Government of Botswana is grappling to produce results for the World Bank’s funded roads infrastructure projects in Gaborone under the Gaborone Integrated Transport Model.
Minister of Transport and Communications, Kitso Mokaila was last week at pains to explain progress on the project, which was signed off in 2010. Mokaila revealed that the aim of this loan was to try to improve the flow of traffic in Gaborone looking at the roads, intersections robots, as well as the type of cars needed.
“It was a loan of US$385.2 million. Part of that loan is 106 million and the other part of money is paid by the Government of Botswana and the signalling systems,” said Mokaila adding that unfortunately because of lack of capacity within the Ministry, they have not done well with this particular project.
“I think to date we spent around US$58 million looking at the studies that were made in Gaborone. The biggest challenge as we speak is lack of capacity especially project management.” The minister explained that agreement was that the government would start paying after eight (8) years and since the deal was signed in 2010, repayment has not started.
“The loan was signed in 2010 and we are already in the eighth year. We delayed because we do not have the capacity of doing it. If we do not have the capacity to implement, the insistence of the World Bank is that you have to have capacity. You have to demonstrate that there is capacity within the ministry for them to give you the money, but if you do not have that capacity, they do not give you the money.
“When we got the loan, there was intention to build a Project Management Unit within my ministry but that has not happened as we speak,” Mokaila told Parliament when responding to questions from Member of Parliament for Gaborone North Haskins Nkaigwa regarding the progress made so far on the project.
The MP also wanted to know how much funding was received, how it has been utilised and what is delaying the implementation of the projects. The World Bank in its Website states that the development objective of the Integrated Transport Project for Botswana is to enhance the efficiency of the transport system by building modern business management capacity, and improving the strategic planning aspects of inter-regional transport and critical transport infrastructure.
There are three components to the project. The first is capacity building, institutional strengthening, and training. “This component comprises provision of technical advisory services to undertake a number of pre-investment activities and a capacity-building, knowledge transfer, and institutional strengthening and training programme. It aims to introduce strategic planning and transport integration, modem methods of management and contracting, technology improvement, knowledge development and sharing.
“The second component of the project is road sector investment. This component introduces a pilot long term output and performance based road contracting (OPRC) method for a road asset management programme covering some 800km of rural and semi-urban road in Kanye road depot, as well as the provision of technical advisory services to monitor the progress and quality of works.”
It has been further stated that the work cycle will include all required activities in order to reach the designed level of service on the specific road network from engineering to the final users’ satisfaction point of view.
The third component of the project is urban roads infrastructure investment. This component comprises the implementation of an urban traffic improvement programme in Greater Gaborone city and technical advisory services to supervise construction of the improvement works under this component.
The investment aims to solve the urgent urban congestions along the major city roads/streets and intersections introducing modem and advanced planning, design and implementation techniques. Mokaila also told legislators that currently his ministry has already issued a tender for the three intersections at Game city, Rainbow and BTV circles. He pointed out that they would be closed sometime next month.
World Bank stated in its Implementation Status and Results Report dated June 30th 2017 that the implementation progress suffered during the reporting period.
Most of the agreed activities have been delayed and some show little progress since the last mission, says the Bank. It was also stated that the Bank team performed the Restructuring Mission and agreed with Government that Project Implementation need to be strengthened significantly through restructuring and phased establishment of the Project Office.
“Of the detailed decisions are; to appoint an essential Project Management team to implement the project activities. To draft Project Office Framework covering at least the following; project reporting and working relationships with Ministry of Transport and Communications, Transport Reference Group, and Special Project Management Unit, staffing, financial management, procurement management and project management arrangements” reads the report.
Restructuring actions involving increase in the Bank financing percentage on the works contracts in the OPRC-component with the intention to better utilise the available funding has been proposed in the report.
Adirective by former Minister of Transport and Communications Tshenolo Mabeo last year to have three homesteads squeezed inside the Francistown Spaghetti intersection relocated have finally materialised.
Both home owners have been given new plots at Coloured location. Mabeo had pointed out that the lives of the three families would remain in danger from accidents due to their proximity to all the interchanging roads and ramps of the spaghetti. Although the project director Carthage Matlhaga had tried to convince the Minister of their decision and reasons to leave the three homesteads inside the construction perimeters, the minister was not convinced as he stressed that if anything happens to any of the concerned homes, his ministry would shoulder the blame.
