Govt. sits on explosive Defense Council report

Nicholas Mokwena - BG reporter
Tuesday, 11 June 2019
Govt. sits on explosive Defense Council report

Cabinet is said to be sitting on an explosive Defence Council Report regarding pension for serving and ex-soldiers. Information reaching this publication is that cabinet is not comfortable with sharing the report with affected parties because it has exposed many discrepancies.

The discrepancies were discovered by the Actuaries who were engaged to look at the issue for the soldiers. It has now been months since Minister of Defence, Justice and Security Shaw Kgathi presented the report to cabinet for deliberation and action. The Defence Council has been accused of sitting on the report since 2017. Some of the irregularities identified in the report are that the last cheque is paid at 30 percent when one retires from the service instead of 75 percent. The former army men want their 45 percent to be paid back. It is also argued that there could have been some irregularities regarding transfer value of their pensions when their money was moved from Old BDF Pension Scheme and Alexander Forbes to current Botswana Public Officers’ Pension Fund (BPOPF).

In 2001 the Government moved from a Defined Benefit Scheme to Defined Contribution Scheme. The Defined Benefit Scheme was modelled on a civil servant who retires at 60 years and not on soldiers; some of whom retire at the age of 45 years thereby considerably disadvantaging members of the BDF. A commission that was set up to investigate handed its report to BDF Senior Officers who sent it to Ministry of Defence, Justice and Security.  The ministry then sent the report to the Defence Council. Alexander Forbes managed the funds before BPOPF was established in 2001. It was during that year (2001) that the BDF officers transferred their pensions to BPOPF.

Last year Kgathi revealed in Parliament that the Defence Council would send the report to cabinet for consideration. The minister at the time revealed that he had engaged the Actuarial Consultancy Services to review the BDF pension benefits. He said the consultants have made recommendations which were to be considered by Government. The unhappy soldiers especially those who have since left the barracks are said to be itching for answers from either Kgathi or President Dr Mokgweetsi Masisi tomorrow in Mahalapye where one of them is expected to address Botswana Defence Force Retired Members Association (BDF-RMA) Annual General Meeting.

The meeting is also expected to elect new leadership. “Our argument is that we were entitled to 75 percent for the last cheque. Most of the officers got 30 percent and the 45 percent is not accounted for. “The commission that was set up to deal with these two critical issues has since submitted the report and it is gathering dust at Defence Council. “Regarding Transfer Value, there is also inconsistency. The Transfer Value for some senior officers was low while the Transfer Value for their juniors was high”, said one executive member of BDF-RMA.

He stated that they remain hopeful that Dr Masisi will address the issues, which the country’s leadership has eluded for years whenever it is mentioned. BDF RMA Public Relations Officer Major Molefe Lesejane said they are still waiting for the report from the ministry of Defence Justice and Security. He could not say much regarding the report because they have not been briefed by relevant authorities about it. “We can only hope that our invited guests to the Saturday meeting will be able to answer questions from our members which they have been asking us among them the issue of the Report.

“We expect the minister and BDF Commander to be at the meeting”, he said. Maj Lesejane expressed hope that something positive will come out of the AGM including attending to other grievances by retired soldiers. He stated that preparations for the meeting are at an advanced stage and remain hopeful for a fruitful meeting. Minister Kgathi said the matter is a confidential one which he cannot share with a third party. “Matters of Defence Council are confidential. I cannot divulge confidential matters to a third party unless if you are an interested party. “An interested party in this regard being client for the council,” said Kgathi in a brief interview.

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