Minister of Transport and Communications, Tshenolo Mabeo, and his Permanent Secretary, Neil Fitt, are scheduled to appear before the Parliamentary Committee on Statutory Bodies and Enterprises to explain the illegal award of an P81 million tender at the troubled Air Botswana.
According to evidence given by the Acting Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Air Botswana, Agnes Khunwane, the tender was given a green light by the Ministry, following the dismissal of the board. The parliamentary committee heard that the board was dismissed on the 24th of November, barely nine days after the management tender committee, chaired by the current acting Khunwane had met.
Khunwane further told the committee that subsequent to the dismissal of the board, she sought the guidance of the ministry, of which she was told by the permanent secretary 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 the period of three years and was only ratified by the new board in June, about six months after being awarded and executed.
Committee member and legislator for Gabane-Mmankgodi Major Gen Pius Mokgware was curious that the board was dismissed just few days after the management tender committee had met, and raised suspicion that they could have been prior knowledge that the board was likely to reject the awarding of the tender.
Mokgware said it is reported that the then CEO Ben Dahwa had his own misgivings about the awarding of the tender, as the CEO was of the view that its scope did not reflect what Air Botswana needed.
In other startling revelations, the Acting CEO following awarding of the tender wrote the letter to Ministry requesting them to authorise the awarding of the tender to a European based company.
The Chairperson of the Committee, Samson Guma said it would not be wrong for the parliamentary committee to conclude that the decision to fired the board was taken by the minister, in order to take over the its role and award the tender to his preferred company.
Not only did Guma smell a rat on the action of firing the board, but the manner in which the tender was prepared and awarded. Guma said, the CEO failed to state clearly how the Air Botswana arrived at awarding the tender, and that it has violated the public procurement procedures.
Guma is also of the view that the minster and his permanent secretary have acted illegally by assuming the role of the board, as the most appropriate thing to do would have been appointment of the new board to run the affairs of Air Botswana immediately after the dismissal of the one which was in charge.
The committee was not impressed by the causal manner in which, the acting CEO and the ministry have been conducting the affairs of Air Botswana. The committee heard that, most of the communications, which were official, were done in a verbal manner. The acting CEO was informed of the sacking of the Board verbally, and given instruction to carry out in the same manner.
Khunwane, who said, she also took responsibility, for communicating her inquiries to the ministry verbally, rather than putting it in writing. Khunwane also admitted that in the she sidelined the organisation’s legal officer and did not sought his legal opinion when during the tendering process and engagement of the ministry.
Guma contended that, instead of sending a letter the ministry requesting them to authorise the awarding of the tender, the acting CEO of Air Botswana should had instead, wrote a letter, requesting them to reconstitute a board, because there was a decision which required the approval of the board.
Committee member Dr Phenyo Butale said there is a problematic situation at Air Botswana and the crisis was self-created. He said, the Air Botswana act does not envisage a situation of where the organisation at any point will operate without the board. This was also confirmed by parliamentary counsel, who said, the direct involvement of the ministry in the affairs of Air Botswana was illegal.
Mabeo and Fit will also appear before the committee to explain, the recent transaction regarding the trip to Brazil, in which Air Botswana borrowed the ministry P100 000 to pay for travel expenses of one of the employees who joined the duo for the trip. Ministry had promised to reimburse Air Botswana the money, but failed to do it within the standard 90 days period.
Botswana Police Service (BPS) has indicated concern about the ongoing trend where the general public falls victim to criminals purporting to be police officers.
According to BPS Assistant Commissioner, Dipheko Motube, the criminals target individuals at shopping malls and Automated Teller Machines (ATMs) where upon approaching the unsuspecting individual the criminals would pretend to have picked a substantial amount of money and they would make a proposal to the victims that the money is counted and shared in an isolated place.
“On the way, as they stop at the isolated place, they would start to count and sharing of the money, a criminal syndicate claiming to be Criminal Investigation Department (CID) officer investigating a case of stolen money will approach them,” said Motube in a statement.
The Commissioner indicated that the fake police officers would instruct the victims to hand over all the cash they have in their possession, including bank cards and Personal Identification Number (PIN), the perpetrators would then proceed to withdraw money from the victim’s bank account.
Motube also revealed that they are also investigating a case in which a 69 year old Motswana woman from Molepolole- who is a victim of the scam- lost over P62 000 last week Friday to the said perpetrators.
“The Criminal syndicate introduced themselves as CID officers investigating a case of robbery where a man accompanying the woman was the suspect.’’
They subsequently went to the woman’s place and took cash amounting to over P12 000 and further swindled amount of P50 000 from the woman’s bank account under the pretext of the further investigations.
In addition, Motube said they are currently investigating the matter and therefore warned the public to be vigilant of such characters and further reminds the public that no police officer would ask for bank cards and PINs during the investigations.
Botswana Congress Party (BCP) leadership walked out of Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting this week on account of being targeted by other cooperating partners.
UDC meet for the first time since 2020 after previous futile attempts, but the meeting turned into a circus after other members of the executive pushed for BCP to explain its role in media statements that disparate either UDC and/or contracting parties.
The Director General of the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crimes (DCEC), Tymon Katlholo’s spirited fight against the contentious transfers of his management team has forced the Office of the President to rescind the controversial decision. However, some insiders suggest that the reversal of the transfers may have left some interested parties with bruised egos and nursing red wounds.
The transfers were seen by observers as a badly calculated move to emasculate the DCEC which is seen as defiant against certain objectionable objectives by certain law enforcement agencies – who are proven decisionists with very little regard for the law and principle.