Members from private sector released
The six members deemed too expensive to pay
They earned about P54k each a month
Government has not renewed contracts of the Presidential COVID-19 ad hoc communications team that was drawn from the private sector, The Patriot on Sunday has learnt.
The team was roped in to assist the Presidential COVID-19 Task Team led by Dr Kereng Masupu. The team consisted of six communication and market experts, social content manager and a graphic designer. They were reportedly paid around P54, 000 each a month.
The private communication team was hired last year to lead the COVID-19 communications despite Government having communications staff employed across many departments. Their assignment was to provide COVID-19 updates, manage social media updates and responses from the public, design of all the adverts and communications in general, said a source privy to COVID-19 Task Team work.
They allegedly worked alongside the seconded government communications team made up of seven members.
The source disclosed that government abandoned the private sector communication team as it was deemed too expensive to maintain.
“Their contracts ended on June 30, 2021 from December 14, 2020. The leadership of the Task Team tried to force the renewal but government stood her ground that the team was not doing anything special that the government seconded communications team could not do. The leadership wanted the team to remain though it was not effective as public behaviour did not change despite the communication strategy applied,” the source said.
Reached for comment, the Presidential COVID-19 Task Team spokesperson Osupile Maroba advised this publication to contact Office of the President (OP) about the issue.
“You are advised to redirect your inquiry to the employer (OP) since your inquiry makes reference to engagement contracts and/or their revision,” Maroba said.
For her part Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Presidential Affairs, Governance and Public Affairs Pearl Ramokoka concurred that it is true that the adhoc communications team contract came to an end in June 2021.
Ramokoka said the contracts were not renewed because government, particularly the Ministry of Health and Wellness, has built adequate capacity to communicate and educate the public on COVID-19.
“Initially, information and communication was centralised at the Task Force because COVID-19 was a new and unknown disease. Botswana has since experienced COVID-19, built local knowledge and the world has also accumulated extensive information on COVID-19. Therefore, centralising education and information has become irrelevant,” she said.
She said the communications ad-hoc team started work in May 2020 to June 2021, adding that it is common practice for government to source private services when there is need, as in this particular case. “Appointment and termination of the contracts for the communications team was therefore a decision of government. Non-renewal of contacts was a consensus between the Task Team and Ministry of Presidential Affairs, Governance and Public Administration. It is important to note that the Task Team is a temporary structure for COVID-19, within government, and does not employ people.”
When asked what the team was doing that the government seconded team could not do, the Permanent Secretary said the Team was bringing in private sector communication experience and knowledge communication, and were working with the government communications team that was also placed at the Task Force for the purpose of enriching and building diversity in communication.
“The team members were paid a range of P882 to P1800 per day,” Ramokoka disclosed.