In yet another shocker relating to poor governance, the Parliamentary Committee on Statutory Bodies and Public Enterprises heard that Air Botswana entered a $7 million (P81 million) aircraft engine maintenance contract without board approval, contrary to Air Botswana Act. The case is almost similar to that of Botswana Tourism Organisation (BTO) where the Minister carried out board duties.
The committee on Tuesday learnt from Air Botswana acting general manager, Agnes Khunwane that shortly after Minister for Transport and Communications (MTC) Tshenolo Mabeo dissolved the board, his Permanent Secretary (PS) Neil Fitt approved a request to enter into a three-year contract with Pratt and Whitney Canada without open invitation for tender.
“After the board was dismissed, I was told by the PS that whatever has to go through board will be taken by the Ministry. We presented to a committee of three, being PS and his two deputies before it was approved,” she said. The board was dissolved on November 25 last year and a new one was appointed on February 15 this year.
She said this she was told verbally with nothing on paper. The committee expressed displeasure at this, stating that she should have asked for such in writing as it is stated in the Air Botswana Act that such decisions could not be taken by anyone else other than the board. She however admitted that she just acted on the directive without even involving the legal advisor.
The committee was also informed that the management tender committee had met on November 16 last year whereupon they agreed on the awarding of the tender, but the board was dissolved nine days later before they could approve. The contract was then signed in December. It was revealed that in the minutes of the management tender committee meeting that Khunwane had told them that the then general manager, Ben Dahwa was unhappy with some issues around the tender. It was said Dahwa was concerned that they could sign the contract while they were in the process of re-fleeting.
According to Air Botswana Act, a general manager is an ex-officio member of the board. To this, the committee said it could suggest that the board was dissolved for some decisions to be taken without them, as it was unclear whether they would approve. Khunwane said it could not be so because there was urgent need as their previous contract had run out.Khunwane said she took the responsibility, as she did not demand for the PS to direct her in writing that whenever she needs a board she should contact him. She also conceded that she was wrong in not consulting the legal advisor. However the committee would not allow her to take full responsibility before hearing Mabeo and Fitt, who will appear before the committee in October.