Mokaila throws out PS Neil Fitt

SHARE   |   Monday, 05 December 2016   |   By Ditiro Motlhabane
Mokaila throws out PS Neil Fitt

Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Transport and Communication, Neil Fitt, is the first high ranking casualty in the ongoing reshuffle and rearrangement at Government Enclave. He left Government’s employ this past week under unclear circumstances. With just 15 months before the Khama administration relinquishes power to his successor Mokgweetsi Masisi, it is no longer business as usual at Government Enclave. Alliances are cemented while others are broken as the next leadership consolidates power to take control of operations in the public service. The latest reshuffle of strategic positions is seen as maiden steps by the incoming Masisi administration to prepare ground for take over. Fitt’s departure comes just weeks after the arrival of new minister Kitso Mokaila, who is reportedly keen on revamping the ministry to achieve excellence under the new administration. Permanent Secretary to the President Carter Morupisi on Friday denied that Fitt has been pushed out. "His contract has expired and he has taken retirement," said Morupisi, insisting that it was not a matter of whether Fitt wanted an extension to his contract or not as the decision rests solely with the appointing authority. For some years Fitt has been living on borrowed time at Government Enclave.

Fitt's timeline
December 2016: Leaves Government employment 
October 2016: Guma warns that he would fire Fitt – then Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Transport and Communications – if he was the minister after the latter authorised a P88 million contract between Air Botswana and Pratt and Whitney Canada without floating an invitation for tender or informing the minister.
December 2014: Redeployed to the position of Coordinator, Transport Hub in the Ministry of Transport and Communications.
February 2013: As Coordinator of the Agricultural Hub, Fitt together with BMC General Manager Clive Marshal, were fingered before Parliamentary Special Select Committee investigating causes of the decline of the beef industry in Botswana.
December 2012: Appointed Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Environment, Wildlife and Tourism.

Magosi replaces Fitt
Fitt has been replaced by Elias Magosi – the former Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Environment, Natural Resources Conservation and Tourism (MENRCT), who took office on substantive appointment on December 01. Both Mokaila and Magosi were colleagues at the renamed Ministry of Environment Wildlife and Tourism (MEWT) until Mokaila was redeployed to Transport and Communication last month. The removal of Magosi from MEWT, which is now led by President Ian Khama's younger brother Tshekedi, is viewed by many as the result of a recent fall out between the two at the height of embarrassing revelations about the operations of that ministry. Therefore, Magosi has been shipped away to transport to extinguish the growing tension between the duo.

As PS MEWT, Magosi recently told the Parliamentary Committee on Statutory Bodies and State Enterprises (PCSBSE) that he was in the dark about operations at Botswana Tourism Organisation (BTO) – a parastatal under the ministry because the minister was sidelining him and did not bother to consult him. He exposed how Tshekedi Khama has been disregarding  corporate governance and single handedly running BTO, recruiting close friends and associates, negotiating transactions, usurping the powers of the board, and frustrating  BTO CEO Thabo Dithebe into resignation before cutting notice served by the latter short. During the hearing, Magosi complained that his relationship with the minister had broken down irretrievably, having sought the intervention of Permanent Secretary to the President, but in vain. “It is a difficult environment to work in. The committee (PCSBSE) must understand this,” he said, not ruling out the possibility of resigning due to interference and being disregarded.

Kaboeamodimo demoted
High ranking public servants at Office of the President have not escaped the reshuffle, which has all the hall marks of the transition between the Khama administration which vacates office in March 2018 and his successor Mokgweetsi Masisi. Casualty number one has been Mogomotsi Kaboeamodimo, the deputy Permanent Secretary turned Botswana Television (Btv) newsreader and news reporter. Morupisi announced the transfer of Kaboeamodimo to the Ministry of Youth Empowerment, Sport and Culture Development as Deputy Permanent Secretary with effect from the 01 January, 2017. Many opine that the removal of Kaboeamodimo from the highest ministry in the land – Presidential Affairs, Governance and Public Administration headed by Eric Molale – to the third lowest in ranking, that of Youth Empowerment, Sport and Culture Development led by Thapelo Olopeng amounts to a demotion.

Although the position and emoluments remain the same, observers are in agreement that the presidential ministry – which houses the Office of the President – is the nerve centre of government and wields more power. Decisions governing every aspect of the administration are made here, they argue. More than personally interviewing President Ian Khama in a choreographed setting at the foot of Tsodilo hills, Kaboeamodimo has come under heavy criticism for abandoning his administrative mandate and usurping the role of juniors by conducting interviews and reading news on state media – Btv and Radio Botswana. Just last week, under an onslaught from councillors, he fumbled through a presentation at the Francistown City Council in an attempt to defend and justify government's refusal to issue licences for community radio stations. At the height of his unpopular leadership at Mass Media Complex, an audio recording was leaked where Kaboeamodimo was heard chastising staff and struggling to justify his close and suspicious relationship with some juniors.

Guma says
The redeployment of Magosi from Tshekedi Khama's MENRCT has been credited to the probing Parliamentary Committee on Statutory Bodies and State Enterprises (PCSBSE), which has hauled many accounting officers over hot coals. All hell broke loose when BTO executives, together with the minister, appeared before the committee last month. Numerous other parastatals appearing before the committee continue to make shocking revelations of rampant mismanagement and abuse of state funds and resources. Chairman of the PCSBSE Samson Guma - who has been making headlines terrorising accounting officers from different government department and parastatals – refuses to take credit for developments in some organisations where he has interviewed accounting officers. He, however, said he is happy with the job done by his committee.

He said the biggest problem in any organisation or system is the collapse of governance principles, which leads to lack of oversight. He said when the system is weak it becomes an open season for maladministration, looting and corruption to set in. "My committee has intervened in the best way we possibly can. Action is currently being taken by government on our recommendations," he said. Contrary to some accusations, Guma denies that he may be using the committee to fight political battles against a BDP administration that has been fighting to stick charges of tax evasion, corruption and money laundering against him without success. "The law establishing the committee has always been there before I came in. It is only that these structures were not established under past administrations. I am simply doing my job for the good of my country, holding those entrusted with public office to account. It is nothing personal," said Guma.