MPs want Samson Guma to present BTO report
Guma claims to be conflicted, sends Gaolathe
The Standing Orders of the National Assembly, specifically SO 110, delegate to the Committee on Statutory Bodies and State Enterprises, an oversight mandate over public enterprises. The mandate relates to financial examinations, management performance as well as value for money.
We seek to motivate the adoption of one of our outputs, a report on the Botswana Tourism Organisation. It is a specific report inspired by the need to pave a possible path for the proposed Tourism (Amendment) Bill, 2017 (Bill No.31 of 2017) whose passage invited complex questions about which the Committee was already seized.
Botswana continues to face many developmental challenges on the path to finding sources and engines of economic and social transformation. The plight of large sections of our people wallowing in undignified life conditions, and the misery that comes with the idle state of so many of our people’s minds and hands, is enough cause for all those who take oath in this legislative chamber to dig desperately for any well of fortune. And one such well of fortune is a system of effective statutory and state enterprises.
A system of effective state enterprises is a well of fortune in many ways; it is a well of fortune for its potential role in promoting economic growth and transformation around the world; it is a well of fortune for its catalytic effect on the injection of capability and technical capacity within any economic system; it is a well of fortune for its potential impact on the offer of basic services and amenities to the majority of ordinary people.
A state enterprise system that ticks, depending on the economic structure and management of a country, is a well of fortune for the minting of sustainable job opportunities; and finally, it is a well of fortune for cultivating international relationships that could attract or foment new markets, new technologies, capabilities and other resources for our nation. That is why as a country, we need a state enterprises system that works, that ticks, one that is effective. We need to get this right, otherwise we will continue to miss opportunities to transform the livelihoods of the majority of our people.
The Committee on Statutory and State Enterprises, in all its deliberations, considers this need for a viable state enterprises system. Our investigation process entails interviews of office-bearers and other stakeholders, a review of financials and a general review of literature from other sources. We seek insight into the soundness of financial management and of management performance, for these have a bearing on the viability/effectiveness of our state enterprise system in general.
In respect to BTO in particular, as it is the focus of this particular report, we have unearthed clear indicators of lapse in the overrall governance of the same institution. The report defines these breaches of governance, and provides details on violations of the BTO Act, and failure to comply with basic management procedures.
Our report identifies specific actions taken at the BTO that feed our inferences around breaches in governance, including: a) the unprocedural establishment of the Dubai Satellite Office b) Unlawful instructions to the BTO to make procurement on behalf of the Ministry c) unlawful establishment of the Tourism Fund d) Unlawful restructuring of the BTO e) Irregular appointment of a Medical Insurance Company by the BTO f) Improper appointment of an Attache at the Washington, DC Embassy g) Unlawful termination of the Chief Executive Officer’s contract of employment.
Madam Speaker, another of our finding is that the Bill alluded to, suggests a legislative process aimed at validating an already ongoing implementation of a memorandum/contract between the Ministry and a service provider. This signals an unhealthy precedent. It is noteworthy that this contract has since been cancelled.
Our forage of information also paints a picture of a Minister who has, specifically, breached the dictates of the BTO Act in several ways: a) failure to appoint a Board within a reasonable time-frame to run the affairs of the BTO b) intentional and unlawful supervision of the BTO as if it is a department of the Ministry c) going against procedural advice of the Permanent Secretary, Chief Executive of the BTO and in one instance the Non-Bank Institutions Regulatory Authority and d) unlawful procurement appointments during absence of the Board.
We are aware that our powers as a Committee are limited to those of making recommendations, and that the real power is with this legislative house. In this light, our report makes commendations that a) the BTO be instructed to conduct a forensic audit for a three year period ending December 2017, under the direction of the Auditor General and report findings to Parliament b) the Tourism (Amendment) Bill, 2017 (Bill No 31 of 2017) seeks to validate a process which was done improperly, and therefore the Committee recommends that the bill be deferred pending the outcome of a detailed forensic audit c) the Minister refrains from acting in such a manner that violates the BTO Act d) the President takes appropriate action in relation to the Minister’s meddling with the affairs of the BTO.
Madam Speaker, you will note that our role is not that of making allegations or accusations of crime, as that is neither within our purview nor expertise. This is a vital point to make in an age where accuracy of fact as no longer a value standard. Our job is to unearth lapses in our state enterprise system, the identification of which can and should assist this nation build a robust and effective statutory and state enterprise system. It is on this note, that I solicit your permission that I move that this honourable House adopt this report.
*Gaolathe was the Acting for Chairman, Committee on Statutory and State Enterprises