Tuesday, October 3, 2023

Dow evades Ombudsman over suspicious dodgy deals

The Ombudsman Report of 2021 has revealed that Unity Dow, during her tenure as the Minister of Education and Skills Development may have overstepped procedure and OKeyed financial transactions before services are rendered.

Mentioned is the Department of Tertiary and Education Fund (DTEF’s payment to International Aviation Solution (IAS) for services that never bore fruit for any of the aviation school’s students.

Despite having been given an opportunity by the Ombudsman to comment, the report states that Dow failed to respond to date.

The report sheds some disturbing light in a case where students admitted under government sponsorship to specifically study for pilot training, even now, are without qualifications because of decisions which were made by DTEF, Botswana Qualifications Authority (BQA), and Civil Aviation Authority of Botswana (CAAB) in the year 2013.

DTEF, BQA and CAAB colluded to grant IAS the status of an accredited aviation training institution whilst it did not qualify as such and the decision to continue disbursing public funds to a non-performing training institution.

“From the very beginning, DTEF proceeded to list IAS as a training institution to which students could apply fully aware that IAS was not certified by CAAB to carry such training and was also not accredited by BQA to provide the training: something which is a grave deviation from the normal procedure,” reads the report.

DTEF further granted sponsorship to IAS students before IAS was accredited and approved by the BQA. IAS is directed by Teezzarh Seduke.

The ombudsman’s investigations uncovered that DTEF paid full tuition fees to IAS for all the courses the students were to be trained on in advance even though other courses were only to be undertaken after a student has successfully passed the preceding course.  “When DTEF tried to stop the advance payments the then Minister, Dr Unity Dow, instructed DTEF, through the Permanent Secretary, to continue paying IAS in advance,” the report unearthed.

Evidence in the report further indicates that on the 10th of August in 2015, DTEF had declined to pay IAS’s invoice which required the department to pay the entire programme’s tuition fees in advance.

“IAS appealed the said decision to the then Minister of Education and Skills Development, Dr Unity Dow, through a letter dated 8th September 2015, and the Minister instructed the Permanent Secretary to pay IAS’s invoices in full,” the report states.

In another email correspondence of 21st December 2015, Dow, further informed the acting Director of DTEF that IAS should be paid in advance for the entire programme as paying the invoices in advance does not harm government but rather assists institutions to succeed.  DTEF paid medical aid cover to IAS for a total amount of P2 540 160.00, which according to the report, was never supposed to be paid in the first instance. The money paid to IAS, never reached the students, citing that they never benefitted from the said medical aid cover. The ombudsman report stated that the said monies were never recovered from IAS by DTEF.

Three students were made to share one bedroom in a three-bedroomed house despite DTEF having paid an amount of P12 500.00 for each student per month whilst the average market price for accommodation was P4500.00. As luxurious as DTEF was in providing educational needs, IAS students were relegated to Spartan-like conditions.

“Students had to hitchhike to school and pay for transportation with their own money even though DTEF paid an amount of P900.00 per month per student to IAS for transport,” read the report. There were also instances where the food catering for on-campus students was stopped by the catering company because they were not paid by the school despite the sponsor having paid P5 850.00 per month for each student, according to the report.

Questions have been raised about the relationship between the then Minister Dow and IAS director Seduke following an alleged transcation between the two involving a farm in Leshibitse with an inflated price-tag in excess of a million pula.

Also, in 2017, Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC) raided Limkokwing University offices to probe allegations of corruption or conflict of interest involving Dow.

Office of Ombudsman has called on Directorate of Intelligence Services, (DIS) Botswana Police service(BPS) and Directorate of Corruption and Economic Crime amongst others to investigate Dr Dow,(then minister ) O. Moakofi (CAAB)  Director Quality Assurance Selebo Jobe(BQA) for any possible maladministration or abuse of office.

The report states that investigations in both the Department of Tertiary Education and Financing, (DTEF) Botswana Qualification Authority (BQA) and Civil Aviation Botswana(CAAB) show that there were serious lapses in the administration process of public institutions mandated to provide quality education and training in the country.

“The transgression of policies, laws procedures and processes has infringed on the learners right to education and caused a huge loss of public funds’’ said Makgonatsotlhe. 

In his damning report, Makgonatsotlhe stated that the Minister of Education, who was picked as the commanding authority, who gave instructions to ‘’accounting officers’’ (being Permanent Secretaries and Directors) was not helpful in the investigation as she refused to comment on anything relating to IAS and Ministry of Education saga. 


Read this week's paper