positions of Principal Human Resource Officer-Recruitment and Staff Welfare, and Principal Human resource Officer-Training Development, Administration and Performance. It is alleged that although shortlisting was done at the Ministry of Finance after advertising the posts interviews were only conducted after appointments on 01 November 2012. Two candidates within the organisation with requisite qualifications and experience were overlooked in preference of two others with less experience and qualifications. In fact a candidate who was not even recommended for appointment like many others because her experience was not relevant has been given the post ahead of four others who satisfied all the requirements and were recommended for appointment.
In yet another incident an officer was appointed Senior Statistician-Fieldwork and Regional Coordination (North) although an assessment panel had disqualified her because she and another (names known) had "insufficient experience at the supervisory level". Correspondences from one Jabulani Dick - Human Resources and Administration manager to Director Corporate Services dated April 28, 2014 - further confirms that indeed the one who got the job did not have the four years supervisory experience required. Five other candidates recommended for appointment as they satisfied all the requirements were overlooked.
Some employees whose contract expire at the end of March 2015 and have been informed that they will be terminated, have resolved to take Majelantle and SB to court. On January 13, 2015 the Principal Human Resource Officer-Recruitment and Staff Welfare, who was appointed under controversial circumstances, wrote the termination letters to other employees. Insiders said SB is undertaking major retrenchment as they are outsourcing some services that have been provided internally. The terminated employees' main contention is that SB has reneged on an earlier promise to give them first priority in the roll out of the outsourcing exercise. Apparently the jobs have already been given to some private companies rendering the employees jobless.
Unfair labour practices
SB employees complain that they are denied overtime pay when they have worked overtime, as stated in a memo dated 17 November 2014 authored by Jabulani Dick- the Human Resource and Administration Manager. Lawyers representing the employees – Ndadi Law Firm – have warned SB the said memo and the practice of withholding payment of overtime to all staff, including drivers, is unlawful in that it offends section 95(5) of the Employment Act. Lawyer Uyapo Ndadi said the provision is clear and unambiguous as it spells out that if an employee is required to work in any one day more than the numbers of hours in the ordinary daily working period, the number of hours so worked in excess shall be deemed to be overtime, and the employee shall be paid for such overtime.
He argued that the employer is only entitled to give time off in lieu of overtime payment when employees work during paid public holidays in terms of section 99(3) of the Employment Act or where the employee opts for time off as per clause 5.10 (f) of Statistics Botswana's terms and conditions of service. 
"In the premises we have been instructed to go to court to obtain an order nullifying and setting aside the said "overtime freeze". Unless we receive a written undertaking by no later than 2nd December 2014, that our clients will henceforth be paid overtime in terms of the law and statistics Botswana policy, we will have to approach the high court for a remedy."
Acting allowance
Some employees are alleged to have worked for an aggregate four months without receiving an Acting Allowance in terms of clause 5.25(e) of the Terms and Conditions of Service. Five of the employees, who are employed as Data Collectors/ Enumerators performed the functions of Field Supervisor from the 3rd February 2014 to 31 March 2014, as part of the Botswana Literacy Survey. They are collectively owed in excess of P82, 000 as acting allowance for the duration.
On the 9th August 2014 to 26 September 2014 some Data Collectors/Enumerators took part in the Information Communication and Technology Survey as Field Supervisors. The ten employees are collectively owed approximately P180, 000 as acting allowance for the same period. "We have been instructed to demand that you pay all the said staff the said amounts by no later than 5th December 2014, failing which we shall issue summons against Statistics Botswana and Statistics Botswana will be liable for all legal costs incurred," said Ndadi in a letter of demand dated 25 November 2014.
Salary grievances report
On 13th March 2014, the SG appointed a task force to investigate salary grievances, in which employees participated, and was due on 30th May 2014. Despite numerous staff requests management has persistently refused to avail a copy to all staff. Ndadi then demanded that the report together with a board resolution accepting and endorsing the report be made available to his clients no later than 1st December 2014. On the same date, the lawyers also demanded a copy of the minutes of the general staff meeting held on 20th June 2014. "In the event that it is not made available by the said date we hold instructions to approach the High Court for an order compelling your office to do so," said Ndadi.

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