Kweneng Council faces financial ruin

SHARE   |   Tuesday, 24 November 2020   |   By Editors@thepatriot.co.bw
Leo Leo

Delivery of services in Kweneng district could grind to a halt due to looming financial challenges after the municipality overspent the covid19 relief budget for food baskets by  approximately P100 million (P98,273,312.09).

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The revelation was made by Kweneng District Council (KwDC) Chairman, Motlhophi Leo when addressing an ordinary full council meeting,  in Molepolole recently. The meeting was held under the theme : “Inclusive Governance- Towards Realization of the Transformation Agenda”. As a consequence of the deficit, Leo told stunned Councillors that KwDC was forced to borrow funds from other accounts in order to finance the over-expenditure. "The current financial position requires urgent intervention from the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development, failing which council may face operational and financial risks in the near future," said Leo.

Explaining the over expenditure Leo said the 2nd April 2020 lockdown caused by the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic came with regulations that were to be followed strictly including restriction of movements. It was therefore imperative that assessment be carried out to determine households that required assistance with food baskets, he said. The exercise commenced on the 6th April 2020 and a total of 102,153 households were covered with 88,340 of them recommended and supplied with food rations.

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In responding to this pandemic, he said, funds had to be spent to provide food baskets and to prepare facilities in the school environment for the new normal. Leo explained that KwDC had to do a lot of procurement in the response to the pandemic, in line with massive investment by Government into support programmes, in an effort to sustain economies during the crisis period. Responding quickly and getting resources to citizens is an absolute priority and often that goes hand in hand with an increased risk of fraud and corruption, warned Leo revealing that so far the MLGRD has disbursed P52,275,199.56 for COVID-19 while expenditure incurred by KwDC stands at P150,548,505.65 resulting in total over expenditure of P98,273,312.09.

As part of the food rations provided to beneficiaries during the first lockdown period, some agricultural products were purchased from farmers. While procurement of local produce helped to improve supplement the nutritional value of supplied food stuffs, it also helped to boost the economic status of the farmers. The total Government expenditure on agricultural produce in Kweneng district stands at P10,268,787.10.

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Leo said: "Emergency procurement sits at the heart of the Government’s reaction to the pandemic and is particularly prone to exploitation. The easing or re-focusing of controls and the streamlining of processes and procedures to respond to the crisis may unintentionally expose the Government or Council to the risk of rampant misuse and abuse of public resources. It is on this note that internal controls should be re-oriented to the context of the crisis, but not diluted.

Following the implementation of relief measures and other procurement activities, our Council has been marred by allegations of corruption. We do acknowledge that in most instances emergency procurement attracts high perceptions of corruption as competitive bidding is scaled down. In order to ensure accountability and value for money, Auditors from Ministry of Finance and Economic Development, our Internal Auditors, teams from our Ministry are currently working their reports to verify and check if there was compliance to supplies and financial regulations".

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Covid19 violations 

A Team constituted to monitor compliance to COVID-19 health protocols by business entities has been set up comprising Bye Law Enforcement Officers, Environmental Health Officers, Commercial Affairs Officers, and Police Officers across the district. An operation launched to enforce COVID-19 protocols found that out of 702 outlets inspected, 314 were compliant whille 390 were not, with 181 of them attracting charges. Charges ranged between P100.00 to P4000.00 depending on the level of non-compliance and a total of P288,100.00 was raised. The common non-compliances were failure to conduct screening of staff and customers; failure to maintain screening registers, failure to provide hand washing facilities or sanitizers and failure to provide social distancing markers.

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Another area of interest that continues to receive routine inspections is our schools. All Government and private schools were inspected with the aim of inducting the school management on how they should protect themselves from acquiring COVID-19 through adherence to set requirements. Routine inspections were later on done to check whether the schools were compliant with COVID-19 protocols mainly social distancing, hand hygiene, daily screening, wearing of masks and other hygiene issues.

 Public Sector Outsourcing

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The 2020 Budget has noted that for all Ministerial recurrent budgets, a larger percentage goes towards Personnel Emoluments, and this trend is the same for Councils. Kweneng District Council has heeded to the call to outsource some of its functions, which remains the only viable option we can explore to continue to provide some services. KwDC has outsourced the following services.

