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Tshekedi P500 million deal with UK company shrouded in secrecy

Publishing Date : 16 January, 2018


The Parliamentary Committee on Statutory Bodies and Public Enterprises this week heard contrasting views on the involvement of a United Kingdom based company, ASUIA in the collection of the envisaged tourism levy by the Ministry of Environment, Natural Resources Conservation and Tourism.

Appearing before the committee, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Environment, Natural Resources Conservation and Tourism Jimmy Opelo revealed under oath that the ministry cancelled its contract with ASUIA. Opelo said following the controversy which the matter caused last year, the ministry swiftly cancelled its contract with the company in order to revert to a procedural manner of doing things. “Immediately after appearing before the committee, where we also learnt that things were not done properly, the contract was cancelled,” said Opelo.

Opelo conversely, could not reveal the exact date the contract was cancelled and also the trail of communication between the two entities. However, the Acting Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Botswana Tourism Organisation (BTO) Zibanani Hubona told the committee that as far as he was concerned, the contract between BTO and ASUIA still stands. “The contract is valid and has not been cancelled, unless someone could have done it without my knowledge. But what I know is that at BTO there has never been communication to that effect.”

Last year, the committee first heard about ASUIA, which was brought on board as a technical partner in collection of the planned tourism levy to be collected from visiting tourists in the country’s entry points. According to its website the company is an Independent Underwriting Agent specialising in International Accident & Health, Travel and other Specialist Risks. It is also fully focused on servicing International Clients to provide and fulfil the diverse needs of the International Insurance & Reinsurance market and to provide and deliver Non-Standard Solutions to meet specialists’ needs.

The company, according to the letter which was shared with the committee entered into contract with BTO at the instruction of Minister of Environment, Natural Resources Conservation and Tourism Tshekedi Khama, without any tendering process. “Following presentation by ASUIA to the Ministry of Environment, Wildlife and Tourism (MWET) and subsequently to Botswana Tourism Organisation (BTO), it is confirmed that a preliminary contract has since been signed for ASUIA to provide inbound insurance for Botswana,” stated the letter.

It continued:“In the absence of a board to consider the ASUIA proposal, you are accordingly instructed to implement the instruction, inclusive of directly appointing ASUIA as a service provider for inbound insurance under the terms and conditions stipulated in the existing contract, save for any reference to BTO Board approval.”

The Public Procurement and Asset Disposal Board (PPADB) insist in a procurement process that enables other players to participate in the tendering. The primary mandate of PPADB is to adjudicate and award tenders for Central Government and any other institution specified under the Act for the delivery of works, services and supplies related services. This is coupled with the registration and grading of contractors who so wish to do business with government

The Committee was informed that, even though Khama had directed for the appointment of the UK Company, the Non-Bank Financial Institutions Regulatory Authority (NBFIRA) indicated that there were local companies with the same capabilities. “We have learnt as a result of NBFIRA’s intervention that there is nothing peculiar which the ASUIA offers that is not available in the country,” admitted the Acting BTO CEO.  

The NBFIRA Act grants it the mandate to regulate and enforce compliance within the Non-Bank financial Sector in order to safeguard the stability, fairness and efficiency of the non-bank financial sector. The committee learnt that the NBIRA together with the Ministry of Finance and Economic Management rejected the tourism levy, because of the manner in which it was presented. The two entities also have advised against the levy, the committee learnt.

The Hospitality and Tourism Association of Botswana (HATAB) an umbrella organisation representing all sectors of the industry, which exists to promote, encourage and police excellence in hospitality and tourism in Botswana, has also opposed the levy. The levy, according to HATAB will discourage tourists from visiting Botswana, which ranks among the most expensive to visit for tourists. It is reported that on average, Botswana gets 1.6 million tourists per year. The new levy would have collected an estimated P500 million from visiting tourists annually.



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