The controversial acquisition of the second hand Embraer jet E170 has raised more suspicion that the purchase of the aircraft was another dubious scheme designed to milk out millions of Pula from ailing national airline.
Some of the top management at Air Botswana made those suspicion after Air Botswana flouted the procurement process which required the airline to float a tender for Embraer Jet E170 in the market. The airline argues contrary stating that the procurement of the aircraft followed Air Botswana procurement procedures which are vetted by Public Procurement Asserts and Disposal Board (PPDB) and in alignment with the PPADB Act.
The airline move to confine itself to IATA consultant who made decision as to when and where to purchase the jet without following PPADB and airline tender procedure also raised more suspicion within the airline. The controversial jet which was grounded for six months following its arrival last year in December, also failed to land while passengers were onboard at Sir Seretse Khama International Airport triggering the national airline to ground it yet again last month.
At the center of this suspicion was AB decision to flout its contractual agreement which was emphasized on acquiring an airworthy aircraft ready to operate on its arrival. The airline has vehemently denied to have flouted the procurement process to buy the second hand jet. Air Botswana had engaged IATA consultant who was at the forefront of re-fleeting excise that employees at the national airline refers to it as a failed re-fleeting in their petition to the parent ministry.
According to reliable sources IATA consultant tricked Air Botswana to purchase him a ticket to travel to Oman in the middle East under the pretext that he was to purchase a jet only for the then AB Engineering and Maintenance Director ,Wiston Moloigaswe to come back to report that the jet had no engine. Weekend Post reliable sources further revealed that the consultant who was never at any time accompanied by AB staff as a norm went ahead to negotiate for a second hand Embraer E 170 in Houston after failing to acquire one in Oman. Sources further indicated that initially the consultant had informed the top management that he could get a Jet at around $20 million.
After Moloigaswe resisted acquisition on the basis of safety and transparency, the IATA Consultant repeated the same in Houston USA claiming that the airline can now acquire two Embraer jet for approximately $23 Million. According to reliable sources the consultant later made AB to pay P15 million that was used for maintenance of the damaged High Pressure Turbine Blade (HPTB) from an aircraft that was supposed to be airworthy when bought from Regional One.
Weekend Post has intercepted a conversation where the then Director Engineering and Maintenance, Wiston Moloigaswe was opposing the idea of repairing the HPTB to facilitate the acquisition of the aircraft. An acrimony ensured in the conversation where the General Manager maintained that the airline should go ahead with maintaining the aircraft engine. According to our reliable sources Moloigaswe`s move to oppose the maintenance of the engine aircraft was based on the fact that air Botswana was going against the initial idea of purchasing an airworthy aircraft.
Documents in possession of Weekend Post shows that the airline somersaulted its own contractual agreement with the seller which emphasized the need to purchase an airworthy aircraft, as opposed to paying for the maintenance of the aircraft to facilitate the procurement of the aircraft. The move to pay for the maintenance of the aircraft to facilitate the acquisition was heavily contested by some of the top management who felt that the national airline could have settled for airworthy aircraft.
Sources further revealed that initially they were made to believe that there were three aircrafts that were airworthy only to settle for an aircraft that had damaged HPTB blade which is an important component on the aircraft engine. According to reliable sources the airline under the advice of the consultant went ahead to acquire the aircraft despite that there was no inspection of the aircraft records.
Air Botswana, spokesperson Kefilwe Kebafetotse indicated that the airline took a decision to purchase a pre-owned E170 Jet in optimum condition from Regional One when quizzed on why they opted to pay P15 million for maintenance of the aircraft as opposed to purchasing airworthy aircraft. Kebafetotse could not state how much the airline spent to acquire the jet after the owner had demanded P15 million upfront to repair HPTB. She could not comment on whether the airline was made to pay P15 million for the maintenance of the aircraft safe to state that the aircraft was airworthy.
She denied that there was no physical and records inspection to establish the airworthiness of the aircraft. Kebafetotse went further to explain that due diligence and pre-purchase inspections were carried out, prior to acquisition of the Jet. According to her the pre-purchase inspections validated records and physical condition, good engine performance, clean borescope, serviceability and airworthiness of the aircraft.
