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.
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.