Fresh information has emerged suggesting that the Ministry of Tertiary Education, Research Science and Technology contributed significantly to the collapse of International Aviation Solution (IAS).
The latest revelations come at a time when reports indicate that authorities at the same ministry are under the radar of the Directorate of Intelligence and Service (DIS) and the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC).
According to a letter dated November 6, 2017, addressed to the Accountable Manager at IAS and copied to the then Minister of Tertiary Education, Research, Science and Technology, Dr. Alfred Madigele, a certain Captain John Ndori, writing on behalf of the Civil Aviation Authority Botswana (CAAB) chief executive officer, intimated that due to pressure from the tertiary ministry, the school authorities were compelled to throw safety regulations out of the window to ensure that students completed courses as per the ministry’s expectations.
But Ndori warned authorities at the school and Madigele that “lately a trend has been observed at International Aviation Solutions that is very worrisome,” suggesting that the school was putting students under pressure to ensure that they completed their courses within a fixed time.
“There seems to be a lot of pressure exerted on both the instructor and students towards flying that is both dangerous and risky. Pressure towards pilots and or students is a cause for concern of serious and sometimes fatal accidents all over the world,” the licensing and regulatory body warned. According to Ndori, it was “noted that the weekend of 28th and 29th October 2017, the weather was marginal for any flight training and yet due to demand and pressure to meet the ministry’s desire, the school had wanted to schedule flying for their students.”
He also stated that “this is a breach of safety and unacceptable”.
Ndori further stated that “the other worrisome trend that has been observed is students being subjected to longer flying hours in a day, this kind of action introduces what we refer to in aviation as fatigue, which is one of the recipes of accident.”
He also pointed out that the “Authority continues monitoring the operations at IAS though safety oversight and audits to ensure that international Aviation Solution operates within the Botswana Civil Aviation Regulation and ICAO standards and Recommended Practice.” There is no evidence showing that the Ministry or the then Minister heeded advice from the CAAB, as records show that it aggressively maintains the view that the course is to be delivered within a ‘fixed duration’.
A source close to the case has explained that this seems to be the technicality that the ministry is using to disqualify IAS and having failed to deliver. The source would further bemoan that the ministry seems to have failed to cater to the terms of the training offer made by IAS, when issuing student sponsorships.
This publication is in possession of a document authored by the Department of Tertiary Education Financing bearing a Botswana High Commission (Pretoria) stamp dated October 2, 2018 that lists South African schools that are now training Botswana students.
This document states that the schools all give DTEF ‘estimated’ and not ‘fixed’ durations. A condition that would seem privileged to the foreign schools and denied to the IAS.
Speaking at a press conference recently, the owner of IAS, Teezzarh Seduke seemed to corroborate the concerns CAAB raised that the ministry somehow sabotaged his school. He accused the authorities at the ministry of what he termed abuse of office. He singled out Permanent Secretary in the same ministry, Theophelus Mooko and accused him of sabotage.
He would continue to express that, “Economic transformation could not occur if we are not bold to point out the specific root cause of our frustrations, even if it is an individual. Otherwise we will continue to blame government or the ruling party, for frustrations caused by individuals hiding behind the system”.
“We concede that there are areas that we must improve but we have nothing to hide, so let this discussion be a topical issue because the actions by Dr. Mooko have a detrimental impact to the economy and the livelihood of Batswana.
Furthermore, his actions are a direct contradiction to the progressive preaching and promise of our Head of State, Dr Masisi,” charged Seduke.
Court records show that the company was recently placed under judicial management but Seduke charges that Mooko
He added: “I believe that Mooko’s intentions are deliberate in ensuring the collapse of IAS because he is not telling the acting permanent secretary in the Office of the President (Elias) Magosi, the truth about IAS.” For his part, Mooko denied as untrue allegations that he is bent on sabotaging IAS. In a statement dated February 18, 2020, his ministry stated that since 2013, the ministry said it paid tuition fees for all students (Group one to three tuition being paid in advance) for the entire duration of the programme including ratings.
The ministry continued to fulfil its financial obligations in accordance with the sponsorship agreement between the students and the ministry. So far, the ministry has sponsored seven groups of students. Sometime in 2015, the ministry said it received numerous complaints from students about delays in their training due to shortage of aircraft and instructors, inadequate training and equipment amongst other things. Due to this, the ministry said, a large majority of students have not completed all components of their training within the stipulated duration of the sponsorships.
“All students from groups one to three have not attained their ratings, a component, which is required for practicing as commercial pilots despite payment having been made for this component. This, therefore, means IAS owes the Ministry the money paid for ratings, which it failed to deliver. The ministry intends to institute necessary processes that will lead to the recovery of the money that has been paid to IAS to cater for the ratings component,” the ministry stated. The ministry denied that it owes IAS any tuition fees.
It is understood that matters came to a head when the academy was allegedly subjected to ill-treatment by Mooko following a numerical error of about P18.7 million. Seduke explained that he had “erroneously invoiced government less than what is required to deliver the contractual agreement for enrolment of pilot students at the academy”.
Seduke would continue to say that, “Our invoices that were paid all have a clause that gives us the privilege to correct errors that may be found on them. In the same way that the ministry would be within its right to demand a refund if they had been overcharged by IAS”.
He emphasised that the error caused cashflow issues in the past and that all the students’ complaints and operational challenges are directly related to cashflow issues. He claimed that there has never been a training quality issue because IAS still has local and international certification and that students continue to be independently examined and issued respective licenses, by the CAAB.
He alleged that “Mooko and his team have deliberately exaggerated issues and suffocated an academy that has graduated 101 commercial pilots, of which close to 90 are reportedly employed”.
Seduke would conclude the matter stating that what “the academy owes the ministry, is the completion of training, but logically IAS must be paid the tuition fee that correctly ought to have been done. It is very regrettable that such a simple issue now has left students frustrated and in limbo since May 2019 and the IAS staff unpaid for several months.”
On another related issue, Seduke distanced himself from any links with former president Ian Khama and the former director general of DIS, Isaac Kgosi. He added that sometime last year he was amongstthose who were raided by DIS as he was suspected to have links with Khama and Kgosi, but investigations by the agency have since established that to be untrue.
Acknowledging that he owes the Botswana Revenue Services (BURS) like any other businesses in Botswana, Seduke said the revenue collection organisation and DIS did not also find any link between him, Khama and Kgosi.