Fire Services

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Contract for fire and emergency services ended on the 30th April 2020., the contract with Rural Metro Botswana has been renewed for a further 5 years. The new contract which was signed on 01st September 2020 had to undergo a rigorous contract negotiation exercise prior to signing. The Council in conjunction will Rural Metro Botswana will now commence negotiations with other Fire Service providers like Gaborone City Council and Botswana Defence Force (BDF) to propose service level agreements for mutual assistance in providing the service.

Cleaning Services

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Kweneng District Council has also hired a private Company to undertake cleaning services in the Council Chamber. The performance of this contract will be reviewed overtime in an endeavour to establish the possibility of fully outsourcing the entire cleaning service by the Council. You will recall Honourable Councillors that previously the Council phased out the night-watchmen cadre which was responsible for providing security to Council facilities. The cleaning services will most likely take the same route. In total, the cleaning service contract has created four job opportunities. The cleaner who was manning the Chamber has been redeployed, and no jobs have been lost.

Kweneng Ventures

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As part of the transformation agenda, the Minister of Finance and Economic Development when addressing the BALA National Conference in March 2020, encouraged us to look at the commercialisation of some of the land parcels that we have in order to improve our revenue base. Kweneng District Council has made tremendous strides towards the realisation of this objective, in order to improve its operational efficiency.

The Council has formed an investment arm; Kweneng District Ventures (Pty) LTD to assist in this regard. Most importantly, the Company was also set up to facilitate Public Private Partnerships (PPP) for Kweneng District Council. These partnerships would be identified to finance the gap that the Council is faced with in delivering some of the critical projects in the District. Kweneng District Council identified the need to develop the two plots at Nkoyaphiri that have been allocated for Construction of Rural Administration Centre and the Bus/Taxi Rank.

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Kweneng District Ventures (KDV) was then given the task to facilitate development of these two plots through a partnership with the private sector. The Company has identified private partners to develop this land which is opposite the Sir Seretse Khama Barracks in Mogoditshane. The concept that has been adopted through this model is to develop a commercial mall with office space where Mogoditshane/Thamaga Sub District will operate from, and a mini Bus/Taxi rank that will facilitate traffic flow. This project has sadly been stalled by an ongoing Court case where one of the property developers has filed a case challenging the administration of the project.

As the main intent for operationalising KDV was to improve operational efficiency, the Council has since hived-off some of the revenue streams to the company. To date, the Council has hived-off collection of revenue through advertising signs to the company, leading to improved collection of revenue under this vote surpassing targets. The term of office for the previous board expired at the end of 2019 and a new board has since been appointed and orientation was held on the 9th September 2020.

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LAND ISSUES

The exercise for the preparation of detailed layout plans for village expansion has started in earnest since the beginning of the current financial year. In all the targeted villages, due consideration was made to comply with existing policies such as the National Settlement Policy, and the Urban Development Standards to guide the provision of different land-uses.

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The need to incorporate existing developments was also made to reinforce the principle of non-polarisation of income groups that characterise existing settlement patterns. Whilst the predominant land-use is that of residential, there has been other land-use activities such as civic and community, commercial and open spaces to cater for the needs of each settlement.

Since the beginning of this year, six detailed layout plans have been completed and approved by the Physical Planning Committee. These include expansion areas for Ranta, Magokotswane, Mahetlwe, Ditshukudu, Botlhapatlou and Takatokwane.

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The other villages whose detailed layout designs are at draft design stage include; Lephepe, Sojwe, Kweneng, Tshwaane, Khekhenye, Motokwe and Maboane. During the course of current financial year, concerted efforts will be made to finalise all outstanding layout plans through outsourcing and use of internal resources. 

Molepolole Development Plan (2019 -2036)

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The draft final Molepolole Development Plan was re-submitted on the 24th June 2020 to the Minister of Land Management Water and Sanitation Services for consideration as per Section 19 of the Town and Country Planning Act.

