Saturday, October 24, 2020

Tshekedi Khama’s blue eyed boy in gravy train controversy

Minister of Environment, Wildlife and Tourism Tshekedi Khama’s name has been dragged into a controversy in which one of his officials is alleged to have run up a huge unauthorised entertainment bill.

The officer, Timmy Blackbeard believed to be the minister’s blue eyed boy is not new to controversy. His recruitment sparked a row at the government enclave with some officers claiming that he was handpicked by the minister. Blackbeard who has never been to secondary school only has a Standard 7 certificate but was appointed Chief Wildlife Officer (Head of Law Enforcement Division) a post traditionally held by university graduates. 

In the latest controversy, Blackbeard is reported to have undertaken an unauthorised trip to the Okavango/Ngamiland areas mid last year running up huge hotel bills which he submitted to government to settle.

The ministry accounts department however took up the bill with the Director of Tourism and National Parks who allegedly expressed shock because he had not sanctioned the trip. Sources inside the ministry told Sunday Standard that Blackbeard usually reports directly to the minister, sidestepping the director.

Responding to a Sunday Standard questionnaire the deputy permanent secretary in the Ministry of Environment, Wildlife and Tourism, Felix Monggae would not be drawn into discussing details of the case. 

“The Ministry of Environment, Wildlife and Tourism and the Department of Wildlife and National Parks Director, would like to state that circumstances around the said trip have been investigated and addressed administratively as an internal matter. However we are not at liberty to divulge actions taken to protect the privacy of institutions and individuals involved,” said Monngae in a written response. 

Sunday Standard had wanted to establish how much Blackbeard had run up in hotel bills and what action the government had taken against him.

Blackbeard and another officer were head hunted and their posts were never advertised as is the norm at the government enclave. There were claims that the Minister was influential in his appointment.  The former BDF officer was appointed as Chief Wildlife Officer (Head of Law Enforcement Division). 

In a previous response to Sunday Standard queries, the Department of Wildlife and National Parks former Director, Dr Oduetse Koboto parried claims that the minister influenced Blackbeard’s appointment.

“All appointments for the department are done by the Permanent Secretary as the Appointing Authority,” said Koboto. 

Asked why the position currently held by Blackbeard was not advertised and why some officers within the department were overlooked when he was appointed, Koboto said there was nothing wrong with the appointment Blackbeard.

 “Head hunting is an acceptable practice in government where we consider not only the academic qualifications but also work related skills,” he had stated.  

He said in his previous service in government, Blackbeard had progressed beyond the levels of entry requirements and demonstrated sufficient proficiencies to perform at such higher levels.

According to Koboto, at the time of the recruitment there were no officers with the skills that Blackbeard possesses.

 Asked to state the academic qualifications of the two former BDF solders Koboto said Blackbeard has Std VII (standard seven). Sources say the position require a university degree. 

“As already indicated above, these officer(s) were recruited based on their skills and experience in military and not academic qualifications. Above all they had already progressed beyond entry levels in their previous service,” said Koboto. 

Blackbeard joined on the ministry 2nd September 2013.

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