The no-nonsense Finance and Economic Development Minister, Dr Thapelo Matsheka, has hit the ground running slashing millions wasted in low impact pet projects, calling for increased service fees while promising a brutal budget for the next financial year.
The first casualty has been the controversial Constituency Community Projects (CCP) – introduced under the Khama administration without prior budgeting and planning, where each of the 57 constituencies was allocated P10 million under the supervision of the area MP. Local Government and Rural Development Minister, Eric Molale this week confirmed that Matsheka has already reduced the budget for Constituency Community Projects (CCP) programme for the 2021/22 financial year from the usual P570 million to only P30 million as part of his brutal budget.
Some Members of Parliament including Carter Hikuama of Ngami Constituency are however clueless about the development. Speaking at the Botswana Association of Local Authorities (BALA) National Conference held in Gaborone, Matsheka said the budget will be brutal around which projects actually transform the country and are also of significant impact. The minister noted that he got a very difficult fiscal positions that needs to be resolved. “We will not stop developments but we shall prioritize and select projects that can actually make an impact. Low impact projects we will not do, we will not do guard houses, that councils can do on their own but not as a national project of significant impact,” Matsheka revealed.
The Minister has since also called on local authorities to review some of the fees which they charge as council giving an instance that government health institutions should increase their service fees from five (5) to 11 Pula. “That is why the five pula that people pay at Marina Hospital is more costly to collect. Those people should be paying 11 Pula. We must think in Dollar terms…if it’s less than a Dollar please find something else to do,” Matsheka advised.
Councils has also been required to go back and resets limits for their revenue collections as they have been cautioned that government will this time around not give them the amount of money which they have received before. According to Matsheka, there is no reason for councils to continue getting funds from government hence the upcoming tough budget. He stressed that authorities should raise their bars very high around collecting their revenues and also making sure that they run efficient structures in their respective districts.
For his part Local Government and Rural Development Minister, Eric Molale concurred with Matsheka that councils must show commitment that they are indeed collecting revenues. He highlighted that areas such as Palapye could by now be drawing a lot of revenue from property ratings.
Though he acknowledges that some councils are indeed not collecting their revenues, Kweneng District Council Chairman, Motlhopi Leo has however pointed that on some other basis councils are restricted to do so by existing laws. “In Molepolole for example we should charge rates but you will find that there are certain properties that are not covered by the procedure of collecting rates,” Leo highlighted in an interview with this publication.
The Council Chairman said this then therefore calls for councils to engage with their relevant ministry to make sure that there are laws put in place which gives them the authority to successfully collect rates.
Meanwhile Matsheka has also revealed that he will also along with Molale soon embark in an exercise to probe the efficiency and finance books of various councils across the country.
Upon his appointment Matsheka vowed that as long as he remains the minister of finance he will through the office of the Accountant General follow every single Thebe that leaves the Treasurer to any government institution across the country. It now appears that the local authorities and councils will be the first in line to do some answering to the determined minister and also account for every single thebe they used.
“As long as we are issuing money to local authorities and councils it remains the duty of the Accountant General to see that this money conforms to efficient public expenditure, to see that it is actually used to benefit the very citizens which we represent at different government levels,” Matsheka said.