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The P2.4 billion saga



In April, The Minister of Finance and Economic Development, Thapelo Matsheka told a Press briefing that government, through the Ministry of Health and Wellness has turned to China for procurement of medical supplies worth P2.4 billion to fight COVID-19.

Matsheka said the medical supplies were expected to arrive shortly. The minister went further to state that the COVID-19 emergency has forced the government to change its plans in terms of allocating the 2020 -21 financial budget hence cancelling some of the proposed plans.

However, on Tuesday Matsheka took centre stage at Parliament as he turned against his April statement when the Leader of Opposition, Dumelang Saleshando asked him to provide details of purchases made by Government for supplies associated with COVID-19 since the declaration of State of Public Emergency.

Saleshando also asked the Minister to state the companies that were engaged and the goods they procured, as well as details of medical supplies worth over P2.4 billion procured from China.

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Matsheka’s response raised a lot of eyebrows as it contradicted with his initial April statement,
“Initially the Ministry of Health and Wellness had submitted a request for an amount of P2.4 billion in April for lab commodities, PPEs, and equipment based on the worst case scenario on how the disease would impact the country. However, as a result of government’s prompt response to the pandemic, including lockdown, the spread of the disease was contained. As a result, the worst case scenario did not come to pass and in addition some donations were made to the Covid 19 fund, which reduced the amount that was originally requested,” said Matsheka. The Voice Staffer, DANIEL CHIDA Speaks to different political leaders for their response to Matsheka’s statement.

Ketlhalefile Motshegwa- Unionist

Matsheka occupies a national office of Member of Parliament and senior cabinet minister, hence the title honourable.

These offices bestows upon him a great responsibility as a national leader, and accordingly he must carry his work and discharge his duties in a responsible, ethical and honest manner, for he has taken an oath to do so.

The Minister unashamedly and boldly lied to parliament and the nation in discharge of his duties on a more serious and important matter of procurement of goods to combat covid 19.

With this level of dishonesty, the Minister has lost integrity to be trusted with management of the national purse as Minister of Finance.

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His Ministry is so critical in the Country as it is responsible for management of finances, direction in terms of development, planning and therefore cannot be entrusted with someone who is not trustworthy.

We will never know when he is telling the truth or lying. With this particular incident he failed the test of fiduciary responsibility to the Ministry, responsible leadership and governance.

Some of the cardinal features of good governance and responsible leadership are honesty, integrity, promise keeping and trustworthiness.

The societal expectations are that Ministers must be honest and truthful in all their dealings and they do not deliberately mislead or deceive parliament and the nation by misrepresentations, overstatements, partial truths, selective omissions, or any other measures.

In view of these happenings, if the President of the Country believes in good governance, responsible and ethical leadership he must decisively relieve Matsheka of his duties, for the Minister is dangerous to the economy of this country and is setting bad example of what leadership is about.

If this is not attended to then as a nation we are inculcating and entrenching that kind of leadership culture in Government, and we will see more Ministers, Permanent Secretaries and senior Government officials lying in their duties.

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If the President fails to act on Minister Matsheka, then that will be confirmation that the President condones and subscribe to bad leadership.

Biggie Butale- Botswana Patriotic Front President

The BDP regime has thrown out of the window, all tenets and practices of good Governance and probity.

For the Minister of Finance to make a shameless about turn on the purchase of drugs and equipment to the tune of P2.4 billion goes to show that illegitimate Governments the world over are similar.

The main objective of such Governments being to loot the fiscus and to entrench themselves in power to continue their nefarious deeds.

We believe there is more than meets the eye behind this fork tongued communication from the Minister and the President.

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Millions of pulas have no doubt disappeared and it is only a matter of time before another scandal hits our nostrils!

Dithapelo Keorapetse- MP for Selibe Phikwe West

There exists a culture of non-accountability of the ruling elites in the executive.

The Ministers are actually accountable only to themselves. They’re protected by a plethora of laws that promote secrecy.

There also exists a culture and tradition in parliament, promoted by the speakership, to shield ministers from accountability.

The Speaker sometimes even answers for the Ministers and or advice them to ignore MPs.

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Often times he allows Minister to avoid answering by simply equivocating.

Ministers are rarely accountable to the MPs properly.

They should be obliged to justify their actions to the electorate through parliament.

Political leaders should answer to the public on the disposal of their powers and duties, act upon criticisms or demands made of them, and accept responsibility for failure, blunders, incompetence or deceit.

Matsheka failed dismally in this regard and the Speaker let him get away with murder.

Tshekedi Khama -MP for Serowe West

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Despite what he denies having said, the recording is there.

However, what is of great concern is that if the Minister of Finance who is responsible for the finances of the country denies having said what is on public record, then we have to ask ourselves about the credibility and sustainability to hold that office.

This also prompts the question as to whether this kind of behaviour has become the new normal.

You will also recall the story around the P 100 billion, which Bank of Botswana had said there was no such amount of money that went missing from the bank.

Are we seeing a culture of irresponsible reporting resulting in a statement today, and a retraction or denial tomorrow?

This is not an example of best governance practice.

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