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Tshekedi Khama called to account

Publishing Date : 26 September, 2016

Author : ALFRED MASOKOLA

Chairman of Parliamentary Committee on Statutory Bodies and Enterprises, Samson Guma, has summoned Minister of Environment, Wildlife and Tourism,   Tshekedi Khama, to appear before the committee next week Monday, to explain his involvement in the opening of the controversial Dubai office.

Khama is further expected to explain to the committee, the reason behind non-existence of Board of Directors at Botswana Tourism Organisation (BTO), which could have rendered the organisation to operate outside the law.

This development comes in the wake of startling revelations by the BTO Chief Executive Officer Brian Dithebe, that the opening of Dubai office, which will cost government P17 million over a period of three years was done without proper market research and due diligence.

Dithebe revealed to the committee earlier this week that the office was opened because BTO “received an instruction from Ministry to open the office in Dubai.”

The committee was informed that Khama travelled to Dubai with BTO Marketing Executive, Julian Blackbeared, to sign a contract with a company called Gafa Media, that will promote Botswana as a destination. According to the agreement, a Motswana would be attached to Dubai office so that they understudy them as part and parcel of the contract.

Guma then stated that the signing of the contract by BTO and Gafa Media was a violation of Public Procurement Assets Disposal Board (PPADB) procedures, by directly signing the contract without any tendering or other selection means provided for by the PPADB Act.

Guma is not impressed with the fact that Khama could have acted illegally by directly giving instruction to staff of BTO to sign the opening of the office. According to the BTO Act, the board of directors shall be the governing body of Botswana Tourism Organisation.

However, Dithebe informed the committee that, presently, BTO is operating without Board of Directors because the minister has not replaced those whose terms had expired. 

“We had six to seven Board members last year for which their terms expired, the last one was in November last year,” he revealed to the committee.

“We had six months before then, written to the Ministry notifying them that in November the last members would be having their term expiring; hoping that the process would have been kick-started well in advance for BTO Board to be fully constituted. Since then we have not had a Board until now,” Dithebe further revealed.

Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Environment, Wildlife and Tourism, Elias Magosi, who was also summoned before the committee to explain the BTO organisation corroborated Dithebe’s testimony and said that it is indeed true that the organisation have been running without a board because the minister has not appointed one.

Magosi, who holds monthly and quarterly meetings with CEO of BTO, further revealed that they had advised the minister about the situation, but Khama has since informed him that he is still looking for “right people” to appoint to the board.

Magosi also distanced himself from association with the opening of Dubai office, telling the committee that he is not aware of any meeting, in his presence which discussed such matter. Magosi also expressed that he is not part of the instruction from the Ministry sent to BTO neither has he seen the letter sent to the organisation.

Guma expressed his concern that the fact that BTO is operating without a board, yet being a body corporate, is a deliberate move by minister Tshekedi to preserve the status quo.  Guma said, there is no provision in the Act which countenance a situation where BTO will operate without Board of Directors.

The BTO Act states that, members of the Board other than the chairperson shall hold office for a period not exceeding three years, and shall be eligible for reappointment for a further term of three years.  The Act further states that the chairperson of the board shall hold office for a period not exceeding five years and shall also be eligible for reappointment.

The Act also gives the minister the power to fill the vacancy should a board member resign before expiry of his term.

In the meantime, the committee is to establish if Khama is acting within the law by allowing the BTO to operate with the Board of Directors, whether his direct involvement in giving instructions to staff of BTO is not a violation of BTO Act, which recognise the Board as the only governing body of the Botswana Tourism Organisation.

Guma said there is no provision in the Act which allow for non-existence of the Board and what shall happen in that event.

Committee member, Pius Mokgware, who is also Member of Parliament for Gabane-Mmankgodi said the action of BTO in the past nine months without the Board could be illegal. Mokgware said though the Board is appointed and takes the instruction from the minister, the act specifically state that, the board shall make decisions of BTO affairs.

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