Chairman of Parliamentary Committee on Statutory Bodies and Public Enterprises (PCSB) Samson Moyo Guma has the Minister of Tourism, Tshekedi Khama, back to parliament for interrogation over a controversy involving a deal between the ministry and a UK company.
Guma wrote Khama on Monday summoning him for questioning over “several issues” that arose before the committee on September 19th. He however did not give details in the letter, except to say the minister was needed to “further clarify issues relating to BTO.”
The Botswana Gazette understands that the crux of Khama’s recall has to do with a controversial Tourism Development Levy deal between his ministry and a UK company. A fortnight ago, Business Weekly and Review revealed that the ministry was busy “pushing” an obscure company called Asui which is said to have connections to top political figures in Botswana. The publication said the BTO management was instructed by top ministry officials to open a bank account with FNB through which the government share of the levy would be deposited. According to the publication, the deal was not tendered for even though it is worth P200 million a year.
Before the Business Weekly and Review story, the outgoing BTO CEO Thabo Dithebe had revealed that, initially, the parastatal had intended to establish a travel insurance scheme, but was advised by NBFIRA, the regulator, that a similar product was available in the market. Dithebe said BTO then opted to set up the yet to be introduced Tourism Development Fund. “The intention is, any tourist coming from outside the SADC area will have to pay the US$ 30 upon entry into Botswana, through a kiosk at the port of entry or online through the BTO Website and that fund will be used to develop the products that I just indicated we need to work hard to develop,” he told the committee.
Dithebe also told parliament that a “certain company” proposed to facilitate a travel insurance scheme to the ministry, then diverted to the Tourism Development Levy after advice. The outgoing CEO did not reveal the name of the company, but said the company in question did not go through a tendering process as it was the one which approached the ministry.
“And like I indicated with consultation with NBFIRA, we did find that the product was available…therefore that was not going to really make sense as far as our own insurance is concerned, hence that since now modified into Tourism Development Levy, a levy which is intended of course to be paid by people coming into Botswana from the SADC area,” he told the committee.
Following Dithebe’s hint about the UK company, the Business Weekly and Review revealed it to be Asui, a low profile foreign company said to be registered in the UK with links to top political officials in Botswana. It was suggested by Guma that Khama and his lieutenants had a deliberately created “a vacuum” in the absence of the BTO board to usurp its role for their “self serving” interests.
On the Tourism Development Levy deal being awarded without tendering, Guma said, “Any idea that comes in, wherever it comes from, it has to go through some process of due diligence and then an expression of interest is then laid out to everybody to have a look at before you are instructed to even implement. You do not implement something that comes from one source, without having gone through a process, which is not good governance.”