For many of us whose experience lies outside government, the news that four judges owe a total of nearly a million pula in unpaid rent, would have come as a shock.
In the event, that first shock was quickly followed at regular intervals by others - for instance the period of time which was apparently involved which varied from eight years in one case to two years in another.
Then came the news that it was because of accounting and auditing failures that this problem had not been earlier spotted. It then further emerged that the records relating to judicial housing were also in a state of shambles – if the claims of the four judges are to be believed.
There is a mis-match of dates, houses were still being renovated when the four were supposedly occupying them – and so on.
Then came the real sucker punch. Someone with position and experience – I cannot now find the relevant news report – suggested that in government it is normal, virtually routine, for civil servants to be owing considerable amounts in back rent, that when this is brought to the attention of those involved, there is an acknowledgement and re-payment, presumably, begins.
But of course, whilst that explanation is likely to be correct, it did implicitly suggest that the housing shambles at the Ministry of Justice is replicated throughout the entire governmental system. In sum, does anyone – in particular, I suppose, the Accountant General – have the slightest idea how many millions are owed to the government, central and local, in unpaid rent?
The question really does need to be asked in the National Assembly even though the answer may only be speculative. But there certainly could be a speculative high and a speculative low.
The intention, however, would be to follow up on the can of worms now revealed in one arm of government to try and discover the extent of similar problems in other Ministries, Departments and Town and District Councils.
It is, of course, no big deal to recognise that it is only human nature to postpone the re-payment of money that is owed, until that obligation becomes unavoidable. Civil servants, as with the rest of us, will be well aware that their best chance of avoiding payment is to delay.
They can be reasonably confident that files will be lost, records screwed up, competent administrators replaced by those with less interest and energy and, in the end – the time factor which can be so
But what about those formal acknowledgements of cash owed? Without a bank stop order that will ensure measured repayment, nothing is ever likely to be achieved.
It’s a mess but this will be as nothing if indeed civil servants, as reported, are to be allowed, in future, to be involved in business. (Sunday Standard 27.9.15) Politicians, by virtue of their ascent to position, have more or less guaranteed access to the goodies.
There is for them no shame involved. The Secretary General of the BDP wins a P40 million contract to build a new fire station in Molepolole (Sunday Standard ( 27.7.15) possibly on the strength of a previously completed project in Mochudi. Land Boards members up and down the country, all of whom have been politically appointed have seized their opportunity to enrich themselves and their families.
Now, it seems, the same opportunity is to be made available to civil servants with the assumption of course that those in higher office will do rather better from this new dispensation that those still stuck in the lower rungs.
It really is amazing how quickly this transformation has occurred – from the notion of the 60s/70s and probably the 80s that the civil servant makes a commitment to serve the nation with integrity, to today, where he/she is entitled to serve both nation and self.
Not only are we now incredibly greedy but we have created a system which tolerates, even actively encourages self-indulgence.
Now those rewards are to be made available to civil servants although it is unclear if this is to be all embracing or selective.
The effect is likely to be catastrophic as was spelt out by Leta Mosienyane, President of Business Botswana with biting clarity.
He argued that deeply damaging conflicts of interest would recur.
‘The risks and potential consequences may be too heavy for the country to go down this route’, he said.
He further suggested that ‘if it (the new policy) goes horribly wrong and degenerates, it will be almost impossible to reverse the situation and the country will be damaged for generations.’
As Mr Mosienyane was speaking on behalf of a substantial chunk of the business community, it should be assumed that his self destruct warning will be heeded. But will it?