F/town cllrs cry to sample Kasane

FRANCISTOWN: While the country is facing some financial constraints, civic leaders here want to go on an expensive retreat to the tourist resort of Kasane.

The move by the councillors just on the eve of the general elections shocked some people who attended the recent special full council session.

As it is customary, senior civil servants from various government departments, members of the public and media attend the event.

While there is nothing wrong with the councillors going on a retreat, some public servants labelled the bid by the civic leaders to go to Kasane as a pure waste of taxpayers’ money and unnecessary adventure.

“These gentlemen’s term of office is coming to an end, but they want to go on an expensive retreat. Theirs is nothing but a scam to legally milk funds from State coffers.

The retreat is just unnecessary because the issues they are going to cover in Kasane could still be done in Francistown and save the council money,” said a dismayed civil servant.

He added that some parts of Francistown are dark at night, which endangers the lives of people but councillors find it fit to explore Kasane using government funds instead of channelling the scant resources allocated to the council to address the city’s various needs.

“Our roads are littered with potholes but our leaders want to misuse funds on an insignificant trip,” he added.

One councillor who is against the trip to Kasane claimed that the undertaking is a “useless expedition by councillors to line their pockets before their term of office expires in October”.

Said the anonymous councillor: “Our city is behind with developments because of the little revenue that we get from government but my colleagues have no shame to go and waste money in Kasane. We should at least be using the money to attend to pertinent problems bedevilling our city like fixing our roads”.

Alternatively, the councillor added, it would be less costly for the Francistown City Council (FCC) to hold the retreat in Francistown as the expenses would not be high.

“If the trip to Kasane materialises, as the councillors are pressurising, the people of Francistown would perceive us as   leaders who misled them by saying we were going to represent their interests while we were furthering our narrow financial interests,” said the source.

Giving a breakdown of some of the expenses that FCC would incur if the trip  materialises with expensive accommodation facilities in the country –the source said that each councillor would get close to P12,000 for imprest during the five-day expedition.

“The cheapest accommodation one can get in Kasane is P1,500 per night. The costs would increase because some FCC staffers would accompany the councillors during the trip. The costs would balloon because of fuel and other related costs,” said the source.

FCC is made up of 24 councillors (inclusive of five nominated).

Of the 24, only nine won primary elections from both the ruling and opposition parties.

This therefore means that after the retreat, there is a high possibility that only a few of them would return to the council chambers after the general elections.

The agenda for retreat would deal with issues like twinning agreements and benchmarking amongst other things.

So, the big question is “Why should the council spend money on people who have lost primary elections instead of using the money for the city’s other pressing needs?”

Before the councillors made what some regard as “outrageous demands” the deputy town clerk technical services, Lawrence Mokotedi, told the councillors that the Permanent Secretary (PS) in the Ministry of Local Development and Rural Development had rejected their plea to hold the retreat in Kasane due to financial constraints.

Mokotedi instead told the councillors that the PS said they could at least hold the retreat within their region.

“The letter form the PS says that you can at least go on a retreat in Palapye or any other place within the region,” said Mokotedi.   However, this did no go down well with councillor Lesego Kwambala who was supported by the majority of councillors from across the political spectrum.

Kwambala said the councillors have done a cost analysis, which showed that it would be more expensive to hold the retreat in Palapye than in Kasane.

Responding to the correspondence that was read by Mokotedi, city mayor Sylvia Muzila said that she would further communicate with the PS for the retreat to be held in Kasane as per the wishes of the councillors.

Muzila said it would not be fair for the PS to deny FCC councillors the opportunity to hold the retreat in Kasane while a few months back, councillors from Lobatse Town Council attended a similar retreat in the tourist resort.

“They came all the way from Lobatse and passed through our city to go to Kasane. I don’t want to believe that the PS is declining the trip due to financial reasons. This is so because all the councils authorities in Botswana are financed by the same ministry,” said Muzila.

Muzila also stated that the PS may not be aware that Kasane is within their (Francistown)region.

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