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Guma throws Masisi in centre of BTO controversy

Publishing Date : 09 July, 2018

Author : ALFRED MASOKOLA

President Mokgweetsi Masisi has been asked to take action against Minister of Environment, Natural Resources Conservation and Tourism Tshekedi Khama owing to his actions that threw Botswana Tourism (BTO) into controversy.


The Parliamentary Committee on Statutory Bodies and Public Enterprises, chaired by Tati East legislator and former Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) chairman Moyo Guma was tabled before parliament this week following a period anticipation. The report, which was presented by committee acting chairperson Ndaba Gaolathe was not kind to Khama over his actions in the running of BTO affairs.


The report points out that Khama breached BTO Act in several ways, including among others; failure to appoint a board within a reasonable time-frame to run the affairs of the BTO; intentional and unlawful supervision of the BTO as if it is a department of the Ministry; going against procedural advice of the Permanent Secretary, Chief Executive Officer of the BTO and Non-Bank Institutions Regulatory Authority; and unlawful procurement appointments during the absence of the Board.


Blame is also apportioned to Khama for the BTO satellite office which was to be established in Dubai, at the minister’s instruction.  According to the report, the Board had indicated that due diligence was not conducted to determine the viability of the office since it was Khama’s instruction. “The result was that a market analysis was not done to determine whether the market was relevant and worth the investment for the Botswana products. In spite of such procedural deficiencies the BTO was to spend P17 million on the establishment of Dubai office over a period of three years,” reads the report.


“It became apparent during the interrogation of the CEO that the BTO Board was no-existent for nine months hence the Ministry usurping the functions of the Board. The Committee was of the view that procedurally and in accordance with statutory requirements the CEO should take instructions from the Board not the Ministry.” The report implicates Khama in making direct procurement of services of one Mike Brook for the production of 10 copies worth P1,347,500 in the absence of the board.


Khama is found to have been directly involved in the restructuring of the BTO, a decision which would have required an additional P23 million which was not budgeted for, subsequently necessitating the Ministry of Tourism to approach parliament through supplementary appropriation. “It came to light that the Minister was directly running the BTO. The decision to restructure should have emanated from the Board and not the Minister,” the report reads.


The committee also found Khama to have acted wrongly when he instructed BTO to appoint a medical insurance company to provide an insurance cover for BTO. A direct appointment of ASUIA as a service provider for inbound insurance was to be made at the request of Khama. A contract was to be signed with the company at the direction of the Minister. “The NBFIRA had advised that BTO should engage a local insurer before opening the tender to international bidders. This advice was ignored by the Ministry,” indicates the report.


The committee further found that the decision made by Khama should have actually been made by the Board. In another wrong doing, Khama instructed then BTO CEO Brian Dithebe to appoint Changu Newman to be the BTO attaché in Washington DC against the advice from the Human Resources Unit.


“Mrs Newman’s overall performance in the assessment indicated marginally below average competency potential compared to other professionals in management. This also had a bearing on the issues of governance where the Minister interfered with the running of the BTO,” says the report.


The firing of BTO CEO was not procedural according to the report. The Acting Chairman of the Board acting together with Ministry agreed and terminated the contract without following proper procedures since the Acting Chairman of the Board cannot legally act on his own without other members of the Board, stated the report. “The Committee was of the view that the action of the Acting Chairman and the Ministry was procedurally flowed.”


RECOMMENDATIONS


The Committee recommends that the BTO be instructed to to conduct a forensic audit for a three year period ending December 2017, under the direction of the Auditor General and report findings to Parliament) the Tourism Bill, 2017, seeks to validate a process which was done improperly, and therefore the Committee recommends that the bill be deferred pending the outcome of the detailed forensic audit, Khama has also been warned to refrain from acting in such a manner that violates the BTO Act, with further recommendation that President takes appropriate action in relation to the Minister’s meddling with the affairs of the BTO.


In November 2017, Masisi, then Vice President coaxed Khama to withdraw the Tourism Development Levy Bill, after it emerged from the committee that Khama tried to validate his actions at BTO through the bill. The committee also comprise of Major Gen Pius Mokgware, Gilbert Mangole, Sethom Lelatisitswe, Dr Phenyo Butale, Kosta Markus and Mephato Reatile.

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