The Chief Executive Officer of Civil Aviation Authority of Botswana, Major General Jefferson Thokwane, has told Sunday Standard that morale among his officers is very low.
He attributed it to delays on the part of government to come up with a remuneration structure that is commensurate with the technical nature of CAAB.
On relations between CAAB and the shareholder, General Thokwane has said there is room for improvement.
He has suggested what he calls a “shareholders compact” that clearly states what the parent ministry’s responsibilities are and what CAAB’s duties are.
There should be recognition that CAAB Chief Executive and the Board are principal advisors to the ministry on aviation matters, he said.
“If you have an aviation desk at the ministry that second guesses CAAB, then we are headed for troubles,” he said.
While he acknowledged that the ministry’s aviation desk is not adequately staffed, he also hinted at a possible existence of strained relations.
“It may be true that there is another centre of power. But the fact of the matter is that as CAAB we should be principal advisors,” he said.
But why is CAAB not generating enough money to man its operations as is the case in other countries?
General Thokwane said government has been reluctant to allow CAAB to implement the charges as requested because there is a feeling higher charges might restrain aviation growth.
“Personally I have no problem with it. It is a political decision. But once such a decision is taken it is important that government moves in to feel the void by putting in resources to CAAB,” said Thokwane.
General Thokwane also talked of how notwithstanding the challenges his organisation faces, there is a movement towards addressing the issues as raised by an audit of ICAO (International Civil Aviation Organisation).
ICAO officials were in Botswana in April.
Thokwane said CAAB has already started addressing safety concerns as raised by ICAO.
One of those concerns, he said, has to do with approval of aircraft modifications and repairs.
He said CAAB is currently working in the areas around Maun and the Okavango Delta to address the issues as raised by ICAO.
“There is no beating about the bush. Operators have to be prepared to meet the stringent ICAO regulations. We are doing well with Delta operators. The challenge will be with bigger players like Air Botswana and others,” said Thokwane.
While the media has been awash with stories that Botswana is lagging behind on aviation safety matters, Thokwane says the reality is not as bad as the picture that has been painted in the mass media.
He said since 2006, when ICAO auditors were last in Botswana, the country’s standards of safety, including on compliance on regulations have moved from below 30 percent to close to 60 percent.
He said that the problem is that CAAB does not have in-house expertise.
He also said it is very important that there is a cultivated a cultural change of mindset among his staff.
Most of them, he said, were inherited from the CAAB precursor, the Department of Civil Aviation.
“We have serious Human Resource issues. Our staff is not yet customer centered. It is disappointing that passengers are not regarded as customers. We still have employees who argue with customers,” said General Thokwane.