When Northern Extra visited the three affected families, they were all smiles as they revealed that they have been given plots at Coloured location even though they have not yet been taken to view the plots. Rose Bontshitswe who initially complained that she was not prepared to be relocated to a place far away from Nyangabgwe hospital was satisfied with the location she will be relocated to since it is near to the hospital unlike Gerald Estates where they were initially to be relocated.
“They have so far given me a house number but I have not been taken to view the plot because they are still making assessment as how much they will pay for our looming relocation. As a Social worker dependent, I would prefer the Social workers not to give me money but build me a house instead,” Bontshitswe said beaming with happiness.
Annah Moseki explained that their relocation was taking forever. She complained that since Dineo cyclone she has been literally living inside a pond as all the water flowing down from the intersection pass through her yard exposing her family to unnecessary danger.
“I am happy to have been relocated away from this dangerous place even though I would have preferred to be moved to Gerald Estates where there are a good number of future developments. I am always at loggerheads with the contractors as they say that I disturb them by digging a trench on their site to divert flowing water from causing more damage inside my yard. My prayer is for the g final assessment to end,” she said.
Minister of Transport and Communications, Kitso Mokaila has called for the adoption of a policy framework that will guide the financial regulator with objectives of providing basic financial services to Batswana.
Mokaila who was addressing attendees at the World Post Day commemoration in Mookane village recently, said, “As we ponder on the future of the Post Office we should be aware of the world trends regarding the advantage of the Post. The future of the Post is expected to embrace postal financial inclusion for the underserved communities of Botswana.”
Chairman of the BotswanaPost, Polokoetsile Motau added, “We are moving closer towards inclusion of all key players in the Postal industry, to the commemoration of the World Post Day, following liberalisation of the industry about two years ago. We hope that the Ministry with the support of BOCRA will next year lead the commemorations for this Day as BotswanaPost celebrate with other stakeholders for the contribution of the Postal industry in the socioeconomic developments of our country.”
Meanwhile, BotswanaPost was granted a Public Postal Operator licence in 2014 by BOCRA. By so doing the government disbursed P40 million towards meeting Universal Service Obligation for the financial year 2015/16. Part of the Universal Service Obligation funds were reserved for refurbishment of four Post Offices in Bokspits, Mookane, Serowe and Mahalapye and construction of two Post Offices in Shoshong and Tshesebe to the tune of P13 million.
All the four refurbished Post Offices have been occupied and are scheduled for official opening this October. Mokaila has revealed that, the construction of Tshesebe and Shoshong were delayed due to the new requirement to house the three subsidiaries under one Post Office and this has tended to increase the cost of construction than earlier planned.
To this end tenders for Shoshong and Tshesebe Post Office construction have been awarded and the expected completion date is February 2017.
Minister of Transport and Communications, Tshenolo Mabeo has said efforts are still under way to obtain a commercial banking licence for Botswana Savings Bank. BSB currently operates with a development banking licence and its merge with BotswanaPost has long been overdue.
Responding to Member of Parliament for Gaborone Central, Phenyo Butale’s inquiry last week, Minister Mabeo confirmed that BSB has not obtained a commercial banking license yet, “but I can confidently assure this House that plans are at an advanced stage to submit an application to Bank of Botswana (BoB) for consideration before the end of this year.” He added that it has come to the attention of the government that there are some Batswana who are unable to bank, therefore talks with BoB are still underway.
Meanwhile, at a recent BotswanaPost media brief, the chairman Polokoetsile Motau highlighted that, for “BSB to be granted a commercial banking licence, they will have to merge with a profit making entity.
Therefore we have to be profit making as BotswanaPost.Motau could not be drawn to discuss more details on the merger progression, but just said efforts are still underway. On the other hand, BotswanaPost, which has been on its transformation journey, has finished the year 2014/15 with a total loss of P47million. The BotswanaPost expects modest revenue for the 2015/16 financial results, which are understood to be at an audit level and will be released soon. Giving an update on the bank’s performance over the last five years, Mabeo
indicated that BSB has consistently delivered good results over the period. He told parliament that, “for the period spanning from 2011 to 2015, BSB profits increased from P4 million to P20 million. Its revenues increased by up to 64 per cent from P52 million to P85 million. At the same time, BSB has more than doubled its asset book from P606 million to P1.57 billion.”
