Ministries poised for major shake-up

Cabinet room PIC. THALEFANG CHARLES
Cabinet room PIC. THALEFANG CHARLES

A major shake-up of ministries and parastatals is reportedly set for this year with some being merged and others to be split as part of President Mokgweetsi Masisi’s RESET agenda aimed at the alignment of government to the transformation objective and new priorities.

In efforts to roll-out the new agenda, Mmegi is informed that a special Cabinet meeting was held before the festive season to plot the changes and secure ministers’ input into the plans being made. Highly authoritative sources said there would be no sacred cows in the execution of the exercise and each ministry and its mandate would be examined. The over-arching goal of the shake-up, sources said is to adopt new approaches for economic transformation, greater projects implementation and delivery as well as job creation for Batswana. Among others, the changes would involve merging and splitting the mandates of different ministries as well as parastatals.

According to information gleaned from insiders, some of the planned changes could include:

* The ministries of Tertiary Education, Research, Science and Technology, Basic Education and the Skills Development mandate from the Ministry of Employment, Labour Productivity and Skills Development, which involves brigades and also vocational training centres, to be housed under one Ministry


* Labour, Employment and Immigration merging into a single ministry

* Justice, Defence and Communications becoming three stand-alone ministries

* Transport to be merged with Infrastructure

* The mandate for Planning and Strategy being moved to the Office of the President, from the Finance ministry The changes are expected to result in the disbanding of the Ministry of Investment, Trade and Industry and the creation of a new ministry overseeing the Botswana Investment and Trade Centre, SPEDU and the Botswana Tourism Organisation. Another ministry will reportedly be created to guide the implementation of the Economic Inclusion Act and entrepreneurship. Contacted for comment on the developments, government chief of staff, Boyce Sebetela deferred Mmegi’s questions. “That issue falls under the Ministry of Presidential Affairs, Governance and Public Administration. The Minister responsible for that is responsible for answering your questions regarding the re-arrangement of ministries,” he said. However, the Minister of Presidential Affairs, Governance and Public Administration, Kabo Morwaeng, said he was on leave and would be back in office on January 17. “You can check with government communications if they can assist, but I am not aware of that development if it has already started or concluded,” he said.

Finance ministry technocrats however, hinted the planned government shake-down last November. “There are a lot of reforms taking place in government such as rationalisation of parastatals and rationalisation of government,” finance ministry permanent secretary, Wilfred Mandlebe told an internal consultation meeting that included heads of parastatals. “As part of government, we are not immune from those. “Somewhere along the line, we will be affected.” Mmegi can confirm that in terms of parastatal changes, Finance minister, Peggy Serame chairs a cabinet sub-committee on the matter. She previously told Parliament that the exercise was expected to kick off in the next financial year, which begins on April 1, 2022.

The exercise, which has been on the books for several years, is expected to result in the merger, chopping or privatisation of some entities in government’s portfolio of 64 parastatals.

The Auditor General’s latest report showed that nearly half of all parastatals were loss-making in the financial year to March 2020. Parastatals are divided into commercial and non-commercial, the former being those expected to run on a profitable or 'going concern' basis and the latter being those that, by the nature of their activities, exclusively rely on support from government for sustenance. Parastatals are key to service delivery in the country and even those running as strictly public services are required to operate at high efficiency to minimise the level of government expenditure on them and wastage of taxpayer funds. The rationalisation exercise, however, is not only based on financial performance of the parastatal but more importantly, its alignment to government’s transformation objective and the new priorities under the RESET agenda.

Between the last financial year and the current one, government budgeted more than P30 billion for parastatal support, a spending level that finance ministry technocrats have said is unsustainable given the country’s fragile budget due to the pandemic. “Given the amount of work done so far, the hope is to finalise the matter for a decision to be taken before the end of the current financial year,” Serame said in Parliament in November, responding to Kanye North MP, Thapelo Letsholo’s questions. “However, I must hasten to add that, to the extent that some recommendations would involve legal and personnel matters, there is need to allow for thorough consultations, hence, sometimes the delay in completing them.

In the mix: Kgafela could see his Trade Ministry unbundled and Finance Minister Serame briefed Parliament on some of the criteria being used for the shake-up of parastatals. PIC. THALEFANG CHARLES
In the mix: Kgafela could see his Trade Ministry unbundled and Finance Minister Serame briefed Parliament on some of the criteria being used for the shake-up of parastatals. PIC. THALEFANG CHARLES



The commitment is for implementation to start during the next financial year,” she said then. Serame briefed Parliament on some of the criteria being used for the shake-up of parastatals. “...the objective is clear in terms of the resultant financial benefits for government,” she said. “(It includes) savings on the annual subventions to parastatals and the realisation of proceeds from the sale of shares in parastatals, the process of actually merging those with overlapping functions, the closure of parastatals that are no longer serving a useful purpose, bringing in strategic equity partners to restructure and revive parastatals in joint ventures with government and the sale of part or all of government shareholdings in parastatals through privatisation,”she said. This week, Selebi-Phikwe West legislator, Dithapelo Keorapetse said the planned government shake-up would not increase efficiency and would instead further burden the public purse. “We’ve heard about the move.

First, it’s burden on the fiscuss as some new positions will be created. “Second, it won’t result in any significant efficiency and effectiveness in service delivery. “Third, bloating the OP further than it already is, is ill-advised.

The office is already huge in a way this centralises power in the President. “Fourth, the President should have initiated the process of reducing his Cabinet, which is another burden on the public purse. We can’t have a Cabinet that makes up 62% of the ruling party and 44% of Parliament. “We have a big Cabinet compared to our economy and population,” he said. Keorapetse said by comparison, Germany had a population of 83 million, a GDP of US$4.1 trillion and only 14 ministers. “The US has 327 million people, US$20.1 trillion GDP and 15 ministers called Secretaries. “Japan has a population of 126 million, a GDP of US$5.2 trillion and 18 ministers. Switzerland, which is one of the few countries closest to direct democracy, has seven ministers managing 8.5 million people and a GDP of over US$700 million. So, for a two million population and a GDP of US$18 billion, we can do with at least 10-12 ministers. “Our ministers are too many and add little if any value to the economy.Their main job is to move around officiating at public events,” he said. He added: “That is why they all go to the airport to see-off or receive the President.

The President should swiftly kill some parastatals and remain with at least 30 from 60 and trim their boards to five or seven competent members appointed on merit. The cosmetic shake-up serves a propaganda purpose, for things to appear like the President is busy doing something when he is actually doing nothing.” It is presently unclear what the impact of the planned shake-up will be on civil service jobs. The latest labour statistics show that nearly 142,000 people were employed in central government and parastatals as at December 2020.

Editor's Comment
What about employees in private sector?

How can this be achieved when there already is little care about the working conditions of those within the private sector employ?For a long time, private sector employees have been neglected by their employers, not because they cannot do better to care for them, but because they take advantage of government's laxity when it comes to protecting and advocating for public sector employees, giving the cue to employers within the private sector...

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