There is more than meets the eye in the recent abrupt firing of permanent secretary in the Ministry of Basic Education (MoBE), Dr. Collie Monkge. Whilst the appointing authority is empowered by the law to bring order to the wayward public service, it seems the firing was done without considering the other side of the story. Mmegi Staff Writer RYDER GABATHUSE follows the story that has sparked national debate
FRANCISTOWN: The official version of Monkge’s forced exit has to do with the strong language he used to reprimand what he deemed as unacceptable levels of performance.
Apparently, government relied upon a secret recording of the proceedings of an internal staff meeting that Monkge addressed.
Yes, there seems to be more to his sacking than meet the eye.
The charge laid against him appears to be wanting and government simply bowed down to pressure, especially from teacher trade unions to fire the man who had started the process of turning around the fortunes of a beleaguered ministry that has become renowned for producing failures.
The firing on Monkge can best be summed up as political expediency having won the day.
Those very close to Monkge, credit him as the first PS who combined office work and foot soldiering at the troubled ministry of education.
He had come up with a clear roadmap on improving the schools’ results.
His main strategy being the much-talked about schools turnaround, which wanted to involve all stakeholders in identifying the roles they could play in turning the situation around in schools.
It goes without saying that the nation had high hopes of a new vision driven by Monkge himself.
Mmegi is privy to the details that the arrival of Monkge at the ministry unsettled a lot of people in what has become known as the ministry’s ancestors.
Questions are abound that reflect on a ministry that did not pull together since his arrival.
Monkge and his mandate lieutenants did not share the same vision.
It’s apparent that relations between the former PS and the minister, Bagalatia Arone were at their lowest ebb.
They tussled for power, and actually there was a battle for the control of the MoBE between the duo.
Too often, Arone is accused to have strayed into administrative issues, which was not the minister’s territory.
Arone is accused to have fought bitterly for the total control of the ministry although he is supposed to be the political head.
“He doesn’t know his space to the extent that he had strayed into the territory of the PS,” said a concerned source at the ministry that preferred anonymity for fear of reprisals.
There are two main issues that Mmegi investigations have revealed could have diametrically set Monkge and Arone apart for good.
Allegations are flying thick and fast that Monkge as the accounting officer did not favour the idea of Arone advocating for a third official vehicle as ministers are only entitled to two, and then Arone allegedly did not take kindly to that.
On another worrying matter, Arone has reportedly exceeded his ceiling for the government green book when purchasing official furniture for his official house. These are some of the issues that reportedly set the two apart.
The MoBE is failing to deliver projects on time and at the initial cost.
The PS had put his heart into the delayed projects to find a solution to a long-standing problem. He had a vision of rooting out corruption, which is apparently prevalent at the ministry.
In particular, Monkge was increasingly becoming worried by the unholy alliances between some departments (names withheld) and politicians.
Project scopes were allegedly altered to serve the interests of individuals, including companies owned by Who’s who of fine society,
A nagging question is why President Mokgweetsi Masisi, who was on a State visit abroad, removed Monkge from his office in that unprecedented manner?
The government is seemingly on panic mode and is trying hard to satisfy all and sundry even if putting the truth on the altar. It seems political expediency continues to cloud issues.
Although some high ranking public servants are opposed to the schools turnaround strategy, the strategy was well on its way to possibly producing the required results as it had a dedicated team that preached the gospel across the length and breadth of the country.
Monkge, according to a Mmegi source, had done a proper shake up in the ministry and has a record that speaks for itself. The source describes Monkge as the only advocate of pupils.
“He lost his plum job fighting for the voice of the voiceless so that they could also be heard,” added the source.
Monkge was reluctant to talk to Mmegi this week indicating that he was involved in a process of talking to pertinent people first, without elaborating.
Quizzed about accusations levelled against him, minister Arone told Mmegi in an interview this week that he was not responsible for the appointments of permanent secretaries.
He instead claimed that he and Monkge worked very well together. Mmegi is, however, on good authority that Monkge and Arone never had a good time together as they simply tussled for power and control of the ministry despite Monkge being the accounting authority.
Arone denied accusations that he was a control freak as articulated by some worried sources.
“The Palapye issue came to me through the teacher trade unions. We spoke about it and any other decision rested with the appointing authority and in this case President Masisi,” he said, adding
“The issue whether we were not working well together with the PS Monkge has got nothing to do with his firing”.
As for the exceeded limit in purchasing his official residence furniture, Arone said he was not involved directly in the purchase of furniture and, “what I know is that we are far below from exceeding. I and my wife, we are from the rural areas and I can tell you that we lead a modest life”.
He explained that the only difference was that with the fridge (P30,000), they had exceeded the limit for it whilst they were within the broader limit of the entire furniture purchased.
Defending accusations that he was pushing for the third official motor vehicle because he was from a far flung constituency in the Okavango, Arone explained that he was advised (by the PS) to leave an official vehicle in Maun so that it could help him access his constituency from Maun easily since it was far away from Gaborone.
He claimed that there were instances when he used public transport to travel to his constituency.
“What people should understand is that when a new administration takes over, the older people have a tendency to resist change,” said Arone, speaking in parables without directly responding to the question raised.
The question demanded to know whether he was indeed advocating for a third official vehicle or not?