Meanwhile, as part of the Botswana Savings Bank and Botswana Post merger, BSB has developed an overarching strategy that defines a transformation phase taking into consideration new value proposition for customers. BSB has undertaken initiatives to turn the business around such as the successful completion of a restructuring project in 2014 to align human resource planning to the current operating model; the bank launched three new products namely Debit card, Express loan and Lecha Loan. The bank is enhancing its technological systems as well by implementing a multi-channel network that embraces other self-service options like Point of Sale (POS), ATMs and co-branded branches within selected post offices.
The aim is to turn the business around to drive the financial inclusion agenda with the intention to provide customer-centric financial services at affordable costs to disadvantaged and low-income segments of the society. Amongst its many initiatives to increase its channels, BSB has recently successfully rolled out ATMs on its network of branches for faster and easier access to financial services. Mabeo revealed that the project will be officially launched at the end of this July.
The Minister of Transport and Communications Tshenolo Mabeo this week said his ministry has developed a Broadband strategy in an effort to address poor Internet services in the country.
Addressing parliament this week, Mabeo said this Strategy provides a holistic and coordinated approach to the implementation of the ICTs ecosystem in the country. “This strategy has been developed with a view to achieve long term strategic outcomes. The overall vision of the Broadband strategy is to connect every citizen, business, communities to a high speed broadband infrastructure at affordable prices.”
Mabeo added that the monitoring of the strategy action plans and deliverables are regularly checked and evaluated. Moreover, he explained that the issue of the quality of Internet service was complex since there were many factors involved. Mabeo said some of these factors included limited data speed and second generation (2G) mobile network, which is widely available through the country. “There is also limited coverage of Third generation (3G) and Fourth Generation (4G) mobile networks, which offer a better Internet experience,” he said.
Moreover, the Minister added that there was limited access to networks, which connects customer premises to the telecommunication network. “Customers (hospitality facilities, residential and other businesses purchase lower data packages and share it among many users.” The minister said another reason for this problem is that some Public telecommunications operators and service providers experience congestion in Internet capacity that they have procured from wholesale providers.
“In order to keep on monitoring the quality of service to ensure the customer gets value for money the Botswana Communications and Regulatory Authority (BOCRA) has acquired a quality monitoring tool.” In addition, Mabeo said operators will use this tool to check the quality of services. “BOCRA will also continue with consumer education and awareness on issues of Quality of Services.” The minister was responding to questions from the MP for Selebi Phikwe West, Dithapelo Keorapetse who wanted to know whether, Mabeo was aware of concerns over slow and erratic Internet in the country. Furthermore, Keorapetse wanted to know what caused this slow and unreliable Internet and when the issue will be addressed.
The slow connectivity of internet in Botswana has been blamed on the frequent power cuts that have besieged the country in the recent years.
Participants at the Information Communications Technology (ICT) Pitso which was held recently decried the persistent slow internet connectivity despite efforts by government to upgrade connectivity with Eassy and WACS submarine cables. It is said that this has impacted negatively on the businesses that operate through internet. In an interview regarding this matter, the Minister of Transport and Communications Tshenolo Mabeo acknowledged the problem caused by the frequent power cuts. He said that the challenge together with that of accessibility to land has been identified as the most challenging for operators.
He cited an example of the case between Bakgatla and local mobile network provider Mascom after the latter’s tower was destroyed.“Power cuts have caused so much inconvenience to the ICT sector because when once electricity goes then internet connectivity becomes very slow. But it is not the only problem as operators are also challenged to acquire land to put their transmitters to expand broadband. But we are in discussion with the Minister of Lands and Housing and other stakeholders to get these issues resolved. We want where possible, some land reserved for them,” he said.
He said that all the three operators have been forced to fork over P250 million each to get power generators and this has affected their rollout plan to increase internet connectivity. He also stated that through the Botswana Fibre Networks (BoFINET) government is helping in developing a fibre infrastructure which is expected to improve fibre network and competitiveness in the downstream telecommunications market. It is also expected to increase internet access by households. Mascom Wireless and Orange Botswana have introduced superfast broadband access technologies ranging from 2G, LTE to 4G. Both are intended to help increase speed connectivity to internet.