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Govt spends P1.5 billion from Covid-19 relief fund

FINANCE PS: Dr Wilfred Mandlebe

The government has to date spent P1.5 billion from the Covid-19 Relief fund with the balance of the fund now standing at P629 million.

This was stated by the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development, Dr. Wilfred Mandlebe when he was appearing before the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) on Wednesday this week.

The Fund was established under the Fund Order with an initial seed capital of P2 billion pumped in by the government.

Businesses, individuals, and other entities contributed a further P1.25 million into the Fund, bringing the total amount in the kitty to P2.125 billion.

“So far we have disbursed P1.5 billion and we are left with P629 million,” said the PS, further explaining that the money was spent on health, wage subsidy, food relief, repatriation of Botswana citizens and education.

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Mandlebe said the wage subsidy took a larger portion of the Fund as the government provided support to over 200, 000 workers during the three months initial lockdown.

“The health expenditure looks relatively small as we speak, but we believe that it will continue to build up. This is an area that is an ongoing job and we have to watch out,” said the Finance PS.

While the wage subsidy, which ran for three months has stopped, Mandlebe told the Committee that the Ministry is currently requesting for the wage subsidy to continue until December for the tourism industry.

Meanwhile, PAC also learned that the government spent P72 million in quarantine costs, although at first, some hospitality establishments offered their facilities for free.
Mandlebe said it later turned out that the facilities were not entirely free after all.

“The fact of the matter is that, there were few facilities that were offered and those were no way near what the Ministry of Health had to deal with when they quarantine people,” explained Mandlebe.

The PS said the terms of the quarantine facilities were never defined clearly from the onset, and the government ended up paying costs such as meals and other related costs.

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“So, it was not completely free,” clarified the PS, further pointing out that government floated an Expression of Interest (EIO), with the government deciding the rates of quarantine.

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