The recommended forensic audit by Parliamentary Committee on Statutory Bodies at Botswana Tourism Organisation (BTO) is expected to open a can of worms on the alleged illegal operations approved against the BTO Act.
Key issues include governance and human resources issues, and mismanagement of tourism funds without following the legal procedure as well as other financial errors within the troubled parastatal.
The Minister of Environment, Wildlife and Tourism, Tshekedi Khama, together with the committee, agreed and settled for the decision to conduct a forensic audit at BTO to clean up the mess and errors made that involved authorisation of millions of Pula without the approval of the BTO Board of Directors.
Committee Chairman Guma Moyo quizzed Tshekedi if he was comfortable with a forensic audit to figure out the cause of the BTO mess as well as to correct the errors for the benefit of the organisation.
The list of errors within BTO that are alleged to have been authorised by Tshekedi include expenditure of the Tourism fund running into millions while it was not formally in the hands of the finance ministry, as well as international contracts that have been signed for by junior officers.
Other irregularities include running BTO without a board of directors for over nine months with only the Acting Chairman Lawrence Khupe.
In his response Tshekedi stated that he acted and authorised according to the advice he got from the then BTO CEO Thabo Dithebe, adding that he believed that it was professional guidance. Tshekedi admitted that he had made errors, adding that he took full responsibility.
“I don’t have a problem with your forensic audit and my request is that it should also be extended to other parastatals that have been costing government billions of Pula. Organisations such as BDC, BCL, BPC and BMC should be attended with the same forensic audit exercise,” he said.
He further stated that it was not a deliberate decision to prolong the appointment of the BTO Board of Directors adding that he was still considering the right talent. He added that he was against “professional board seaters” who also rotate from one board to another with no value to the organisations.
Raised during the session by General Pius Mokgware was the employment of BTO Executive Director Tourism Cluster Development, Sally Anne-Follett Smith, who was recently served with a summons by the Department of Labour officials for working without a work permit. Tshekedi stated that she was employed by former PS and the then board chairman Neil Fitt.
Discussed previously was the BTO reversing its P17 million contract to open an office in Dubai as the authorisation of the contract was illegal, according to the BTO Act.
Moyo stated that the committee transparent and fair to everyone summoned to appear before it, adding that it had no political agenda.