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AB owes gov’t millions

TSAONE BASIMANEBOTLHE
Air Botswana plane PIC: THALEFANG CHARLES
Air Botswana (AB) still owes government P235 million, a Public Service Debt Fund (PSDF) loan, Parliament recently learnt.

The loan was acquired to purchase the Embraer Jet and is payable over a seven-year period.

This came after the MP for Serowe West Tshekedi Khama wanted the Minister of Transport and Communications Thulaganyo Segokgo to brief the House on the current board of Air Botswana and whether they have aviation commercial and operational experience including the General Manager.

Khama also wanted the minister to tell Parliament if AB has been profitable since April 2018 and if not, what the current debt is.

“Air Botswana Act requires that following an audit performed by duly appointed external auditors that its audited financial statements be submitted to the Minister of Transport and Communications. During the year, AB appointed new auditors, hence the delay in finalising its first year of audit. The audit is expected to be finalised next week,” the minister said.

On the findings of all the operational and safety issues that were identified in the AB IATA Operational Safety Audit (IOSA), Segokgo said the airline has been successful at that audit and IATA has issued a certificate, which expires on October 28, 2021.

He said the grounding of the jet for six months awaiting licensing, mainly costs the airline operationally by way of efficiencies than in monetary mainly because the schedule impacting the jet was only planned to start

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operating in March by flying on the Gaborone–Cape town route.

He continued: “Although the licensing process had not been completed by then, the airline still introduced this route by turbo prop. The corporation initially operated two aircraft on a three-aircraft schedule and this resulted in delays and cost the airline efficiencies and loss of loyalty by its passengers”.

The minister said there was no additional maintenance costs associated with the aircraft being on the ground.

Meanwhile on the crew, Segokgo said the airline had initially planned to convert two sets of crew for the jet, however, due to the delay in the licensing process and the increased utilisation of the turbo prop, the airline delayed this conversion so that the pilots could continue flying the ATRs and only one set was trained, which was instrumental in the licensing and demonstration processes.

Segokgo said the airline engaged an ad hoc operator to assist the business should there be a disruption and the service was not specifically procured for the jet since it is good business practice for business continuity.

“To date, (year to November 2019), for all business disruptions, the service has cost Air Botswana P5.7 million. It must be noted the same revenue was collected for operating these respective routes on a leased aircraft,” he said.



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