Sunday, September 20, 2020

…..Looks like Tshekedi is still runs the show at BTO

The Environment, Natural Resources conservation and Tourism Minister, Tshekedi Khama this week once again proved his “mighty” after details emerged suggesting that he still micro manage the Botswana Tourism Organisation (BTO).

At the core of the alleged maladministration in the tourism industry is the controversial tourism development levy bill which was scheduled to be tabled in Parliament during the ongoing session.

This week, a letter authored by Tshekedi and dated 28 November 2017 was circulated amongst the big names at the government enclave including that of the Vice President Mokgweetsi Masisi, Botswana Tourism Organisation CEO and board chairperson, Permanent Secretary in the ministry as well as the Chairperson of the Statutory Bodies and State Enterprises, Guma Moyo.

The letter detailed Tshekedi’s decision to withdraw, with immediate effect, from the current Parliament session the proposed Tourism Development Levy Bill which was scheduled to be tabled this month.

“This withdrawal is to enable the ministry and Botswana Tourism Organisation to conduct further engagement with various stakeholders”, reads part of Tshekedi’s letter specifically addressed to Masisi and copied to his PS, BTO CEO as well as Moyo in his capacity as Chairperson of the parliamentary subcommittee that oversees state owned enterprises such as BTO.

On Wednesday, Moyo summoned both the BTO Acting Chief Executive Zibanani Hubona and the Tourism Ministry Tourism Permanent Secretary (PS) Jimmy Opelo at an urgent committee meeting to specifically deal with the matter. During their brief appearance at the urgent meeting of the Parliamentary committee, the two, Hubona and Opelo gave contradicting statements with latter saying BTO has since cancelled a contract with a United Kingdom based company whilst the former maintained that the contract is still in existence.

“I am not aware of the cancellation as the board has never informed me and we do have Memorandum of Understanding with the same company,” said Hubona.

Opelo on the other hand had earlier on told the committee that following legislators’ disapproval of the manner in which the contract had come about, the ministry had decided to cancel it and withdraw the proposed Bill introducing the levy.

A separate letter, authored by Tshekedi and dated 8 February 2017 details of how the former BTO CEO, Brian Dithebe was forced by Tshekedi to appoint the UK firm, ASUIA as a service provider for inbound insurance.

“In the absence of a quorate board to consider the ASUIA proposal, you are accordingly instructed to implement the instruction, inclusive of directly appointing ASUIA as a service provider for the inbound insurance under the terms and conditions stipulated in the existing contract, save for any reference to BTO Board approval”, read part of the February 2016 letter written to then BTO CEO by Tshekedi.

Following the expose of the BTO maladmistration last year, and the 2016 sitting of the Parliamentary committee, an instruction was made to have BTO cancel the contract with ASUIA.

At the time, the committee has expressed displeasure and irregularities regarding Tshekedi’s interference on the day to day running of the BTO and accused him of trying to use the Tourism Amendment Bill to specifically to benefit ASUIA through direct appointment without floating a public tender.

On Wednesday this week, the committee further questioned the interference of  Tshekedi on the operational activities of BTO adding that it is serious abuse of office and that Opelo must advice the Minister on a lot of irregularities ongoing at BTO adding BTO has serious lapse of governance which needs to be fixed.

“From what we have picked is that the $30 per entry into Botswana, this UK based company is going to benefit more than the government when collecting tourism levy. Your Minister should not involve himself in the procurement processes at BTO and deliberately killing the powers of the BTO Board by directly appointing UK based company,” Moyo said.

Meanwhile the November 2017 Tshekedi letter has revealed that he has taken a decision to revise the controversial Bill and will retable it at a later date.

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Sunday Standard September 20 – 26

Digital copy of Sunday Standard issue of September 20 - 26, 2020.