Parliament this week approved Tshekedi Khama’s request for over P41 million emergency-funding for his Ministry to buy three (3) used helicopters to monitor elephants’ movement.
But it was not without vigorous debate from opposition MPs, who argued that this is a waste of time and resources as it does not address the escalating human-elephant conflict that the Ministry of Environment, Natural Resources Conservation and Tourism faces.
Presenting the Financial Paper this week, Minister of Finance and Economic Development Kenneth Matambo said it contains supplementary estimates of expenditure from the Consolidated Fund amounting to P25, 114, 910 and estimates from the Development Fund for the sum of P41, 600, 000.
“The ministry request P41, 600, 000 from the Development Fund under the Sustainable Environment Programme, to be used for the procurement of three (3) used helicopters, aviation fuel bowsers (9) tankers and radio communication equipment. As a consequence, the 2017/18-ministry budget needs to be increased by P41, 600, 000 from P135, 075, 175 to P176, 675, 175,” said the minister.
Matambo said P25, 114, 910 would be used for increasing manpower with 104 new staff, repair of 150 off-road vehicles, purchase of shade netting equipment among others.
Matambo however noted concerns by the Parliamentary Finance and Estimates Committee regarding supplementary funding requests by ministries. “With respect to the committee’s comments that they approved the supplementary Estimates of Expenditure because there was a Presidential Directive, I wish to advise that the committee has the mandate to examine the supplementary budget request and make recommendations as they consider appropriate,” he said.
In its report the Finance and Estimates Committee stated that it has observed with concern the perennial and large supplementary estimates submitted by ministries. The committee said some ministries don’t heed advice to make requests for emergencies and unforeseen circumstances but instead request or budgetable items.
The committee called for fiscal prudence in all ministries and that where procurement is involved, ministries are advised to follow tendering processes and regulations, even where it involves selective tendering.
The Committee Chairman Ignatius Moswaane told Parliament that procurement has not yet been done for the helicopters. He said they were convinced as the committee by the relevant ministries and Accounting Officers that it would be best to procure the second hand helicopters.
Moswaane, who is also MP for Francistown West said that the ministry of environment has made research before settling for second hand aircraft. “There is no how they could have come before the committee without something to present. Looking at budget constraints they had to settle for used helicopters. They have also promised us that the helicopters would be bought through tendering process.
“I ask the MPs not to have any doubt and support the request because as the committee we have thoroughly done our work”, said Moswaane who maintained that they were not pressured to approve the request.
MPs however dismissed the suggestion that helicopters would assist with driving elephants away from areas they are not wanted. They argued that this would be a temporary measure that would not bring any desirable results.
“I am not happy with this request especially for buying second hand helicopters. This would be a costly exercise. Why can’t we reduce the number of these elephants so that we are able to manage them? We are keeping them in large numbers for whose benefit?” asked MP for Ghanzi North Noah Salakae.
MP for Chobe Machana Shamukuni also called for the elephants to be sold to help resolve the problem. He said the proposed strategy would only be short-lived.
Pius Mokgware MP for Gabane-Mankgodi stated that buying the helicopters is a waste of time. He dismissed the strategy as not viable. “Next year you will be coming to the same Parliament asking for yet another funding to buy helicopters because these used ones would be of no use to your ministry. At least try culling because your current strategy would be a drawback. Your ministry has been buying off-road motor vehicles, you took others from Central Transport Organisation (CTO) but they are not being used”, he said.
In his request Minister Khama said there has been an influx of elephants in the country, which has caused problems. “The world is busy praising us for having a large number of elephants but they are not assisting us with the problems. We would have to at some point ask the world to assist us”, the minister stated.
He said they want the supplementary funding to put in place measures to deal with the problem of elephant movements, which have been observed further south of the country in districts hitherto not populated by elephants such as Southern, Ghanzi, Kgatleng, Kweneng and Kgalagadi.