Controversy, uncertainty and graft claims continue to throw the upcoming 2021 population census into jeopardy, with Francistown enumerators threating to quit just a week before the project starts.
The aggrieved Francistown enumerators joined hands with their census supervisors to petition Statistics Botswana (SB) over poor conditions of service that among others include poor wages. Francistown District Commissioner, Chabongwa Matseka is grappling with the supervisor’s petition.
District Commissioners are in charge of employment of supervisors and enumerators on behalf of SB. In an interview on Friday, one of supervisors who preferred anonymity in fear of reprisals confirmed to that they petitioned SB through their District Commissioner. According to him, their petition is about overtime payments that have been withdrawn by Statistics Botswana. He said as temporary staff employed by Stistics Botswana as census supervisors they feel exploited.
“The payment rate that we make on Monday is the same as Saturday and Sundays. We have never seen anything like that. It is equal to exploitation by the employer SB. When we were on training it was compulsory for us to sleep at Andanosia hotel and around P1200 was spent on accommodations for each one of us while we were paid P58 per day,” said the source.
“Why did they force us to sleep at Andasonia while from their advert they said we should apply to a place where we have accommodation as they won’t offer accommodation? A lot of money was spent and wasted on the accommodation which we have in Francistown. Now that they are refusing to give us what we are worth because they wasted money from the start,” the angry supervisor added.
Owing to their disgruntlement, the supervisors say if they don’t receive a response from Statistics Botswana by Friday (18th March) on their demands, they will not report for work. “They will be the supervisors to the enumerators themselves. That is if enumerators will agree to be on the field to given that P360 amount of payment despite the huge work. The SB management are too defensive when we ask this issues. It’s like they are hiding something,” said the supervisor.
In the copy of the petition passed to this publication, the supervisors dared the SB and District Officer. “This serves as a letter of legal and administrative issues by Field Supervisors on the conduct of the 2022 PHC by your office as our employer during training of supervisors and the upcoming enumeration period. Issues emanating from the 2022 PHC in Francistown district are the overtime payments, transportation allowance and figures on salary scale for a degree holder,” reads part of the petition.
On the first legal issue, pursuant to section 94 of the employment act of Botswana, the petitioners said it is provided that employer or being required to do so under section 95, shall be paid at least doubles the wages he would have been paid had the period been an ordinary working period,’’.
“This section depicts that the verbal words by your office as our employer, not in verbatim but in effect, which were that the 2022 PHC supervisors of Francistown District shall not be paid any overtime contravenes the provisions of this act. The overtime we have worked for dates back to the weekends we have worked since the commencement of training of supervisors to the upcoming end of the 2022 PHC,” argued the supervisors demanding fair conditions of service from the SB.
Meanwhile, Statistics Botswana remained resolute that there is no overtime allowance for the census supervisors and enumerators despite them being expected to the weekends over census.
In a letter to the District Commissioners that this publication is in possession of, the Statistician General Dr Burton Mguni informed them that there is no overtimes for temporary employees.
“Supervisors and Enumerators are engaged on fixed-term temporary basis and are paid a flat allowance rate per day. The rate covers both weekdays and weekends. Therefore there shall be no overtime required and no eligibility for overtime pay. It should be noted that the terms of engaging temporary staff such as those which apply to Supervisors and Enumerators are different from those applicable to pensionable and long-term contract employees,” said Mguni in 10 March 2022 letter.
Furthermore, Mguni said Enumeration shall be conducted between 0630hrs and 2030hrs and the enumerator shall be responsible for organizing their interview schedules within this time period.
“It should be understood that the aforementioned times, are just parameters within which the enumeration should be conducted. That is to say, both the enumerators and supervisors are permitted to work flexible times within these hours, as long they meet the daily work requirements. On the overall, no work shall be carried out in excess of 12 hours per day as per Section 95 (10) of the employment act (read with 95 (2)),” said Dr Mguni speaking to the work load and times.
Moreover, The Patriot on Sunday is reliably informed that SB is grappling with shortage of tablets. This is despite the latter having procured over 8 000 tablets to be used for census in one company.
According to sources, it has turned out that the procured tablets are not functioning to the best. “About 200 tablets have been identified to be not working as it seems that they have been sold out in a dead condition. They are second hands which have been dumped to the SB. Some of the supervisors and enumerators are yet to receive the tablets due to their shortage,” said source at SB.
In addition the supervisors from Francistown also confirmed that they are faced with shortage of tablets as majority of enumerators are yet to be given tablets despite a week remaining ahead of the census.
The Patriot on Sunday investigations recently unearthed that tablets in question have been all procured from one local company known to this publication in a direct appointment tender by SB. But, Senior Corporate Communications Officer at SB Temba Sibanda was quick to dismiss claims that tablets have been bought under controversial corrupt circumstances, saying open bidding was done.
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