The submission of the Plan was done after addressing issues and comments raised before by the Minister and subsequent engagement with the Department of Town and Country Planning on the previous submissions. The approval of the Plan is essential to provide a tool to shape the development of the village and critically implementation of other projects such as Molepolole Water and Sanitation project which is currently underway. Council is yet to receive feedback from the Ministry.

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PIII Road corridor

The PIII Road Corridor Local Plan which was initiated by Kweneng District Council as per the requirement of section 19 (1) of the Town and Country Planning Act, 2013 was finally approved on the 02nd June 2020. Following an analysis of emerging land-use patterns along the corridor the Plan has re-zoned some plots in order to guide the business community and Government agencies on how best to develop the area.

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The plan has provided guidance on how some of the existing plot boundaries should be re-aligned to improve infrastructure capacity of the entire corridor.

KW6 Ranches

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Through a Presidential Directive CAB 12(B)/2012, Kweneng Land Board was in 2012, directed that KW6, a Wildlife Management Area be converted to livestock and game ranches respectively. A ranch feasibility study was undertaken and ranch layout produced.

The Land Board carried out further community consultations on the preferred use of KW6 following an instruction by the Ministry of Land Management, Water and Sanitation Services. Consultations were carried out in September 2019 and a report was produced and submitted to the Ministry. During consultations, the communities indicated their desire for the area to be zoned communal grazing. The Land Board has now been directed to reduce the number of ranches to accommodate the wishes of the communities. The revised layout was submitted to the Ministry in June 2020 for consideration and way forward. 

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WATER SUPPLY

Gamononyane-Molepolole North-South Carrier Connection Project

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The project objective is to augment water supply to Molepolole, Mmanoko Cluster villages, Thebephatswa BDF Camp, Kopong and Gamononyane villages through a connection pipeline to the North-South Carrier pipeline at Gamononyane Pump station. The present water supply sources within these villages are inadequate. It should be noted that currently, Molepolole water demand stands at 12 million liters. Currently water supply is 9 million liters, hence a shortfall of 3 million liters.

The proposed Gamononyane-Molepolole NSC Connection Project is anticipated to supply 24 million liters of which 5ML will be supplied to Kopong, 1ML supplied to Gamodubu & Mmanoko, 3ML supplied to Thebephatshwa and 15ML will be supplied to Molepolole village. The construction of the Molepolole, Kopong, Gamononyane phase is expected to take 18 months commencing in October 2020 and completing in April 2022; while the Molepolole Thebephatshwa phase will take 12 Months from October 2020 to October 2021. The overall project cost is estimated at P689,795,860.26.

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Further to the aforementioned project Honourable Councillors, plans are underway to implement the Malwelwe Wellfield Connection project which is funded by World Bank at an estimated sum of P100 million. Six boreholes will be connected under this project and it is expected to commence in March 2021 with a duration of 9 months. The project is at procurement stage and bidding documents will be issued to the shortlisted bidders in September 2020.

In response to the COVID-19 health requirements, Water Utilities Corporation (WUC) was directed to re-connect water to the households that were disconnected. Water supply was therefore restored to a total of 4267 out 4694 households which were disconnected. The rest of the households that were not connected are those that were found to be abandoned or where premises could not be accessed.

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Meanwhile, availability of water to households has been made possible by stakeholders that were able to assist WUC with resources during the lockdown period. Kweneng District Council assisted with three 10 cubic meters bowsers, Food Resources with a truck and Kgalagadi Breweries Limited (KBL) with a 36 cubic meters water bowser.

Consultancy services for the Molepolole Water Sanitation Project are underway. The Consultant is currently working on the Draft Design Review and Modification, which were scheduled to be complete in October 2020. The actual project is expected to commence in April 2021 and run up to October 2022, thus taking 18 months.

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EDUCATION

The Ministry of Basic Education is responsible for the provision of Basic Education, that is, from Pre-Primary (Reception) up to Form 5 and Out of School Education and Training (OSET). The Regional Office continues to engage schools in order to create a conducive learning environment that would enhance teaching and learning.  All the 91 primary schools, 23 junior secondary schools, 2 senior Secondary schools and one unified Secondary School have School Heads and qualified teachers. The office continues to support schools through in-service training, psycho-social support in guidance and counseling, special education support and schools inspection.

