In an unanticipated turn of events, former Minister of Transport and Communications Tshenolo Mabeo has conceded that the Ministry acted beyond its powers by approving the P81 million Air Botswana tender in the absence of a board of directors.
Mabeo, who has since been shuffled to the newly created Ministry of Employment, Labour Productivity and Skills Development, told a Parliamentary Committee on Statutory Bodies and Enterprises that the P81 million Air Botswana tender was approved by the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Transport and Communications without his knowledge.
The first term minister said he only learnt about the approval of the tender following the revelations by Acting Air Botswana General Manager Agnes Khunwane, when she appeared before the Parliamentary committee some few weeks back.
The minister admitted that by so doing, his former ministry overstepped its mandate and flouted procedures as provided by the Air Botswana Act.
Meanwhile, Neil Fit, who appeared before the committee together with the minister also admitted guilt after failing to state where in the Act, he is empowered as Permanent Secretary to take over the roles and responsibilities of the Board.
“You [Fit] are the chief advisor to the minister and you were badly advising him. You do not know your boundaries and what is happening in your ministry,” said Samson Guma Moyo, Chairman of the committee.
Guma said Fit should be dismissed for incompetence and badly advising the minister owing to the scandalous Air Botswana tender.
Fit, a Board member of Air Botswana, had told the committee that he is not familiar with the Air Botswana Act, something which did not go down well with the committee as the members felt, as a board member of Air Botswana; he should be familiar with it all.
A fortnight ago, Khunwane told the same committee that the tender was given the green light by Fit, following the dismissal of the board. The parliamentary committee heard that the board was dismissed on the 24th of November 2015, barely nine days after the management tender committee, chaired by the current acting GM, Khunwane, had met.
It is reported that the then CEO, Ben Dahwa had his own misgivings about the awarding of the tender, as he was of the view that its scope did not reflect what Air Botswana needed.
Khunwane further told the committee that subsequent to the dismissal of the board, she sought the guidance of the ministry, and she was informed by Fit that in the absence of the board, the ministry will be in charge of all responsibilities which would have been ordinarily the preserve of the board.
The tender, which was for the provision of engine maintenance services, was awarded on what appears to be a selective tendering process. The tender is for a period of three years and was only ratified by the new board in June, about six months after being awarded and executed.
Fit told the Parliamentary committee that he approved the tender after having an impression from Air Botswana Acting GM, Khunwane that it was a necessary thing to do. Guma said, continued disregard of laws and procedures should have Fit charged for negligence.
After admitting to his guilt, Fit said he will take an appropriate action with the P81 million Air Botswana tender by re-looking at it, with the possibility of cancelling the tender.
Mabeo informed the committee that after dismissing the board, he had tried to appoint new members as soon as possible but could not find the right people. The board was appointed in February this year.
The committee was also not impressed by controversial trips taken by Mabeo to Brazil, France and Canada. The trips, according to Fit were for him and his minister to familiarise themselves with the aircraft, in case Air Botswana may need them in future.
The committee was not impressed because the Air Botswana Board of Directors had disapproved of the trip as it was parallel to the process which the airline was embarking on.
Guma felt that the minister and his delegation overstepped their mandate since it was not necessarily for them do embark on the journey which strictly needed professionals and relevant people at the airline.
The committee chairman expressed his displeasure with a continuing trend where ministries are interfering in the affairs of parastatals, and illegally allowing them to run without boards.
“When it comes to governance issues, no one is above the law. We need to respect procedures as required by respective Acts,” he said.
Over 2,000 civil servants in the public sector have been interdicted for a variety of reasons, the majority of which are criminal in nature.
According to reports, some officers have been under interdiction for more than two years because such matters are still being investigated. Information reachingÂ WeekendPostÂ shows that local government, particularly councils, has the highest number of suspended officers.
In its annual report, the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC) revealed that councils lead in corrupt activities throughout the country, and dozens of council employees are being investigated for alleged corrupt activities. It is also reported that disciplined forces, including the Botswana Defence Force (BDF), police, and prisons, and the Directorate of Intelligence and Security (DIS) have suspended a significant number of officers.
The Ministry of Education and Skills Development has also recorded a good number of teachers who have implicated in love relationships with students, while some are accused of impregnating students both in primary and secondary school. Regional education officers have been tasked to investigate such matters and are believed to be far from completion as some students are dragging their feet in assisting the investigations to be completed.
