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Guma demands answers from Khama

The Parliamentary Committee on Statutory Bodies and Public Enterprises has summoned minister Tshekedi Khama to answer for the mysterious establishment of a P17 million Botswana Tourism Organisation (BTO) office in Dubai.

This was after the permanent secretary in the Ministry of Environment, Wildlife and Tourism (MEWT) Elias Magosi told the committee that he was not involved or privy to details of the deal, which the outgoing BTO chief executive officer (CEO) Thabo Dithebe had said was an instruction from the ministry.

The committee chairperson Samson Moyo Guma cut short their engagement with Magosi Wednesday afternoon stating that it was important to have Khama answer for himself as fingers pointed to him. “I think it is best you facilitate that the minister come here so that he can answer for himself. It’s only fair that way,” he said.

Minister Khama is expected to appear before the committee on Monday.

Magosi was summoned before the committee as the outgoing Dithebe kept saying they got the instruction from the ministry regarding the Dubai office establishment. The committee thought Magosi would know, only to be nonplussed when he said he knew nothing. Magosi shocked the committee further when he stated that due to board absence at BTO, the CEO dealt directly with the minister.

“I have only heard about the contract in passing. I heard of a presentation to be made by the consultants. I’m not privy to the details of the contract which I hear has been signed,” he said. Magosi told the committee that he had made a personal choice not to get involved in the day-to-day running of the organisation but would hold meetings with the CEO regularly and they never initiated the plan to open the office.

The committee felt that corporate governance

is undermined at BTO due to lack of board of directors with the Dubai office being an example after being given priority at the expense of other markets for which the organisation has done market analysis. Dithebe had said there was no market analysis conducted for Dubai, contrary to the normal practice. He said there was a directive from the ministry to open the Dubai office which he said would cost P17 million over three years.

When the members Guma, Phenyo Butale and Pius Mokgware quizzed about the absence of the board for nine months, Magosi said the minister always said they would only appoint members once they have identified suitable individuals.

He said the Office of the President was also aware and had instructed them to appoint members so they could sign a compact agreement.

According to the BTO Act of 2009, the board of directors should be the one to make all decisions and can only engage the minister for guidelines.

Appearing before the committee on Monday, Dithebe said the organisation currently has four board members, including himself and they cannot form a quorum. He said the contracts of the other five members expired towards the end of last year, and they informed the ministry about the developments. On sustainability of the organisation, Magosi said they were doing well in their markets in Europe and the regional market.  “We are also doing well in terms of diversifying our products and we continue expanding as we are about to enter a new field of dam tourism,” he said.




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