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The MoBE has appointed a new regional Director, Steve Bothasitse who assumed office on the 2nd July 2020. The Regional Office has also been joined by  Gagoope Andreck who assumed office as the new Chief Education Officer, Letlhakeng Sub Region.

With regard to COVID-19 Management, the Regional Office ensured that all schools were ready to receive learners on the 2nd June 2020. The Ministry of Basic Education disbursed funds to Junior and Senior Secondary schools to ensure that minor maintenance together with the erection of wash basins was done accordingly. Schools engaged local companies to make these improvements. It is during this time that all stakeholders including Parents Teachers Associations, MLGRD and companies came on board to prepare the schools during these difficult times.

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The recruitment of temporary teachers for shifting at schools commenced immediately after the guidelines from Ministry of Basic education were shared with the Regional Officers. Currently the region has employed four hundred and fifty seven (457) temporary teachers at Primary Schools and three hundred and thirty three (333) at Secondary Schools, thus a total of seven hundred and ninety (790) temporary teachers have been employed due to increase in classes in trying to adhere to the COVID 19 protocols.

The Regional Office has also engaged 117 SHE officers who have been placed in each and every school. The Ministry of Basic Education has since been able to secure Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for the SHE officers and is currently distributing the items. The SHE officers assist with registration of learners, teachers and guests on a daily basis and ensure that all institutions comply with the COVID-19 protocols.

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Due to COVID-19, a decision has been made that all Reception Classes pupils as well as leaners with special needs should remain home until further notice. However, the Government in the meantime is ensuring that PPE for teachers in the special units, being Bonewamang, Monare and Solomon Dihutso Primary Schools is being procured at the Headquarters.

Regarding Academic Performance, it is worth noting that due to the extreme social distancing which was imposed emanating from the State of Emergency which has been declared, the National Mock Examinations were postponed and hence coming to an end on the 11th September 2020. Thus at the present moment, schools do not have marks for any examinations except the school based tests.

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The office of the Director and the sub region visit schools to observe lessons, checks learners’ work and provide professional guidance and support. The school management teams have been advised to support the internal process of teaching and learning.

With regard to classrooms accommodation, the region is working hard to secure caravans for Mogoditshane JSS, Ikageng, Ledumadumane, NareSereto JSS and Lempu JSS whose class size is 55 per class.

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 The Regional Office still experiences a large enrollment in all our schools even though there is a shortage of classrooms and COVID-19 protocols have exacerbated the situation. The boarding schools, being, Mantshwabisi P School, Shadishadi P School, Matsheng JSS, Mphuthe JSS, Lempu JSS, Motswakhumo JSS, Mogoditshane SSS and  Mahupu Unified have more learners than they could absorb. The region together with the relevant stakeholders continue to work closely to ensure that the situation is being addressed.

It is rather disturbing to note that the District has registered a total of 139 drop outs as at December 2019 across all levels due to either pregnancy, desertion, truancy or absconding. This is indeed a call for concern as leaners should know that education is vital in their lives. Parents should encourage their children to go to school until they graduate.

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The above notwithstanding, I note with appreciation the contribution made by various stakeholders in the improvement of the education sector. The region continues to enjoy support from a number of institutions such as Stanbic Bank, Sunshine Africa, Mascom Wireless, Orange Botswana, Botswana Communications Regulatory Authority (BOCRA), Institute of Development Management (IDM) and Botswana Telecommunications Corporation (BTC). Our schools have received donations in the form of face masks, hand washing soap, electronic tablets and charging trolleys just to name but a few.

The Region strives to be amongst the best in terms of performance, hence academic performance is at the heart of the discussions with schools heads, management teams, learners and all stakeholders.

*Article based on an address by Kweneng District Council Chairman, Motlhophi Leo, marking the opening of the first session of the ordinary full council meeting, which ended in Molepolole recently under the theme : “Inclusive Governance- Towards Realization of the Transformation Agenda”.



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