This year, Mmadinare Senior Secondary reportedly had the highest number of pregnancies, especially among form five students who were later forcibly expelled from school. Responding to this publicationâ€™s queries, Permanent Secretary to the Office of the President Emma Peloetletse said, â€śas you might be aware, I am currently addressing public servants across the length and breadth of our beautiful republic. Due to your detailed enquiry, I am not able to respond within your schedule,â€ť she said.
She said some of the issues raised need verification of facts, some are still under investigation while some are still before the courts of law.
Meanwhile, it is close to six months since the Police Commissioner Keabetwe Makgophe, Director General of the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC) Tymon Katlholo and the Deputy Director of the DIS Tefo Kgothane were suspended from their official duties on various charges.
Efforts to solicit comment from trade unions were futile at the time of going to press.
Some suspended officers who opted for anonymity claimed that they have close to two years while on suspension. One stated that the investigations that led him to be suspended have not been completed.
â€śIt is heartbreaking that at this time the investigations have not been completed,â€ť he toldÂ WeekendPost, adding that â€śwhen a person is suspended, they get their salary fully without fail until the matter is resolvedâ€ť.
Makgophe, Katlholo and Kgothane are the three most high-ranking government officials that are under interdiction.
Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) and some senior government officials are abuzz with reports that President Mokgweetsi Masisi has requested his Vice President, Slumber Tsogwane not to contest the next general elections in 2024.
The impacts of climate change are increasing in frequency and intensity every year and this is forecast to continue for the foreseeable future. African CEOs in the Global South are finally coming to the party on how to tackle the crisis.
Following the completion of COP27 in Egypt recently, CEOs of Africa DFIs converged in Botswana for the CEO Forum of the Association of African Development Finance Institutions. One of the key themes was on green financing and building partnerships for resource mobilization in financing SDGs in Africa
A report; “Weathering the storm; African Development Banks response to Covid-19” presented shocking findings during the seminar. Among them; African DFI’s have proven to be financially resilient, and they are fast shifting to a green transition and it’s financing.
COO, CEDA, James Moribame highlighted that; “Everyone needs food, shelter and all basic needs in general, but climate change is putting the achievement of this at bay. “It is expensive for businesses to do business, for instance; it is much challenging for the agricultural sector due to climate change, and the risks have gone up. If a famer plants crops, they should be ready for any potential natural disaster which will cost them their hard work.”
According to Moribame, Start-up businesses will forever require help if there is no change.
“There is no doubt that the Russia- Ukraine war disrupted supply chains. SMMEs have felt the most impact as some start-up businesses acquire their materials internationally, therefore as inflation peaks, this means the exchange rate rises which makes commodities expensive and challenging for SMMEs to progress. Basically, the cost of doing business has gone up. Governments are no longer able to support DFI’s.”
Moribame shared remedies to the situation, noting that; “What we need is leadership that will be able to address this. CEOs should ensure companies operate within a framework of responsible lending. They also ought to scout for opportunities that would be attractive to investors, this include investors who are willing to put money into green financing. Botswana is a prime spot for green financing due to the great opportunity that lies in solar projects. ”
Technology has been hailed as the economy of the future and thus needs to be embraced to drive operational efficiency both internally and externally.
Executive Director, bank of Industry Nigeria, Simon Aranou mentioned that for investors to pump money to climate financing in Africa, African states need to be in alignment with global standards.
“Do what meets world standards if you want money from international investors. Have a strong risk management system. Also be a good borrower, if you have a loan, honour the obligation of paying it back because this will ensure countries have a clean financial record which will then pave way for easier lending of money in the future. African states cannot just be demanding for mitigation from rich countries. Financing needs infrastructure to complement it, you cannot be seating on billions of dollars without the necessary support systems to make it work for you. Domestic resource mobilisation is key. Use public money to mobilise private money.” He said.
For his part, the Minster of Minister of Entrepreneurship, Karabo Gare enunciated that, over the past three years, governments across the world have had to readjust their priorities as the world dealt with the effects and impact of the COVID 19 pandemic both to human life and economic prosperity.
“The role of DFIs, during this tough period, which is to support governments through countercyclical measures, including funding of COVID-19 related development projects, has become more important than ever before. However, with the increasingly limited resources from governments, DFIs are now expected to mobilise resources to meet the fiscal gaps and continue to meet their developmental mandates across the various affected sectors of their economies.” Said Gare.