‘It is worth noting that all processes were followed as agreed with the seller,” she added. On why the airline settled for a second hand jet the airline spokesperson indicated that acquisition of the aircraft was determined by various economic and budgetary considerations. The airline spokesperson denied that they airline failed to float an invitation to test the market. She noted that the procurement of the aircraft was implemented in line with the Air Botswana procurement procedures which are vetted by PPADB and in alignment with the PPADB Act.
ANOTHER QUESTIONABLE CONTROVERSIAL TRADE-IN OF THE ATR 42/72-500 AIRCRAFTS
Another suspicious transaction that the management and the employees questioned relates to the trade-in of ATR 42/72-500 aircrafts. According to the reliable sources the airline had to pay ATR manufacture in France an amount of P18 million for trade –in. According to sources Air Botswana was expected to have benefited through the trade-in but ended up paying the manufacture who claimed that there were defects on the aircrafts. According to the sources the airline was to benefit since they wanted to purchase ATR 72-600 model aircraft. Airline spokesperson could not respond as to why the airline had to lose P18 million as opposed to benefitting from the trade-in.
She indicated that as part of the agreement ATR re-purchased three older versions of the aircraft two ATR 42-500 and one ATR 72-500 from the airline as per the pre-delivery conditions. She went further to explain that as part of the sale and re-purchase the airline was required to perform necessary maintenance works on the traded-in aircraft to ensure adherence to the re-delivery conditions. According to the source the airline could have used the money to top-up on the purchase of ATR 72-600.
However, Weekend Post investigations have turned up information that Air Botswana had sold ATR 72-500 to ATR manufacture in May last year and leased the aircraft again. Contrary to AB response to Weekend post that they sold ATR 72-500 together with ATR-42-500 the documents reveal that ATR-500 had long been sold to ATR while ATR 42-500 were sold around Octobers last year. According to documents in possession of Weekend Post the airline started leasing back the ATR 72-500 and paying the manufacture millions of pula immediately after selling it. Air Botswana spokesperson could not respond as to why the airline sold the aircraft and leased it back.
Former Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) Member of Parliament for Gaborone North, Haskins Nkaigwa has confirmed his departure from opposition fold to re-join the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP).
Nkaigwa said opposition is extremely divided and the leadership not in talking terms. “They are planning evil against each other. Nothing much will be achieved,” Nkaigwa told WeekendPost.
“I believe my time in the opposition has come to an end. It’s time to be of value to rebuilding our nation and economy of the country. Remember the BDP is where I started my political journey. It is home,” he said.
“Despite all challenges currently facing the world, President Masisi will be far with his promises to Batswana. A leader always have the interest of the people at heart despite how some decisions may look to be unpopular with the people.
“I have faith and full confidence in President Dr Masisi leadership. We shall overcome as party and nation the current challenges bedevilling nations. BDP will emerge stronger. President Masisi will always have my backing.”
Nkaigwa served as opposition legislator between 2014-2019 representing Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD) under UDC banner. He joined BMD in 2011 at the height public servant strike whilst Gaborone City Deputy Mayor. He eventually rose to become the mayor same year, after BDP lost majority in the GCC.
Nkaigwa had been a member of Botswana National Front (BNF), having joined from Alliance for Progressives (AP) in 2019.
Botswana has received assistance worth over P100 million from Japanese government since 2019, making the latter of the largest donors to Botswana in recent years.
The assistance include relatively large-scale grant aid programmes such as the COVID-19 programme (to provide medical equipment; P34 million), the digital terrestrial television programme (to distribute receivers to the underprivileged, P17 million), the agriculture promotion programme (to provide agricultural machinery and equipment, P53million).
“As 2020 was a particularly difficult year, where COVID-19 hit Botswana’s economy and society hard, Japan felt the need to assist Botswana as our friend,” said Japan’s new Ambassador to Botswana, Hoshiyama Takashi.
“It is for this reason that grants of over P100 million were awarded to Botswana for the above mentioned projects.”
Japan is now the world’s fourth highest ranking donor country in terms of Official Development Assistance (ODA).
From 1991 to 2000, Japan continued as the top donor country in the world and contributed to Asia’s miracle economic development.
From 1993 onwards, the TICAD process commenced through Japan’s initiative as stated earlier. Japan’s main contribution has been in the form of Yen Loans, which are at a concessional rate, to suit large scale infrastructure construction.
