The Ministry of Transport and Communications came under fire at the ongoing Public Accounts Committee regarding its failure to build and upgrade airports to international standards.
PAC member and Member of Parliament for Bonnington South Ndaba Gaolatlhe said most countries follow certain models when they construct airports. “An airport should be like a shopping mall such that its revenue is not only collected through ticket sales and the like but also through the large quantities of shopping that normally happens as scores of people transit through, but Botswana seems to be heading in a different direction,” he said.
Acting Permanent Secretary and Accounting Officer in the Ministry of Transport and Communications Ompone Kereteletswe said his ministry is sitting on an inappropriate organisational structure with very little resources, adding that this has badly affected projects that they undertake including the building and refurbishing of airports.
Gaolatlhe said at the time when there were flights to Uganda and some East African countries he was hopeful that Botswana would become an African transport hub. “Now that vision is lost as things are seemingly going from bad to worse. The refurbishing of Sir Seretse Khama and Francistown International Airports for instance led us to believe that in the end some kind of commercial hubs would be unveiled, but instead the opposite was true,” he said.
Kereteletswe assured the committee that all is not lost as his ministry has commercial business plans for airports. “However I must admit that we do need more action than talk when it comes to execution of projects as a ministry. Currently there is a lot of work that needs to be done internally to that effect if we are to yield any good results,” he said.
For his part PAC member and MP for Tati East Guma Moyo said he is particularly worried about the billions of Pula being pumped into the aviation ministry year after year yet the situation keeps regressing.
“Please explain to the committee what the issue is because we cannot afford to lose P60 billion annually to a sector that keeps on giving back nothing but disappointments. Someone really needs to step up and take responsibility for the funds,” said Moyo.
Kereteletswe said the building of airports to international standards can only be achieved through proper planning. “On that note, I would like to take responsibility and admit that my ministry needs a lot of help. There are lessons that have been learnt along the way, it is not just the airports that we will draw such lessons from as a ministry. Our roads are falling apart after so much money has been spent on them, Air Botswana continues to be a financial burden, BR Express also kicked off with issues just to mention but a few,” he admitted.