The Auditor General’s report has made the observation that officers manning roadblocks during COVID-19 lockdowns did not have the right tools to verify the authenticity of online permits, as they were not issued specific mobile phones.
Officers on duty could not cope with the overwhelming movement of the people, which was caused by the non-centralisation of issuance of permits. “It was evident that inefficiency in operations was due to lack of communication between the officers manning the roadblocks and the relevant authorities, on critical information regarding the implementation of regulations, particularly the COVID-19 health protocol updates.
There was a lapse in communication as announcements made to the public were not communicated properly and timely to the officers at the roadblocks. This had caused misunderstandings between officers and travellers as they received information before the officers.” The report says ,for instance, during the Greater Gaborone Zone lockdown from July 30 to August 13, 2020, as contained in a Botswana Government Press Release dated July 30, 2020, an interim announcement was made from the Office of the Vice President that the public was free to go for essential shopping at their nearest shopping centres. According to the law enforcement officers assigned to surveillance operations, this concession was made before the lockdown was lifted, but no information was communicated to them. Another concern according to the report was that the ablutions provided were not adequate and therefore the situation forced one mobile toilet to be shared by both males and females, which was an inconvenience.
It was also observed that despite the long stretch of the 12-hour shifts, meals were not provided to Botswana Police Service officers manning the roadblocks, whereas Botswana Defence Force officers were catered for.
The detailed report says police officers were also not provided with adequate resources such as tents, water, sanitisers, furniture (stretchers or camping beds), which posed health risks for the officers and the public, especially where there were no sanitisers. Therefore, according to the officers, there was no support from supervisors.
There was a lack of response from high authority despite challenges raised by officers on roadblocks. However, recommendations that were made are that the ministry should put in place effective communication channels to ensure that there is timely guidance and direction, to improve the overall productivity of officers at the roadblocks. And the ministry should ensure that there is equitable distribution of resources to all officers manning the roadblocks, as this will increase efficiency and productivity.