“In Botswana, only a few projects have been implemented using the Yen Loan such as the Morupule “A” Power Station Rehabilitation and Pollution Abatement in 1986, the Railway Rolling Stock Increase Project in 1987, the Trans-Kalahari Road Construction Project in 1991, the North-South Carrier Water Project in 1995 and the Kazungula Bridge Construction Project in 2012,” said Ambassador Hoshiyama.
“In terms of grant aid and technical assistance, Japan has various aid schemes including development survey and master planning, expert dispatch to recipient countries, expert training in Japan, scholarships, small scale grass-roots program, culture-related assistance, aid through international organizations and so on.”
In 1993, Japan launched Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD) to promote Africa’s development, peace and security, through the strengthening of relations in multilateral cooperation and partnership.
TICAD discuss development issues across Africa and, at the same time, present “aid menus” to African countries provided by Japan and the main aid-related international organizations, United Nations (UN), United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the World Bank.
“As TICAD provides vision and guidance, it is up to each African country to take ownership and to implement her own development following TICAD polices and make use of the programmes shown in the aid menus,” Ambassordor Hoshiyama noted.
“This would include using ODA loans for quality infrastructure, suited to the country’s own nation-building needs. It is my fervent hope that Botswana will take full advantage of the TICAD process.”
Since then, seven conferences where held, the latest, TICAD 7 being in 2019 at Yokohama. TICAD 7’s agenda on African development focused on three pillars, among them the first pillar being “Accelerating economic transformation and improving business environment through innovation and private sector engagement”.
“Yes, private investment is very important, while public investment through ODA (Official Development Assistance) still plays an indispensable role in development,” the Japanese Ambassador said.
“For further economic development in Africa, Japan recognizes that strengthening regional connectivity and integration through investment in quality infrastructure is key.”
Japan has emphasized the following; effective implementation of economic corridors such as the East Africa Northern Corridor, Nacala Corridor and West Africa Growth Ring; Quality infrastructure investment in line with the G20 Principles for Quality Infrastructure Investment should be promoted by co-financing or cooperation through the African Development Bank (AfDB) and Japan.
Japan also emphasized the establishment of mechanisms to encourage private investment and to improve the business environment.
According to the statistics issued by Japan’s Finance Ministry, Japan invested approximately 10 billion US dollars in Africa after TICAD 7 (2019) to year end 2020, but Japanese investment through third countries are not included in this figure.
“With the other points factored in, the figure isn’t established yet,” Ambassador Hoshiyama said.
The next conference, TICAD 8 will be held in Tunisia in 2022. This will be the second TICAD summit to be held on the African continent after TICAD 6 which was held in Nairobi, Kenya, in 2016.
According to Ambassador Hoshiyama, in preparation for TICAD 8, the TICAD ministerial meeting will be held in Tokyo this year. The agenda to be discussed during TICAD 8 has not yet been fully deliberated on amongst TICAD Co-organizers (Japan, UN, UNDP, the World Bank and AU).
“Though not officially concluded, given the world situation caused by COVID-19, I believe that TICAD 8 will highlight health and medical issues including the promotion of a Universal Health Coverage (UHC),” said Hoshiyama.
“As the African economy has seriously taken a knock by COVID-19, economic issues, including debt, could be an item for serious discussion.”
The promotion of business is expected to be one of the most important topics. Japan and its partners, together with the business sector, will work closely to help revitalize private investment in Africa.
“All in all, the follow-up of the various programs that were committed by the Co-Organizers during the Yokohama Plan of Actions 2019 will also be reviewed as an important item of the agenda,” Ambassador Hoshiyama said.
“I believe that this TICAD follow-up mechanism has secured transparency and accountability as well as effective implementation of agreed actions by all parties. The guiding principle of TICAD is African ownership and international partnership.”
Directorate on Intelligence Services (DIS) Director General, Brigadier Peter Magosi is said to be hell-bent and pushing President Mokgweetsi Masisi to reshuffle his cabinet as a matter of urgency since a number of his ministers are conflicted.
The request by Magosi comes at a time when time is ticking on his contract which is awaiting renewal from Masisi.
This publication learns that Magosi is unshaken by the development and continues to wield power despite uncertainty hovering around his contractual renewal.