Wednesday, January 19, 2022

Ministry splashes on expensive junket for envoys

A document passed Sunday Standard reveals how the Ministry of Foreign Affairs pampered Botswana ambassadors, High Commissioners, foreign envoys, scores of senior government officials and their spouses with boat cruises, Safari/game drives and expensive hotel accommodation and meals in Kasane last weekend.  
The document titled “NOTE NO: 13/2013EA 43/2 IX (17) CS” addressed to all diplomatic missions accredited to Botswana details the Ministry’s expenses on behalf of the foreign missions; the ministry will be responsible for the return flight to Kasane village and local transportation in Kasane, (spouses invited), the Ministry will also incur the expenses for the boat cruise (including lunch) and safari /game drives in Kasane.
Before being flown to Kasane at the expense of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Botswana’s 20 or so missions abroad and heads of missions accredited to Botswana and their spouses were hosted by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs at an annual diplomatic briefing and luncheon hosted by President Khama at Gaborone Sun Hotel.
An insider told the Sunday Standard that there was no need to hold the event in Kasane. “I don’t have the figures but I can assure you that it’s a lot of money to squander on luxury; used for flights expenses, boat cruises, game drives, lunch at Kasane, and for accommodation. It could have been used for renovating schools, clinics or any pressing matter,” said the insider.
The document shows that the Ministry provided transportation from Gaborone Sun hotel to the Diamond Trading Company Botswana (DTCB) and subsequently to Mankgodi village (spouses invited).
“As you can see from the document, the Ministry had already presented its compliments to the diplomatic missions, by attending briefings in various places in Gaborone; really there was no need to go to Kasane. The Ministry was literally turning the envoys into tourists at the expenses of the tax payer’,” said the concerned insider.
However the Ministry reportedly decided to pay for the accommodation of its diplomats and their spouses at Mowana lodge and Chobe Marina Lodge at P1 300 per person per night for bed and breakfast while foreign diplomats were asked to pay for their own accommodation.
The Ministry’s spokesperson Monei Rapuleng explained that the diplomatic briefing was held in Gaborone not Kasane.
“The trip to Kasane was a promotional event aimed at exposing the envoys to what the country stands to offer in the tourism industry as they also explore ways to promote economic cooperation between their countries and Botswana,” he said.
On concerns that the expenses incurred were in sharp contrast to government’s belt tightening strategy, Rapuleng said tourism is one of the largest contributors to the economy (GDP); it is a sector that has potential to expand and contribute even more significantly.
“Therefore, viewed in the context of enhancing economic growth, promoting the sector through exposing Diplomatic envoys to what Botswana can offer ┬áin the tourism industry can also be characterized as a national project that is aimed at facilitating bilateral cooperation and investment promotion,” said Rapuleng.

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