- “I am used to flying business class”- says Mayor Thutlwe
- “Mayor is supposed to fly economy”- says Minister Venson-Moitoi
- Pay back the money- Council orders Deputy Clerk
Gaborone city Mayor Councillor Kagiso Thutlwe has been accused in the alleged misuse of the City Council’s funds. Thutlwe, together with Gaborone City Council (GCC) Deputy Clerk- Finance, Motshwari Maphalala, are alleged to have used more funds than they were supposed to when they embarked on an official trip to the United Arab Emirates in April this year.
The Botswana Gazette is in possession of an enquiry letter addressed to Maphalala by former GCC Town Clerk Mpho Gape Mathe before he was transferred to the Kgatleng District Council wherein Maphalala is accused of , ‘‘failing to comply with a written directive of the employer and wilful disobedience of lawful or reasonable order given by the employer.’’
According to the Town Clerk, Maphalala embarked on an official trip to the United Arab Emirates, specifically the city of Dubai on or about the 8th to 13th April 2018 and while they were authorised to spend airbus fees commensurate to that of Economy Class, Maphalala went on to book their flights at business class.
The Town Clerk states in his letter that the two were booked through AT & T travel agency and the council paid for economy class tickets at P10, 700.00 on the 6th of April 2018. ‘‘However, unbeknownst to my office and as clear violation of the Employer’s Directive and without my authority- you proceeded to upgrade your air bus fees to an additional P46, 575.00; this you did by unilaterally instructing the service provider AT & T travel company on the 7th of April 2018 to do the upgrade. The effect of the violation above was that it adversely bound the finances of Council without authority to the tune stated above’’, the Town Clerk wrote and further attached letter of evidence from AT & T dated 15th June 2018. Maphalala has been left to face the music alone because the Town Clerk has no authority to reprimand the Mayor.
The Town Clerk reminded Maphalala that he has violated the Presidential Directive CAB 8/2009 clause (d) which states, “until further notice, class air travel for all senior government officials at deputy Permanent Secretary level and above, Ministers and other political dignitaries should be restricted to business class. All other officers should travel Economy class. These restrictions should also apply to local authorities. Similarly, cost savings on air travel should be extended to accommodation, choice of routes and carrier on that route.” There have been arguments within GCC as to whether the Mayor falls under the ‘political dignitaries’ category with some councillors arguing that Thutwe falls under the category that flies economy class.
The Town Clerk, Mathe, explained that the Council was left with no choice and had to settle the additional bill. ‘‘Your said above act if proven on a balance of probabilities will amount to a serious misconduct as captured and defined by the Public Service Act No.30 of 2008 at Section 27 (3) (b)’’, Mathe warned in his letter. He asked Maphalala to demonstrate why it is that disciplinary action cannot be taken against him.
‘‘The council reserves the right to disclose further and better allegations concerning the above and more as it receives reports from aggrieved partiers if any and there is need be’’, the Town Clerk cautioned. Sources at GCC have informed this publication that further allegations are that during the trip to Dubai, Maphalala and Thutlwe claimed money for accommodation for two at a high end hotel but when they arrived, they allegedly shared a room. It is also alleged that they were given P40, 000.00 as conference fees but on arrival, their hosts did not demand payment for attendance and it is alleged the two officials failed to return the money to GCC.
Responding to our enquiries, GCC Acting Town Clerk Olebile Mafala said the allegations have been noted but the Council reserves its comment because the enquiry relates to persons and offices within the internal administration scope. ‘‘Further, it may be sufficient to state that allegations of misappropriation are taken seriously by the Body corporate or Council. Remedial and punitive measures where found necessary and will be employed without reservation,’’ Mafala added. Maphalala did not respond to our questions sent through WhatsApp despite having been marked as read. We also phoned his office and left a message with his secretary but he had not responded at the time of going for print.
For his part, Thutlwe described the allegations as ‘‘nefarious political agendas’’. He said the allegations are part of a coup-de-tat sponsored by some within the City council. ‘‘I always travel business class on my official trips abroad. I went to Colombia, Equador, England, Italy, Belgium, Malta, Geneva and many other countries in business class. Therefore it cannot be a shock and newsworthy that I travelled to Dubai on business class,’’ Thutlwe responded. He said in all these trips, the council secured the tickets for him and as such he cannot speak on behalf of Maphalala. He denied that the council has demanded any reimbursement from him following his business class travels.
‘‘Be informed that the clerk is not my principal or supervisor and therefore it is untenable that he wrote some directive to me to pay any sum of money,’’ he stated. He admitted that he attended the conference in Dubai but claimed the conference fees were duly paid. ‘‘Further be informed that the per diem I am given when traveling abroad is never returned and it is in line with government policy regulating per diems,’’ the Mayor said.
Reached for comment, Thutlwe’s political principal, Minister of Local Government and Rural Development Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi said the Mayor is supposed to fly economy class as per the Presidential Directive CAB 8/2009. ‘‘He is supposed to fly economy class unless he is invited by an organization that is paying for the business class ticket,’’ Venson-Moitoi said. Assistant minister of Local Government and Rural Development Botlogile Tshireletso said she was aware of reports that Thutlwe was once booked for economy but the ticket was changed to business class without involving the Town Clerk.