Monday, September 21, 2020

Ministry denies malfunctioning of equipment at SSKI airport

The ministry of works and transport has denied allegations that a machine in the Communications Operations (ComOps) office at the Sir Seretse Khama International Airport (SSKIA) did not work for more than a year and that substitute action resulted in wrong information being sent to the International Civil Aviation headquarters.

The allegation is contained in a report prepared by ComOps staff in the Department of Civil Aviation (DCA) who operate that machine. The staff report which was written late last year, say that the archive terminal, as the machine is called, “has not been working for more than a year which results in wrong monthly statistics sent to International Civil Aviation Organisation [ICAO] headquarters.”
On the other hand, the ministry’s spokesperson, Charles Keikotlhae says that the archive was not working for only seven months ÔÇô between May and November last year ÔÇô and that it is now working properly.

Contrary to what the staff report says, Keikotlhae asserts that it is not possible to send wrong monthly statistics to ICAO because the non-operation of the terminal does not stop the entire operation of the message switching system which does the general archive process for every terminal attached to the switching system.

“The system software logs events or activity happening in every terminal of the Message Switching System and this information remains in the system for three months which can be extended to an indefinite period by downloading or recording archived information for storage in other media (CD/disks) as backup information for the entire system. “Operations personnel can still access this information from technical or maintenance engineers upon request. They can still prepare the statistics manually from recording incoming and outgoing messages from other working terminals as they were doing before automatic message switching,” Keikotlhae says.

The staff report takes issue with performing the task manually which takes the form of doing some shading.
“Manual shading that is done does not show a true picture,” the report says.
Keikotlhae says that the archive terminal fault resulted from the contractor, Ubitech Inc. upgrading the software during the installation as part of project improvement implementation.

“The terminal was first reported to Ubitech in May 2008 and Ubitech delayed in attending to it while still under warranty period as their maintenance engineer returned to Canada after he did the upgrade promising to give DCA a response from Canada as he said he was new and not familiar with the old system,” he says.

While DCA was waiting for the response, the warranty expired and when the two parties met, the issue was raised and was finally resolved last December when, during its visit to Botswana , Ubitech reloaded the software.
It also turns out that the DCA circuit between Selebi Phikwe and SSKIA was not working for 22 months ÔÇô between August 2006 and May 2008. Keikotlhae attributes this to a link failure. The link belongs to the Department of information Technology which is the service provider for DCA.

“DIT leases [Botswana Telecommunications Corporation] network to provide the Government Data Network. Apparently, BTC infrastructure does not extend to Selebi Phikwe airport and as such DIT set up a radio link between the [Central Transport Organisation] router at Selebi Phikwe and the airport. This radio link was struck by lightning. DIT made several attempts to have the link re-established but failed and finally made a decision to set up a satellite link which was established in December 2008,” Keikotlhae says.

He adds that the fault was first reported to DIT by the DCA IT section in August 2006 but was fixed after almost two years ÔÇô June 2008.
“During this time of the link outage, DCA made persistent requests to DIT to speed up the link revival and even went to the extent of having to sponsor DIT technicians to go to Selebi Phikwe,” Keikotlhae says.

When DIT resorted to satellite link, it had to undertake a tendering process which took time. Keikotlhae says that the circuit failure did not hamper operations as other means of communication (facsimile and telephones) were used.

He explains further: “It should be noted that these two technical faults were beyond the DCA maintenance capability. The archive fault required the expertise of the system developer ÔÇô Ubitech software developer ÔÇô and the link problem required DIT intervention.”

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