Corruption suspected in P81 million AB tender
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.
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Malawi appeals for help over Cyclone Freddy at PAP
As of yesterday evening, the death toll from the Cyclone in Malawi had risen from the initially reported 190 to 225 in a short period of time, over 20 000 people have been displaced, and the worst of fears are yet to come as the fatalities continue to mount. This was reported by a Malawi Member of Parliament attending the Pan African Parliament session in Midrand, South Africa, Hon Steven Mikiya.
Mikiya was giving a statement on behalf of Malawi as the ongoing Pan African Parliament in South Africa.
Mikiya said the Cyclone has wreaked the most havoc in our country’s Southern Region. “The Southern Region, has been hardest hit with widespread heavy rains and strong winds. This caused a rapid rise in water levels and subsequent flooding. Meanwhile, power supply has been disrupted, roads blocked off and rendered impassable and mudslides have also been widely reported,” he said.
He made a special appeal to the PAP: “Where I come from, there is a parable which I would like to share with you which says, “mzako weniweni umamudziwa panthawi ya mavuto.” Simply put, a friend in need is a friend indeed or put loosely, a person who helps at a difficult time is a friend you can rely on.”
Mikiya continued: “Yes! Misfortune has knocked on our door and left in its wake a trail of death and destruction that may take years to fully recover from. However, amidst these difficulties, I have every reason to believe that sometimes when you are in a dark place and think you have been buried, you have actually been planted. My belief, Mr. President, arises out of my faith in this gathering and out of the conviction that it is not coincidental that Cyclone Freddy hit Malawi and Mozambique while the delegations of both countries are here.”
According to Mikiya, the level of destruction, the loss of life, property and the decimation of the entire fabric of established communities has been unprecedented. He noted that all this, is coming at a time when Malawi was starting to show signs of recovery from the deadly COVID-19 pandemic that also came hard on the heels of Cyclone Ana and Cyclone Gombe that left a similar trail of devastation and destruction in Malawi and neighbouring countries.
As of Sunday, this week, from the 12th of March, Malawi and Mozambique have been facing the devastating effects of Cyclone Freddy that made a landfall over Mozambique on Saturday the 11th and reached Malawi by Sunday the 12th of March.
The Malawi legislator said he has absolute faith in the Pan African Parliament, which he described as “a league of nations brought together by a shared ancestry, history, identity as well as our beloved continent which we inhabit”.
Meanwhile, Malawi President, Lazarus Chakwera, has declared a State of Disaster in the affected areas effectively appealing for local and international support for the affected families.
Mikiya appealed to the Pan African Parliament drawing “positive” inspiration from Europe which rallied around Turkey after the destructive earthquakes to bring the much-needed relief and humanitarian aid to the people of Turkey.
He said Africa should demonstrate to the world that the African Union and its Organs are not mere talk shows, but effective institutions which stand up when it matters most.
“Alone, it may take us a lifetime to fully recover, but together, in the Pan-Africanist spirit of Ubuntu, our lives and livelihoods will return to a semblance of normality in record time. This is the time to live by our operative mantra, “One Africa, One Voice.” Mikiya concluded.