- Retrenchment looms
- Dr. Mampane finances his expensive lifestyle
- Profit triumphs passion at Boitekanelo
- Mampane rubbishes claims as “frivolous”
QUEEN MOSARWE AND VINCENT MATUMO
Considered a reliable trainer in Botswana’s nascent health sector, Boitekanelo College faces a titanic financial meltdown allegedly spurred by fat cheques senior management pays itself and subsequent expulsion of Vice Chancellor, Professor Omur Cinar Elci barely five months into office, a highly confidential audio leaked to The Botswana Gazette reveals.
The secret recording between Prof. Elci and Boitekanelo owner and president, Dr. Tiro Mampane is a tale tell about the institutions’ financial position, how it sacrifices quality education in return for profit. Other leaks documents also show how Boitekanelo boss finances his lavish lifestyle and pays himself millions of Pula in bonuses while the company’s balance sheet is in the red. In one of the conversations, Dr. Mampane informs Prof. Elci about his plan to terminate his three-year contract and retrench some of Boitekanelo’s 350 staff members. The two had protracted differences over the direction of the institution.
“We are at a point where we ask ourselves if this business is viable or not…. Maybe we brought you too early,” he tells Prof. Elci, in an audio recorded in May this year. He then makes an impassioned plea:
“Even though legally we should give you a month notice, I have negotiated that we should be humane, considering that you left your city to come join us and to at least take care of you for the next three months and pay you the commitment that we have promised you and also to continue to use the house and the car we had given you, that is if you still want to be around. Furthermore, we would still buy you and your family business class plane tickets like we did when you came here.”
At this point, Cyprus national is heard protesting saying what drove him to Botswana was his believe in Mampane’s vision.
“I am not only in a foreign country but a foreign continent; thousands of miles from everything am familiar with and I signed this contract for three years, I came here and now it’s sorry, shop is closed? What is going to happen to my children? What is my fault really?” the emotional Professor asked also explaining that that he also has serious financial obligations to meet.
Elci, stopped short of saying he was feeling betrayed, he said the president was at liberty to tell him that he did not want to work with him anymore. “Professional conduct calls for a company to buy back a contract it would have signed with an employer where possible, with the employer selling it and both shaking hands and parting ways,” he said, explaining, “but this is different from when a company says it has no money.”
Dr. Mampane denied expelling Prof. Elci and said all allegations leveled against him were “very frivolous.”
At various points in the conversation, Dr. Mampane explains that regulatory requirements imposed by Botswana Qualifications Authority and Health Professionals Council dealt a severe blow on the company’s balance sheet. The Ministry of Education and Skills Development was not spared. Government is by far the biggest sponsor of students in tertiary institutions, but has reduced the number of students admitted to colleges and universities citing financial constraints. However it appears the college had already planned to increase the tuition fees as shown by its August 2016 intake plan, which says increment plans had already been planned for. In part of the conversation, Dr. Mampane regretted that Boitekanelo would not increase tuition fees in response to capped intake. Instead, the institution, which established in 2007, will ‘sacrifice’ some of its staff members. He did not clarify how many employees face retrenchment.
“Its unfortunate that even if we admit less number of students, in the next two or three months, we will have financial obligations and would not be able to sustain our operations,” he said.
Both the leak and the Annual Report seen by Botswana Gazette raise questions about Boitekanelo’s commitment to balancing the need to maximise profit and provide quality academic tuition to its 2600 students.
“It is in the best interest of the college that it complies with prescribed student lecture ratios, while it is also in the interest of the company as a private proprietorship to earn profit from the investment made by its shareholders,” the Plan report reads in part.
When asked, Dr. Mampane reacted angrily to questions about enrollment at his institution saying it was was guided by BQA not the school management, and Human Resource Development Council.
On Prof. Elci contract, Dr. Mampane said he abides by the labour laws. “It is demanded of us to surrender the work permits as stipulated in the employment on non citizens act,” he said, adding that this has been the practice.
The company’s cashbook this publication has seen also depicts a college in financial dire straits.. Records from the cashbook show that the college is bleeding millions of Pula in a short period of time in expenses that have not been explained by Dr. Mampane when reached for comment. The cashbook shows that more than P7 million was spent within a period of a month (8th February- 22 March 2016), dragging the cash balance from P8,071,205.54 to P34,279.12 in less than 45 days. From the cashbook, major drivers of the significant decline were mainly due the Mampane’s bonus amounting to P1,302,000; international trips by some staff members totaling P278,335 and February salaries at P2,749, 625.13 amongst others. This publication also understands that July salaries were paid a week later than payday.
Boitekanelo had drawn an ambitious budget by projecting that its revenue will jump significantly in line with expected increase in enrolments of students. The institution also projected to increase fees per student in the current fiscal year. Four fee increase structures were also considered; 25% fee increase on a single intake academic year, 15% increase on a two intake academic year, 10% increase on a two intake academic year and a 5% fee increase on a two intake academic year. That remained a pipe dream as government reduced the number of students it sponsored. Dr. Mampane refused to comment on financial issues when reached despite being offered opportunity to do so since 4th August 2016.
Meanwhile, sources from within Boitekanelo allege that Mampane and Elci’s original fall out emanated from his reluctance to leave the professor he hired to lead at the health training institution.
Sources say what broke the camels back was Prof. Elci’s decision to suspend admissions of students to the study Emergency Care programme which is described as “highly technical” and sensitive and dealing directly with human life.
The programme had over 800 students enrolled and Elci questioned how they could find work for so many Health and Safety officers unless the plan was to have an officer for every household in the country,” said the source.
Elci is also said to have objected to surveillance cameras installed at the Tlokweng campus lecture halls, arguing that it intimidated the staff and students. Mampane however defended the installations saying they were used as teaching aids, for monitoring and evaluations tools and that they were integrated in the student management system.
The cameras, he said were used to upload lecture materials, for assessment, monitoring and peer review, as quality measure tools and as a source of evidence when students have complaints about lecturers delivery to them which can be observed in some international institutions.
In a letter to Prof. Elci, Dr. Mampane stated that the decision to terminate his contract was in accordance with Labour laws since he was still on probationary period where neither the employer nor the employee shall be required to give any reasons thereof.