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Education officials race to blow P1 million on retreats

Publishing Date : 10 April, 2018

Author : UTLWANANG GASENNELWE

Officials at the Ministry of Basic Education (MoBE) are said to be on a spending spree and racing against time to deplete the remaining funds that formed the P6 billion that was the recurrent budget allocated to the Ministry during the 2017/18 budget. The intention is to beat the deadline of closing of government books.


Government’s financial year cycle ends in March 31st and the Ministry officials are said to be splashing the money to avoid returning unspent millions of pula to the government coffers before the new financial year. Ministry of Basic Education was in 2017 allocated the largest amount of P6.80 billion or 17.2 percent of the total Ministerial Recurrent Budget by Minister of Finance and Development Planning, Kenneth Matambo.


It is understood that some of the funds (about P1 million) have gone unutilized and would have had to be returned but some departments are said to be running helter-skelter to ensure that the funds are all used-albeit not as should have been. The officials are said to have booked expensive and fancy retreats in faraway places as a way of using as much of the remaining funds as possible.


“A lot of funds are spent willy-nilly. Department of Technical Services under the Basic Education Ministry is said to have recently used up close to half a million for a retreat at Kasane,” an insider told WeekendPost this week. The Southern Education region office, still under the Ministry of Basic Education is also said to have used P600 000 at Maun recently also for a retreat. The money is said to have been channeled to Curriculum Development and Evaluation department through to the other individual departments.  

 
Efforts to solicit comment from the Southern Regional Education office Director, Acronews Maseko did not materialize as he along with other senior officials like the Public Relations Officer were said to be still at Maun at press time. Meanwhile when approached by WeekendPost outside parliament following the Ministry of Defence, Justice and Security supplementary proposal debate on Wednesday MoBE Assistant Minister Moiseraele Goya pointed out that the government funds said to be splashed on retreats by Ministry officials around the Education regions were budgeted for.


“The cash being used on retreats is the money that was already budgeted on the items before and during the budgeting stage. It was budgeted for that specifically for purposes of capacitating the employees; they must be work-shopped to bring them up to speed in terms of current developments,” he said. On how much money the whole Ministry has utilized so far and how much will be brought back to government coffers the Assistant Minister said it was not yet clear at this point.  


“We cannot know at this juncture as to how much we have spent as a ministry and how much money will be brought back to government. You will know just after the 15th March as the financial year draws to a close. We are still spending,” he further told this publication.
In addition he said: “we also have even requested for a supplementary budget because we have already exhausted our money for the recurrent budget for this year.”


The exhaustion of the recurrent budget of the Ministry has led to depletion of crucial funds like that of payment of temporary teachers, a move which Goya also admitted. Goya confirmed that “at this point we don’t even have funds to pay temporary school teachers. Re nna re kopa kwa le kwa re pecha (we request from here and there to make do for now).”


Meanwhile when speaking before parliament while debating the supplementary budget proposals for the Administration of Justice this week Goya said, like the Ministry of Defence, they always ask for a supplementary budget because they utilise all of the funds on their ministry recurrent budget and that this should be commended.


In the recurrent budget, out of the 6 billion allocated to the Ministry of Basic Education in 2017, the money which has all been used, have assisted in implementation of the Education and Training Sector Strategic Plan (ETSSP) which seeks to refocus education and training towards fulfillment of a more diversified and knowledge-based economy. “You should utilise all funds that you requested accordingly and for this we need to be encouraged and commended,” Goya told parliament while adding that they managed to utilise all the funds except for developmental budget.


In the development budget still in 2017, P844.94 million or 5.1 percent was proposed for allocation to the Ministry of Basic Education. The bulk of these funds amounting to P731.95 million was said to be for Secondary Schools Programme to cater for among others, provision of additional ICT facilities in secondary schools as well as construction of staff houses.


Why some Ministry funds go back to government reserves Goya maintained that the ministry funds get returned to the government treasury because of a slow procurement system by officials. “The development budget is purely for undertakings of ministry projects in terms of infrastructure like classrooms. Part of it will be brought back to government coffers. The reason why the money goes back is that; what has been happening in the past which is unfortunate is that the government officials wait until very late to prepare tender documents,” the Assistant Minister observed.


He pointed out that it is uncalled for and sluggish as the budget process starts around September, every year (like last year) in which the ministry can prepare well in advance for procurement processes. “What must happen after September is that just after the proposals have been sent to the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning, then in January the following year the process should have started to prepare the tender documents, and then floating, then companies declaring interest and then adjudication takes place until awarding and then telling them to wait until April 1st when new financial year starts and funds get disbursed.”


Right now is already late as they have not started the process of tendering and that is why, he emphasized, that the money is mostly brought back to the government coffers. Meanwhile in 2018, Ministry of Education has also gotten the largest share amounting to P7.97 billion or 17.7 percent of the total Ministerial Recurrent Budget.

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