The anti- government stance by Botswana Federation of Public Sector Trade Unions (BOFEPUSU) is said to be the reason why the federation is on the verge of losing a multi-million Pula contract to administer Government Employees’ Motor Vehicle and Residential Advance Scheme (GEMVAS), sources told Botswana Guardian this week.
The lucrative scheme is currently administered by UNIGEM (PTY) Ltd a company owned by BOFEPUSU, and was appointed to administer the scheme in 2009. At the time UNIGEM was contracted by the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning on the basis that the scheme would be administered by an entity formed by the very same beneficiaries of the scheme. Two months before the end of the five-year contract, the government according to insiders has not informed UNIGEM whether the contract will be renewed, extended or terminated. Good governance dictates there has to be an open tender to allow all interested parties to participate as dictated by PPADB Policy and Procedures. However with two months before the end of UNIGEM contract, it will be cumbersome for government to go through the lengthy tendering process – which at most may take up to eight months. The strained relationship with the government is said to be one of the reasons why the government may not enter into contract with the BOFEPUSU run organisation. The fallout came about after the 2011 public sector strike, which paralyzed government operations. According to sources there is also a strong feeling at the government enclave that proceeds from UNIGEM were used by BOFEPUSU to fight the government in courts. The union’s flirtation with the opposition is also viewed as another factor that influenced the decision. An insider has informed this newspaper that the government is currently toying with the idea of extending UNIGEM’s contract by a period of six months while simultaneously taking the process through tendering processes or directly appointing a company to take over from UNIGEM. The latter option is said to have found favour with officials at government enclave.
Sources however told this paper that the government intends to directly appoint a company associated with one of the directors of Bayport Financial Services Father Maphongo. The government is so serious about terminating UNIGEM services that sources are alleging that acting minister of presidential affairs and public administration Shaw Kgathi and Carter Morupisi are at the forefront of pushing UNIGEM out of contract. Allegations are that sometime earlier this year senior government officials met with Maphongo over the administration of GEMVAS. Maphongo is alleged to have been asked by the government officials to submit a business proposal on how they intend to administer the scheme. This week Morupisi flatly denied allegations that the government would not extend UNIGEM’s contract. He said the issue of renewing UNIGEM contract hasn’t been discussed. He also denied allegations that the government has identified a local company to take over from UNIGEM. Minister Kgathi told Botswana Guardian that he was unable to respond to allegations raised by this newspaper. Maphongo on the other hand denied that he has shown interest in managing the government scheme. “I have met the minister or government officials on several occasions in my capacity as a businessman to discuss general welfare issues of government employees not administering GEMVAS,” he said adding that he doesn’t have the capacity to manage the scheme.
How lucrative is GEMVAS?
GEMVAS is a lucrative scheme that would always attract interest from all corners. According to insiders, the scheme’s book value is more than P500 million. The book value is likely to grow following a government’s directive in April this year to increase the repayment period for residential property advance from 10 years to 20 years. Further the government issued another directive revising the minimum take home pay for A3 to B1 scale employee to P600 per month. Previously the minimum take home pay for government employees stood at P1300 for single officers and P1500 for married officers. With this revision more employees in the A3 to B1 scale are expected to borrow more money from the scheme.
This week BOFEPUSU’s Samuel Molaodi who is also the chairperson of UNIGEM, told Botswana Guardian that they are aware of the allegations. “The allegations are not new to us. We are not surprised because a few months before the end of our contract we have not yet received any official correspondence from the government whether the contract will be renewed or extended. It would have been our wish to administer the scheme for five more years.” Molaodi maintains that the government has no reason not to renew the contract adding that UNIGEM has delivered as per the contract’s deliverables. He said that for the past five years UNIGEM has administered the scheme exceptionally well and even better than before when the scheme was under the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning.
He said they have managed to computerize the scheme and have been working well. “The other thing is that we have not been told what we have done wrong by the government. On the contrary we have received a pat on the back from the government,” he said.