The Minister of Environment, Wildlife and Tourism Tshekedi Khama has defended himself over the transactions that he ordered at Botswana Tourism Organisation (BTO), saying he was misled by the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Thabo Dithebe. Appearing before the Parliamentary Committee on Statutory Bodies, Khama said he was informed by the CEO that in the absence of the Board of Directors he had power to take any decision. “I have always been told that I have the authority to take any major decision affecting the operations of BTO and most of the decisions were with the advice of the CEO,” said Khama when asked about the P17 million deal that BTO signed with GAFA Media to open an office in Dubai.
In August BTO signed a contract with GAFA Media to open an office in Dubai. But BTO CEO Dithebe said last week that he was not part of the deal as it was signed by a junior officer Jilian Blackbeard who was assigned by Khama. Khama vehemently denied that he instructed Blackbeard to sign the deal as he was not even in Dubai at that time. “The CEO was there in Dubai and I wonder whether he was there on holiday or what,” he asked rhetorically. He said that he will reverse the P17m Dubai deal as it was illegally signed by Blackbeard at that time, claiming to hold the position of Sales Executive Manager even though that was not the case. In the contract, she signed as if she was already appointed.
Asked why he has failed to appoint a Board of Directors as they are the ones who have the power to make such recommendations, Khama said that he wanted a board that can deliver. “Most of the boards are just recycled and have failed to perform. You can take example of BTC, BPC, BMC and BCL boards of directors. They have failed dismally so I didn’t want that situation at BTO. I want an exceptional board,” he informed the committee, adding that without a board, BTO has performed well.
Another instruction that was given by the Minister Khama to BTO was to disburse P1.3 million to buy some souvenir books about Botswana tourism. This was done without the CEO Dithebe and Permanent Secretary’s input. Other money that was drawn from the Tourism Development Fund without the approval of the cabinet was P88 m and again Minister Khama said he was misled by officers at BTO.