The Chief Executive of the Botswana Communications Authority, Thari Pheko, ends his eight-year tenure with the Authority next month after the non-renewal of his contract. Mystery surrounds his departure because under him, BOCRA consistently posted impressive financial results.
The 2013 annual report shows BOCRA sitting on a P214 million balance sheet. Sunday Standard learns that Pheko’s own success may have been his undoing. His departure is said to be related to the control of the multi-billion Universal Access and Service Fund which was set up this year under BOCRA. Mobile network operators will be required to contribute 1 percent of their profits to this Fund and the money will be used to take telecommunications in areas where it is not viable for commercial entities to do business.
If say, a mobile operator wants to provide these services in a Ngamiland remote area, the operator would be subsidised with money from this Fund. The Fund confers a lot of power on the BOCRA CEO because he has the prerogative to decide how the money is spent and where ICT developments go. It is not clear who, between Pheko’s two deputies, Mphoeng Tamasiga and Tshoganetso Kepaletswe, will replace him. The contracts of both men were renewed earlier this year. An external candidate is also a possibility. With two months to go, it is likely to take very long to find a replacement. A Ministry of Transport and Communications source says that the recruitment process for someone at this level is too protracted to have a replacement in office within a month or two. This effectively means that BOCRA will go without for a substantive CEO for months on end.
Government is not known for its swiftness in appointing CEOs. It took more than a year to appoint a substantive CEO for Botswana International Trade Centre and several months for the Botswana Development Corporation. A substantive CEO is yet to be appointed for the Botswana Tourism Organisation. On the whole, the stratosphere of Botswana’s telecommunications industry has been experiencing tectonic shifts. Sources tell Sunday Standard that had it not been for the public listing of the Botswana Telecommunications Corporation Limited shares, the contract of the CEO, Paul Taylor, would not have been renewed.
It is understood that although BTCL posted earnings well above the P1 billion mark under Taylor, some locals wanted him out for no reason other than that he is a foreigner. Orange Botswana’s CEO, Philippe Baudin, is stepping down and Mascom Botswana’s management contract with Portugal Telecoms is coming to end in February 2015.